‘Pumpkin,’ ‘Papaya’ submitted for Oscars

Italy’s “The Great Pumpkin” and “The Scent of Green Papaya” from Vietnam have been submitted as nominees in the foreign-language section of the 1993 Academy Awards.

“Papaya,” Cannes’ Camera d’Or prize winner, recounts life and an impossible romance during the 1950s.

Directed by Tran Anh Hung, the film was made on Parisian soundstages by a cast and crew largely composed of Vietnamese expatriates. It is the first submission from Vietnam.

Controversy already has been bruited about the film’s eligibility. New Academy rules include creative and technical quotas from the submitting countries in the category. “Papaya” would appear not to meet technical personal requirements as stated in the guidelines.

“(Committee chair) Fay Kanin has said that the rules are not hard and fast but can be interpreted,” said Ray Price of First Look Pictures, the U.S. distributor.

“We have to move ahead on the basis that the Academy will do the right thing. According to a strict reading, it would qualify as a French production, but this is clearly, in language, story and composition, a tale of Vietnam. We’re opening in February to coincide with Tet, not Bastille Day.”

When questions of the film’s nationality first arose, Academy director Bruce Davis stated that the film was acceptable as a French entry. However, he did not believe it an appropriate Vietnamese submission based on awards criteria.

“Pumpkin,” an unexpected commercial success at home, is the latest surprise entry from a major European country. Such favorites as the Taviani brothers’ “Fiorile” and Montreal fest winner “The Long Silence” had been rumored as repping Italy.

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