Which came first — “Civilization” or “Crash”?

While the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences this week stated that the “Crash” tune “In the Deep” is clearly eligible for its Oscar nom, skeptics on Thursday continued to question it.

Song, written by Kathleen “Bird” York and Michael Becker, also was used in another recent pic, filmmaker David Beaird’s “The Civilization of Maxwell Bright.”

The questions are raised because York received onscreen credit in “Civilization,” which played at several film festivals.

York has said that she wasn’t paid for the song’s use in “Civilization,” but one music industry veteran who asked to remain unnamed said York did receive some compensation.

Acad rules state that a song “must be recorded for use in the film prior to any other usage.”

“Crash” began shooting in December 2003; “Civilization,” in February 2004.

“Crash” officially preemed at the Toronto Film Fest in September 2004. It first bowed stateside at the Newport Beach Intl. Film Fest in April 2005, a month before Lionsgate released it commercially.

“Civilization” was never released commercially, but it did play several festivals last year, including the Palm Springs Film Fest in January 2005, where it was reviewed by Daily Variety critic Robert Koehler.

Thursday night, York performed to a packed industry showcase at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood and was unavailable for comment.

But a source who worked with her said York recorded a demo tape in 2002, and papers were supplied to the Academy to back this up.

A CD of her songs was released in 2005, but, pre-release, York had given her CD to Beaird, telling him to use whatever he wanted and to let her know if he got a distribution deal for the film.

The source said she protested the use of the song and the onscreen credit.

On Wednesday, AMPAS exec director Bruce Davis told Daily Variety that the Academy was “very confident that this is a qualified nomination” (Daily Variety, March 2).

York and “Crash” director/co-writer Paul Haggis supplied the Academy with e-mails and other paperwork proving that “In the Deep” was written for “Crash” in late 2001-early 2002, when it was in the script stage.