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Controversy dogs ‘Rizo’

Venezuelan filmmakers up in arms over pic's acad submission

CARACAS, Venezuela — That Golden Fleece of foreign filmmakers, the best foreign-language Oscar, has again proven the cause of infighting, this time in Venezuela.

Industryites are questioning the validity of the country’s submission for the award and calling for the removal of the local jury’s chairman.

Julio Sosa Pietri’s “Loop” (Rizo), the pic sent to the U.S. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences , was chosen by four jurors instead of five due to a boycott by the cinematography union, which didn’t like the jury put together by Lorenzo Gonzalez Izquierdo.

Pic controversy

Gonzalez, an exhibitor who has chaired the jury since 1988, is alleged to have railroaded “Rizo.” Pic has not had a proper release but was screened for just one week in a provincial theater — owned by none other than Gonzalez.

“I don’t consider one person choosing the entire jury to be the most appropriate way to do things, and always it’s (Gonzalez) who decides,” said Abdel Guerere, prez of the national film institute and subsidy body CNAC.

Surprise choice

“Rizo” a surprise choice ahead of two critically-acclaimed pics: Carlos Azpurua’s hit “Amanecio de Golpe” (Coup at Daybreak) about the 1992 coup attempt by presidential candidate Hugo Chavez, and bank-robbing satire “Cien Anos de Perdon” (100 Years of Forgiveness) by Alejandro Saderman.

Gonzalez, who has not been a producer since the 1970s, denied to Daily Variety that he stacked the jury for “Rizo.” But he added that, to try to quell criticism, he would expand the jury to seven members in 1999 and only personally select two jurors.

Guerere sent a letter on Oct. 20 to Bruce Davis of the American Academy requesting that CNAC be given the power to select the Oscar jury, but Gonzalez said handing over the reins to CNAC would invite corruption because the institute is an organization where “political and union interests prevail.”

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