'Passion' good for foreign lingo; 'Fahrenheit' out of luck

“The Passion of the Christ” will be considered for Golden Globe awards, but “Fahrenheit 9/11″ won’t.

“Passion,” which Newmarket released domestically, is eligible in the foreign-language category as well as other races, such as direction and script (though not in the drama-film or comedy/musical-film categories, which are for English-lingo pics).

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. does not give out awards for docus, so it does not consider the genre in any other race, which KO’s “Fahrenheit,” released domestically by Lions Gate, IFC Films and Fellowship Adventure Group.

With the kudos-season races still wide open, pundits have long speculated on the chances of the pics, which are two of the most debated films of the year. Their high profiles (and B.O. successes) make them hard to ignore, while both films have ardent admirers as well as rabid detractors.

HFPA president Lorenzo Soria said of the “Passion” decision, “Yes, we know Aramaic is not a spoken language and, yes, we know the film doesn’t have a country of origin. But our bylaws state that when a film is in a language that is preponderantly non-English, it’s a foreign-language film. We looked at our bylaws and we looked at the movie, and the match is there.”

“As for ‘Fahrenheit,’ we felt it would be unfair to tell other documentarians ‘ “Fahrenheit” qualified and yours didn’t.’ Again, we follow our rules and it did not qualify. It would be unfair to make an exception.”

Friday was the HFPA’s deadline for applications for all entries and the org subsequently made its decisions on the films.

Moore bad news

At an HFPA meeting Thursday, some members had proposed a special award to Michael Moore — more of a career award, for boosting the art form of the documentary than a “Fahrenheit” recognition — but the motion was defeated by the membership.

In a statement Monday, Lions Gate Films Releasing prexy Tom Ortenberg said, “Lions Gate Films, Fellowship Adventure Group and Michael Moore are disappointed that ‘Fahrenheit 9/11′ will not be recognized in this year’s Golden Globes race. We are immensely proud of ‘Fahrenheit 9/11′ — one of the year’s most significant feature films. We anticipate great success in the coming awards season.”

The Globes decision is not necessarily a decisive victory for “Passion” –consideration is not the same thing as a nom — but it certainly can’t hurt, as studios try to get maximum awards-season exposure for their films. Similarly, this is not a crushing defeat for “Fahrenheit” because there are other awards to be handed out.

That includes critics groups and the Academy Awards. While “Fahrenheit” will not be considered for a docu Oscar because it did not submit to that race, it will be considered in other categories.

No ‘Passion’ at Oscar

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences did not consider “Passion” for its foreign-language race, because the Acad asks countries to submit films that feature one of the country’s principal languages. In their view, “Passion,” in Latin and Aramaic, does not represent the work of any single country.

The Globes are often touted as an Oscar barometer (though the record is mixed). And HFPA execs often say they want their awards, which get strong NBC ratings and increasing media attention, to be considered on their own merit.

The HFPA will announce the Cecil B. DeMille honoree and Miss Golden Globe at a morning press conference on Nov. 18. Nominations for the 62nd annual Golden Globes will be unveiled Dec. 13 and the ceremony will take place Sunday, Jan. 16, with a telecast on NBC.

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