Doc a surprise pick for foreign-language slot

Havana Marking’s documentary “Afghan Star” is the British Academy of Film and Television Arts’ surprise choice to represent the U.K. in Oscar’s foreign-language film race. 

The news was released Tuesday, five days after the category’s closing date.

Doc follows competitors on the “Pop Idol”-style series “Afghan Star” that airs on Afghanistan’s Tolo TV channel. Produced by Roast Beef, Redstart and Kaboora Prods., it won the world docu directing and aud awards at Sundance.

The U.K. has not put up many candidates for the foreign language Oscar, although Welsh-lingo pics have managed to win nominations in previous years.

The selection of Marking’s Afghan-U.K. production was made possible by changes in Oscar rules that now allow films in a language that is not one of the principal lingos of the submitting country.

In 2002 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences turned down helmer Asif Kapadia’s “The Warrior” as the U.K. choice because Hindi is not a language indigenous to the country. It was replaced by Tim Lyn’s Welsh-language coming-of-age tale “Eldra.”

In 2007 BAFTA stumbled into a political disagreement over its decision not to enter a movie to the Oscars.

At a time of rising nationalist feeling in Wales and Scotland, BAFTA rejected Ashley Way’s Welsh-lingo drama “Calon Gaeth” and Simon Miller’s Gaelic pic “Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle,” which would have been Scotland’s first Oscar contender.

Nominations for the 82nd Academy Awards will be announced Feb. 2 and the awards will take place on March 7.

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