Austria’s contender for the international feature film Oscar has been disqualified from the race for having too much dialogue in English.
Sudabeh Mortezai’s “Joy” is the second film to be ruled ineligible to compete for what until this year was known as the Academy Award for best foreign-language film. Last week, the disqualification of Nigeria’s “Lionheart” on the same grounds – for being predominantly in English – caused waves among critics who noted that English is one of the country’s official tongues as a result of British colonization.
By coincidence, “Joy” also features a Nigerian character, the eponymous protagonist of the film, a woman working as a prostitute in Vienna to pay off her debt to the sex trafficker who exploits her. The film contains dialogue in a mix of German, English and a pidgin dialect of English.
However, the Academy determined that enough of “Joy’s” dialogue is in English to disqualify it from competition.
“As we do every year, the Academy is in the process of reviewing the films submitted for the International Feature Film category to determine whether they meet our eligibility rules,” a spokesperson said. “The film ‘Joy,’ submitted by Austria, was just reviewed and is ineligible because only 33% of the dialogue is non-English.”
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“Joy” premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival, then went on to win top prize at the London Film Festival a month later. The London fest jury called it a “provocative and unique film offering a devastating portrait of human resilience in the most inhuman of environments.”
The Austrian Oscar selection committee has been notified of the Academy’s decision.