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For 1st Time, Oscar Nod Is Rescinded : Nomination: 'World' is out of contention for best foreign-language film after questions were raised about it being a product of Uruguay or Argentina.

February 26, 1993|DAVID J. FOX | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For the first time in its 65-year history, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Thursday rescinded an Oscar nomination, taking "A Place in the World" out of contention for best foreign-language film of 1992.

No other film will be nominated in its place, the academy said in a Thursday announcement.

Shortly after Oscar nominations were announced last week, questions were raised that the movie, submitted by Uruguay, may be more of a product of Argentina. Published reports indicated that director Adolfo Aristarain, who is said to have dual Argentinian and Uruguayan citizenship, sought the Uruguayan designation only after the Oscar committee in his own country had selected another film.

A number of academy members said the situation in the foreign-language category points up a reality of today's filmmaking: Movies, more often than not, receive financing from sources in several countries. Finding movies that are made solely by funds and talent within one country is a rarity.

Director Aristarain, reached by telephone in Buenos Aires, said he is "really shocked because we had sent a number of documents saying this movie is a co-production (financial and artistic)."

"A chief question, I suppose, was that the director was Argentinian and it was shot in Argentina," said Peter Marai, who represents "A Place in the World" for U.S. distribution. The film does not have a U.S. distributor.

The academy attributed the source of the problem to a misunderstanding of the rules by the Uruguayan film committee. It was the first year the country had ever submitted a film for an Oscar.

Academy executive director Bruce Davis said there are existing committees in all nations that enter films: "When they submit a film, we basically take their word at face value. We're not a detective agency. And our basic motive is to embrace as many movies as we can." Davis said any questions about a film are normally raised as the screening process begins leading up to the nominations. "This has been an unusual instance."

Foreign Language Film Committee chairwoman Fay Kanin said the problem was that the film "isn't a true co-production." She said the only Uruguayans were the costume designer who also had partial story credit and the fifth-billed cast member. "Everything else about the picture is Argentine."

"The fifth-billed actor actually is the lead but he is a boy and so he was not at the top of the list of actors. The boy has dual nationality," Aristarain responded. He plans to appeal the academy's decision, although there is no formal appeals process.

Academy president Robert Rehme said the decision by the board of directors was "difficult" because the film is of "high quality . . . this is the kind of picture we like to discover and to call the world's attention to."

"But if we ignore our own qualifying rules in this case, we would be encouraging filmmakers to enter the category by flying a flag of convenience," Rehme said in a statement.

The other four nominees are "Close to Eden" from Russia, "Daens" from Belgium, "Indochine" from France and "Schtonk" from Germany.

Ballots for the 65th annual Academy Awards will be mailed to out of town voters around March 3 and the remainder on March 10. Oscars will be presented March 29.

One similar event in Oscar history was the case of "The Young Americans," which won best documentary feature in 1968. A few days after the ceremony, it was discovered that the picture had played prior to the year of eligibility, and the academy recalled the Oscar.

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