Thailand changes its Oscar choice

'Ahimsa' will replace 'Waves'

BANGKOK — What is the difference between a replacement and being dropped? Not much, it seems, when it comes to the odd affair of how “Invisible Waves” is no longer Thailand’s foreign-language Oscar contender.

Having last month announced noirish thriller “Invisible Waves” as its national champion, the Federation of National Film Assn. of Thailand announced Friday that “Ahimsa Stop to Run” would be submitted to AMPAS instead.

“Ahimsa” is a dramedy about a young man who is tormented by visions of the future, helmed by Kittikorn Leosakun (“Saving Private Tootsie”) and produced by RS Productions.

Switcheroo came as a surprise to the producers, sales agent and Palm Pictures, the U.S. distrib of “Invisible Waves.” Palm had already begun promoting the film as the Thailand candidate ahead of a release in early 2007 and was making arrangements for the Academy’s foreign-language voting members to screen the pic.

“We didn’t replace ‘Invisible Waves’ with ‘Ahimsa,’ ” a spokesman for the federation said. “Because of a very short lead time in transporting the print to the U.S., we were concerned that we would miss the deadline and decided to submit another film to the Oscar committee instead.”

The Acad will not comment on a country’s entry until it puts out a complete list, according to an AMPAS spokeswoman. A country’s announcement of a title doesn’t mean that it is the movie that was submitted, she said.

“As soon as the federation made it known to us that the film would represent Thailand, we immediately arranged the transport of the print through (sales agent) Fortissimo Films,” said Five Star Prods. production executive Aphiradee “Amy” Iamphungphorn. “If the federation hadn’t announced in the first place that ‘Invisible Waves’ would be the nominee, we wouldn’t be so upset.”

Helmed by Pen-ek Ratanaruang, who has twice previously made films presented by Thailand to the Oscars, “Invisible Waves” preemed in February at the Berlin festival and last month screened in Toronto. It was co-produced by Five Star Prods. of Thailand, CJ Entertainment of Korea, Fortissimo Films and Focus Films of Hong Kong and Italian businessman Faruk Alatan.

“Besides being unheard of and without reason, this move will be extremely embarrassing to the name, reputation and image of Thailand, and the federation,” said Michael J. Werner, co-prexy of Fortissimo Films, in a letter to federation.

Earlier this year, the federation objected the decision of the Bangkok Film Festival to play “Invisible Waves” as the gala opening film, on grounds that the film was not truly a Thai film.

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