The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences has disqualified Uruguay’s “A Place in the World,” which was nominated for an Oscar in the foreign language film category, saying it is essentially an Argentine production. This is only the second time in AMPAS history that a nominated film in any category has been disqualified.
In taking the highly unusual action, the Academy also announced that there would be no replacement for “A Place in the World,” meaning Academy voters will select the 1992 winner from among the four remaining nominees. That decision angered some who hoped one of their films would fill the vacant spot.
The Academy made its decision after an investigation determined that not enough Uruguayan artists had participated in the production of “A Place in the World.” The film’s director, Adolfo Aristarain, claimed that the film is actually a co-production of the two countries.
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“The problem for us was that this isn’t a true co-production,” Fay Kanin, chair of the Academy’s foreign language film award committee, said in a statement. “If the creative team had been made up of significant numbers of Uruguayans along with a group of Argentine filmmakers, we would have had no problem.”
Aristarain claims that a number of Uruguayans worked on the film, including screenwriter Kathy Saavedra; one of the film’s stars, Gaston Batyi; one of the producers, Mirna Rosales; and the costume designer. But Kanin said in her statement: “The only Uruguayans were the costume designer, who also had a partial story credit, and the fifth-billed cast member. Everything else about the picture is Argentina.”
Reached yesterday in Buenos Aires, Aristarain expressed surprise at the Academy’s decision.
“All the documents were enough to prove that this film was eligible,” Aristarain said. “They had plenty of time in the two months before the film was nominated to question the eligibity. Why after it was nominated did people start making trouble? When you look at foreign films, the credits come from a lot of places.”
Aristarain said he will appeal the Acad’s ruling.
“I’m still fighting,” he said. “The reason that we’re going to appeal is that the rules are so loose and we had all the elements. Why question the eligibility once it was nominated?”
“I think we’re going to have to look at the rules of the Academy regarding these films,” added Peter Marai, U.S. sales rep for “A Place in the World.””The rules are too flexible. The documents substantiating where the film was made were presented properly. Maybe the rules should be modified.”
“A Place in the World” was submitted last fall to Argentina’s Oscar selection committee as a possible contender (Daily Variety, Feb. 23). Also, the film was registered for the Golden Globes as an entry from Argentina.
But the film lost its Oscar bid from Argentina — by one vote — to “The Dark Side of the Heart,” and Aristarain took the film to Uruguay’s minister of education and culture, Antonio Mercader, requesting that the film become an entry of Uruguay, a country with no other entries.
When Mercader refused, Aristarain appealed directly to Manuel Martinez Carril , director of Cinematheque of Uruguay, who agreed to the plan and the film was submitted by Uruguay to the Academy’s foreign language committee.
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The questions about “A Place in the World” were brought to the attention of the Academy last week when the Oscar nominations were announced. Jorge Camara, an entertainment reporter for Univision and La Opinion, tipped off Kanin and Acad executive director Bruce Davis.
As for the rules governing a film’s country of origin, Davis said, “There has to be substantial filmmaking input from the country that submits the film.” He added, “The Academy’s rules are very broad in that matter.”
For several members of the foreign film committee, the surprise was not in the disqualification but in the decision not to replace it with another film.
“There’s no logical reason for them not adding a fifth film,” said John Friedkin, a member of the committee for seven years. “I think it’s just ridiculous. It’s indefensible.”
But in explaining the decision not to add a fifth film, Davis said: “It would unbalance the competition. In every other instance you have five achievements nominated and nobody knows in what order they finished. They areequal. In this case, you would have four equal ones and one clearly that was the underdog.
“That could work against it or give it an underdog cache. It introduces another element into the competition.”
“I don’t think that argument holds water,” Friedkin countered. “The way the score runs, I guarantee the difference was carried out to a hundredth of a decimal point. It’s always the foreign language films that are treated with the back of the hand. If it was in an actor or actress category, it would be different.”
Gerry Rich, Miramax senior VP of marketing, agreed. “I think the sixth film should become the fifth film,” he said. “I feel strongly about that. I would hope there would be some flexibility to deal with the unusual circumstances.”
The only other film to be disqualified by the AMPAS after being nominated was the 1968 feature documentary “Young Americans.” The film won an Oscar and was subsequently ruled ineligible after it was determined that it had opened theatrically prior to the Acad’s eligibility period.