The Band’s Visit has just swept Israel’s Ophir Awards (the equivalent to that country’s Oscars) so this means it should be Israel’s submission for the Academy Award’s Best Foreign Language Film. But even with the Kodak Theater ceremony still 5 months away, there’s already controversy in this category. Rivals are claiming that the political movie, about an Egyptian police band that mistakenly ends up stranded overnight in a small Israeli town, has more than 50% English dialogue and therefore must be ruled ineligible for the nomination. Israeli film critic Yair Raveh has been following the scandal on his blog (alas, in Hebrew) and reports that The Band’s Visit producers, backed by Sony Pictures Classics (who bought the Cannes award winning film’s foreign rights) insist the English dialogue is less than 50%. The Israeli motion picture academy says it’s the producers’ call, not theirs. That has infuriated rivals who are calling on the local academy to check into the matter before the film is officially submitted. Sony Classics may also enter the pic’s Israeli writer and director Eran Kolirin in the Best Original Screenplay category. The Band’s Visit, of course, just had its North American premiere at Telluride and Toronto. “As someone who’s been following Israeli cinema for the past 15 years,” Raveh emails me, “I’ve yet to see a local film getting such glowing international reviews.” If it does become one of Oscar’s Foreign Language nominees this year, it will be the first Israeli film to do so since 1984’s Beyond the Walls. To date, six Israeli films have been Oscar nominees, but an Israeli movie has yet to win. Interestingly, The Band’s Visit will participate in the Middle East International Film Festival held in October in Abu Dhabi.
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