There’s another “Best Film” award given every year, but it invariably receives less attention, just as the films produced in a foreign tongue generally make a tiny blip on the box office charts.

Yet, the “Best Foreign Language Film” has been the only Oscar category where many of world cinema’s greatest achievements have been recognized. Since 1956, when Federico Fellini’s “La Strada” became the first film to win the newly created regular category, film classics like Ingmar Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring” and “Through a Glass Darkly,” Fellini’s “8 1/2″ and Jiri Menzel’s “Closely Watched Trains” have taken home the coveted prize and thereby gained an awareness in the American market that is virtually unparalleled.

But accompanying the celebrations, there has also been a dark cloud of controversy following the awards, and in the last few years the category has been better known for its seemingly arbitrary disqualifications of important films and allegiance to rules that appear to make sense only to those administering them.

In 1992, Adolfo Aristrain’s “A Place in the World” didn’t meet the “artistic control requirements” used to determine a film’s nationality, the key to acceptance for consideration.

Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Blue” suffered the same fate in 1993 and this year Kieslowski’s “Red” also was disqualified. These films, all multinational co-productions, suffered from the inability of the committee in charge of the category to find a fair way to take the realities of foreign film financing into consideration. But the category’s failings are, in fact, not a recent phenomenon, and a quick look through the past three decades of the Oscar foreign film contest points out the idiosyncrasies and oversights that have lead foreign film enthusiasts and filmmakers all over the world to call for a review of how Oscar’s “Best Foreign Film” award is determined.

Consider the following list of largely forgettable foreign films that nabbed an Oscar nomination, and the classics that didn’t:

1961

IN

“Harry and the Butler,” “Immortal Love” and “The Important Man”

OUT

Alain Resnais’s “Last Year at Marienbad” and Michelangelo Antonioni’s “La Notte”

1966

IN

“Pharoah” and “Three”

OUT

Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona”

1967

IN

“Portrait of Chieko” and “Live for Life”

OUT

Istvan Szabo’s “Father” and Marco Bellochio’s “China is Near”

1972

IN

“My Dearest Senorita,” “I Love you, Rosa”

OUT

Alain Tanner’s “The Salamander”

1974

IN

“Cat’s Play,” “The Deluge” and “The Truce”

OUT

Alain Tanner’s “Middle of the World”

1975

IN

“Land of Promise” and “Letters from Marusia”

OUT

Marguerite Duras’s “India Song” and Werner Herzog’s “Kasper Hauser”

1976

IN

“Nights and Days”

OUT

Alain Tanner’s “Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000″

1977

IN

Menahem Golan’s “Operation Thunderbolt”

OUT

Paul Verhoeven’s “Soldier of Orange” and Wim Wenders’s “The American Friend”

1978

IN

“The Glass Cell,” “Hungarians,” “Viva Italia” and “White Bim Black Ear”

OUT

Satyajit Ray’s “The Chess Players”

1980

IN

“The Nest”

OUT

Jean-Luc Godard’s “Every Man for Himself

1982

IN

“Private Life”

OUT

Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s “Night of the Shooting Stars”

1983

IN

“Job’s Revolt”

OUT

Federico Fellini’s “And the Ship Sails On”

1986

IN

“38″

OUT

Andrei Tarkovsky’s “The Sacrifice”

1987

IN

“Course Completed”

OUT

Wim Wenders’s “Wings of Desire”

1991

IN

“Children of Nature,” “The Ox”

OUT

Jaco van Dormael’s “Toto le heros,” Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Double life of Veronique”

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