Albanian Oscar entry disqualified

Academy decides 'Forgiveness of Blood' lacked local input

Albania’s choice for foreign-language Oscar race, American director Joshua Marston’s “The Forgiveness of Blood,” has been disqualified after the Academy decided it did not have enough local input.

Marston’s film, shot on location in the Balkans country with a largely local crew and creative team, is about the modern impact of the country’s tradition of blood feuds.

With a Berlinale Silver Bear-award winning script that was co-written by an Albanian and dialogue that is all Albanian, the film was nominated late September after the Albanian Oscar committee checked that it met Academy Award criteria.

But after the director of “Amnesty,” one of three other local films that failed to make the cut, complained, the Academy revisited the issue last week and decided to disqualify “Blood.”

Bujar Alimani had written a formal letter of complaint to the Albanian National Center of Cinematography demanding that Marston’s film be disqualified on that grounds that it was a mainly American production.

Popular on Variety

That appears to have found a target in Los Angeles, where an Academy Awards committee is understood to have reviewed the decision and disqualified Marston’s film last week on the grounds that it failed to meet local crew composition criteria.

At a meeting Friday in Tirana, Albanian Oscar selectors that included all but one of the committee that had originally picked Marston’s film, took another vote and “Amnesty” was officially selected as the country’s nomination for foreign-lingo film.

The committee consisted of film industry professionals, Esat Musliu, Bujar Lako, Durim Neziri, and Agron Tufa but not writer Teodor Laco.

“The one board members who was most outspoken for ‘The Forgiveness of Blood,’ writer Teodor Laco, didn’t attend the meeting for personal reasons,” a film industry source in Tirana told Variety on Sunday.

The decision in L.A. to overrule the earlier nomination was not well received by some in Tirana.

Artan Minarolli, head of the ANCC, told Variety: “The board in Albania voted for ‘Forgiveness of Blood’ for some [particular] reasons. The most important are: The film is 100% in Albanian Language. The story and the support of Albania, too, is strong in this film. The producer is Albanian and one of the major producers here. He and the director spent a long time in Albania before the shooting and developed the script and the project in close relationship with Albanian and technical people.”

Minarolli added that he had tried to explain to the Academy committee in Los Angeles that because Albania has a small film industry it is inevitably closely connected with foreign professionals and all local films involve the participation of foreign creative talent and crew.

“It is a cosmopolitan cinema that tries to survives through cultural exchange. In the past Albania was totally isolated; today we try to find reality in cinema and to make up for the time we lost over the past 50 years. The Academy needs to understand this.”

However, Alimani, director of “Amnesty” welcomed the decision.

He told Variety that the original decision had been in “violation of the rules of the Academy itself; my protest was not for personal purposes, but because I feel that Albania has cinematographers who can be represented at a world level; selecting my film ‘Amnesty’ as the official Albanian nomination gives hope to young moviemakers in Albania and honors the work of all my staff.”

Marston, who learned Albanian during the making of his film, “The Forgiveness of Blood,” said: “It’s disappointing, to be sure. There was so much Albanian creative involvement in the making of the film. For the Academy to focus only on six key crew positions as the barometer of its Albanian-ness, to me, is sad.”

He added: “The film [‘The Forgiveness of Blood’] is made by Albanians, in Albania, about Albania and in the Albanian language. And yet a great film like Kaurismaki’s ‘Le Havre,’ which was shot in France with a French cast and a French story, qualifies as Finnish? And ‘As If I Am Not There,’ which was shot in the Balkans and is in Serbo-Croat with a cast from that region, qualifies as Irish? It’s absurd.

“I think there’s a problem with the system when Hollywood claims to know better than the submitting country whether a film belongs to them. It is incredibly disempowering and disenchanting for a country with a young film industry.”

More Scene

  • Sean Penn CORE Gala

    Sean Penn Offers to Take Selfies in Exchange for $5,000 Donations to Disaster Relief

    A decade after the catastrophic 7.0 Haiti earthquake left between 50,000 and 100,000 dead and nearly a million people displaced, Sean Penn hosted the 10th anniversary CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) gala, raising funds for international disaster relief at the Wiltern Theatre on Wednesday night in Los Angeles. “We’re not here tonight because we want [...]

  • Allison Janney Viola Davis

    Viola Davis & Allison Janney React to Lack of Diversity in 2020 Oscar Nominations

    Monday morning’s Oscar nominations rebooted the #OscarsSoWhite conversation, reigniting discussion about representation after women were shut out of the directing category and only one person of color — Cynthia Erivo — was nominated in the acting categories. At the premiere of Amazon Original’s “Troop Zero” at The Grove in Los Angeles on Monday evening, the [...]

  • Star Trek Picard Premiere

    'Picard' Stars Reveal Which 'Star Trek' Character They Would Get Drunk With

    The cast and creators of “Star Trek: Picard” turned out for the show’s premiere at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome on Monday night. In the spirit of the festive atmosphere of the night, Variety asked them which “Star Trek” character, past or present, they’d most like to pound a few Romulan ales with at the local [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez Laura Dern

    Inside the 2020 Critics' Choice Awards: What You Didn't See on TV

    ‘Twas the night before Oscar nominations and all through the ballroom, the Barker Hanger was buzzing as critics mixed and mingled with A-listers inside the 25th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards on Sunday night. Life Achievement winner Eddie Murphy, #SeeHer honoree Kristen Bell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Bong Joon Ho were among the big names who played [...]

  • Taye Diggs Critics Choice

    Critics' Choice Awards: The Complete Winners List

    The 25th annual Critics’ Choice Awards gala, hosted by Taye Diggs, was broadcast live on The CW on Sunday night. It was a good night for both Netflix and HBO, with the studios taking home trophies for movies and shows like “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story,” “When They See Us,” “Watchmen” and “Succession.” “Once Upon a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content