Despite having sent 11 pics for foreign-language film Oscar consideration since 1986, Puerto Rico has been shut out of the race this year because of its status as a U.S. protectorate. However, the Dominican Republican won an appeal to get its pic into consideration.
“We wanted to clear up an inconsistency that allowed a U.S. territory to compete in a category meant for countries outside the U.S.,” said AMPAS chief operating officer Ric Robertson. “We told them in our letter last year that 2010 would be the last time they could submit an entry.”
According to Puerto Rico’s film commissioner Mariella Perez, the Academy notified her in August 2010 of the rule.
“After asking it to reconsider, the Academy replied that its decision was final, but that Puerto Rico could apply for any of the other categories,” Perez said. “I notified the filmmakers of this new rule but they sent their film anyway.”
Naturally, the Academy rejected helmer Sonia Fritz’s Spanish-language “America,” starring Edward James Olmos, Tony Plana and Lymari Nadal.
Puerto Rican pundits allege the Academy bowed to pressure from Hispanic filmmakers in other states who felt that Puerto Rico was being given a favored status. They question why Puerto Rico is recognized as an independent country in sporting events. “Different organizations have different rules,” said Robertson.
Puerto Rico has been submitting entries since Marcos Zurinaga’s 1986 pic “La gran fiesta” (The Big Party) was the hopeful in the 59th Academy Awards in 1987. In 1989, Jacobo Morales’ “What Happened to Santiago” became the first local pic to clinch a nom.
Fritz will still have a chance at a foreign-lingo Oscar slot through the Dominican Republic pic she co produced, “La Hija Natural” (Love Child) by Leticia Tonos. This was initially rejected by the Academy over a technicality but was accepted after the Dominican Republic appealed. The country had failed to submit the names of its selection committee members to the org before the Oct. 3 deadline.
The 84th Academy Awards will be held Feb. 26 at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.