Jakubowicz blames Chavez for switch

Jonathan Jakubowicz, Venezuelan helmer-scribe of Miramax release “Secuestro Express,” is raising a ruckus over Venezuela’s submission of “1888” for consideration in the foreign-language Oscar category.

His pic and Alfredo Anzola’s “1888” were the only two on the shortlist. But whereas “Secuestro Express,” a gritty look at kidnappings sweeping the capital city of Caracas, is touted as a local hit, few people went to see “1888.” Latter movie, about a fictitional trip by author Jules Verne to the country, played for just two weeks.

Jakubowicz claims local film institute CNAC had assured him he would get the nod and blames pressure from President Hugo Chavez’s government for the switch. Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel allegedly called “Sequestro Express” “a miserable film with no artistic value and a falsification of the truth.”

“The selection committee, which has representatives from public entities and private audiovisual guilds, would never bow to outside pressure,” said CNAC exec director Juan Carlos Lossada, who heads the panel. “Mr. Jakubowicz’s comments are absolutely false.”

Jakubowicz’s supporters have launched a Web site, which has collected 4,000 signatures so far, to petition Stateside members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Released in August, “Secuestro Express,” starring Mia Maestro, has cumed $308,208 in the U.S.

The closing date for submissions to the foreign-language Oscar race was Oct. 3. The Academy will announce nominations Jan. 31; the 78th Oscar ceremony will take place March 5.

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