Kaurismaki turns off ‘Lights’ on Oscar bid

Filmmaker pulls out of foreign-lingo race

HELSINKI — Producer-director Aki Kaurismaki has withdrawn his “Lights in the Dusk” from contention for the foreign-language film Oscar, reportedly because his permission wasn’t sought to submit it.

On Monday, Kaurismaki called the president of the Finnish selection jury, Raija Nurmio, who’s also CEO of the Finnish Film Chamber, the umbrella org for Finnish distributors and exhibitors. Kaurismaki informed Nurmio that he declined to sign the papers needed to submit the film for the Oscar race.

As producer, director, screenwriter and editor of “Lights in the Dusk,” Kaurismaki has complete control over his pic.

Ilkka Mertsola, a producer in Kaurismaki’s Sputnik shingle, said, “As far as I know, at the time of nominating the Finnish entry, Kaurismaki was in France promoting ‘Lights in the Dusk’ and therefore could not react on time.”

Bruce Davis, exec director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, said the Finns told them Kaurismaki was withdrawing the movie because he doesn’t like film competitions.

But Mark Johnson, chairman of the Acad’s foreign-language committee, has written a long email to Kaurismaki asking him to reconsider. Print is already in L.A.

Mertsola said that in 2003, when helmer’s “Man Without a Past” was nominated for the foreign-language kudos, Kaurismaki did not attend, telling then-Acad president Frank Pierson that his boycott was part of his protest against the U.S. war in Iraq. “The argument from 2003 still stands accurate,” Mertsola added.

As to whether the Finns will be allowed to enter another film, Davis laughed and said, “That ship has kind of sailed at this point.”

(Shalini Dore in Hollywood contributed to this report.)

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