Where Oscar won’t go
In the jockeying for a foreign film Academy Award, being Palestinian seems to mean you get left out
According to John Pavlik, a spokesman for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), which gives out the Oscars, Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman’s award-winning film Divine Intervention might not have been eligible to enter the competition because, “The academy does not accept films from countries that are not recognized by the United Nations,” and “Palestine does not have membership in the United Nations.”
But this excuse is spurious and wholly inconsistent with AMPAS’ past and current practice. AMPAS routinely admits films from countries and regions that are not members of the U.N.
AMPAS’ rules make no mention of the requirement that a country have any particular status at the U.N. or even be independent. For 2002, for example, the academy accepted films from both China and Taiwan.
Taiwan, however, is not considered an independent state by the international community, but a province of the People’s Republic of China.
In 2001, AMPAS accepted an entry from Hong Kong, even though that former British colony is now an administrative region of China, with no status at the U.N. In 2000, the film Solomon And Gaenor, a love story about a Yiddish-speaking Jewish man and a Welsh girl, was a finalist for the Best Foreign Film award, representing Wales. Wales is not an independent state.
Palestine, by contrast, has maintained an officially recognized permanent observer mission at the U.N. for decades and dozens of countries have recognized the state of Palestine and maintain diplomatic relations with it at the ambassadorial level.
This raises the question: Is there a double standard to keep Palestine out of the Oscars?
This letter was printed in The Toronto Star on 14 December 2002.