Reel swap spurs mix-up

Mexico’s official entry into the Oscar foreign-language stakes, “A Spell” (“Un Embrujo”), was temporarily disqualified from the contest over the weekend because the submitted print lacked subtitles.

Officials at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences relented when the stunned production company in Mexico City assured them by telephone that the Academy had the wrong print.

The drama began Saturday, as about 200 members of the Academy’s Foreign Language Film Committee were about to stream into the Samuel Goldwyn Theater to watch “Spell,” director Carlos Carrera’s tale of a young man’s coming of age in pre-World War II Mexico. Committee members were told they would not be seeing the film because it violated Academy rules to the effect that “accurate English subtitles are required” on foreign-language entries.

Some committee members protested, saying they spoke Spanish and wanted to see the film anyway, so the 125-minute picture — made by Salamandra Prods. and distributed internationally by London-based Tequila Gang — was shown after all.

Lab’s mistake

On Monday, an Academy official called the Salamandra office in Mexico City to say “Spell” was out of the Oscar race. But one of the producers convinced the official that a print with subtitles had been sitting in a Los Angeles lab “for weeks and weeks,” along with a print without subtitles that was under repairs because of sound problems. The lab had mistakenly sent the latter to the Academy, according to Academy exec director Bruce Davis.

“They had two prints and they sent the wrong one to us,” Davis told Daily Variety Monday afternoon. The right one, he said, “is on its way over to us right now.”

Davis said that, since it was simply a mix-up, the film remains eligible for Oscar consideration and that voting committee members who had not seen it would be invited back for a screening on Jan. 16.

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