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Oscar bans Italo entry

Costanzo's drama is in Arabic, Hebrew and English

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has rejected Italy’s foreign-language Oscar candidate, “Private,” because it is not “predominantly” in Italian.

First-time helmer Saverio Costanzo’s drama, about a Palestinian family trapped in its home by Israeli soldiers, is in Arabic, Hebrew and English. No Italian is spoken and there are no Italians in the cast.

“The rules for the category allow us no latitude,” said Academy executive director Bruce Davis in a letter faxed to Italo motion picture org Anica on Thursday.

“Each country’s entry must be ‘predominantly in an official language of the country submitting the film,’ ” read the Academy’s letter, quoting eligibility rules.

“Private” was a surprise choice by a new 15-member selection committee that included helmer Bernardo Bertolucci.

An Anica spokesman said that the trade org knew the eligibility rules, but it was up to producers who submit entries and to the committee to make sure the films were eligible.

Anica will submit another pic for Oscar consideration.

Produced by Italo state film entity Istituto Luce with RAI Cinema, DV-shot “Private” scooped the Locarno fest Golden Leopard and actor nods in 2004, and Italy’s David di Donatello for debuting director this year.

Originally skedded to be shot in Israel, pic was lensed in southern Italy for security reasons.

“This news is devastating,” lamented Istituto Luce topper Luciano Sovena. “I believe there is a margin for discretion that should have been applied.”

The Luce topper, who is an entertainment lawyer, cited helmer Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1967 “The Battle of Algiers,” in French, English and Arabic, as an example of an Italian film not in the Italian language that was nominated in the foreign-language category.

“Does this mean Italians can only make movies in Italian that are about Italy?” said Sovena. “We have lawyers in Italy and Los Angeles working on this. We are going to take action to appeal this decision.”

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