Oscars: Another Cannes-Winning Sundance Selects Film Ruled Out Of Foreign Language Race

Pete Hammond

When it comes to this year’s Foreign Language Film Oscar race, it seems Sundance Selects just can’t catch a break. Coming out of Cannes, the company headed by Jonathan Sehring — who also runs IFC — looked like it easily could have two of the five nominees in the category, especially after its acquisitions took two of the top three prizes at Cannes. The French sensation Blue Is The Warmest Color won the coveted Palme d’Or (usually a key factor in considering a film for Oscar submission), while the Jury Prize (essentially third place) went to Japan’s moving and extremely well-received Like Father, Like Son, which so infatuated Cannes Jury President Steven Spielberg that his DreamWorks is negotiating for an English-language remake.

Related: Hammond On Cannes: ‘Blue Is The Warmest Color’

It seemed at the time that both would be a cinch as their respective countries’ entry in the race, and Sundance Selects was riding high. But as Deadline reported in July, a quirky Academy rule that requires a foreign entry to have opened by September 30 in its country of origin KO’d Warmest Color’s chances, despite Sehring’s best efforts to turn it around. Unfortunately Wild Bunch, the film’s French distributor, was dead set on releasing it October 9, and a qualifying run was ruled out. Now, in what for me is an even more stunning setback, the seven-member Japan Movie Producers Association ignored its country’s high-profile Cannes winner and instead chose a more obscure film, The Great Passage (Fune O Amu) from 30-year-old director Yuya Ishii, the youngest ever to represent Japan in the Oscar contest. That film was released in April — doing nice, if unremarkable, business at the box office. Like Father, Like Son is scheduled for a September 28 release in Japan, a date presumably chosen to make it eligible for the Oscar race.  But it’s not to be. Read More »

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Oscars: Cannes Palme d’Or Winner Ineligible For Foreign Language Category

Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: When controversial French sensation Blue Is The Warmest Color won the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or, it was expected to be a major player in the upcoming Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film. Now it’s ineligible to compete and not even impassioned pleas from Sundance Selects, its American distributor, have done the trick. This unexpected development as first reported on Deadline is due to its October 9th French opening. Local distributor Wild Bunch will not change the date in order to comply with an arcane Academy rule that says each film must have opened in the country of origin by the end of September. Now Sundance Selects/IFC Films President Jonathan Sehring who picked up the U.S. rights to Blue in Cannes is very disappointed that this decision appears irreversible. “I talked to them about it and said it was a missed opportunity if you don’t qualify it. So they actually were going to do a qualification run in the town where it was shot in Northern France,” Sehring tells me. “But ultimately the  French governing body said no. It had to be a wide release in order for it to qualify and so [Wild Bunch] called and said ‘We don’t want  to move off our date. We have a great date.’ It’s unfortunate.”

Although it won’t help Blue this year, Sehring hopes the Academy will deep-six the September 30th eligibility date and change it in the future to be more reflective of the realities of the international film industry. “It’s a global business right now and [it's not good] to hold the Foreign Language titles to a September 30th date. This present Academy administration has been really great about re-visiting things that don’t really make sense and I’m just hoping that will happen.” However as a distributor he does fully understand the Wild Bunch decision and its box office potential in France. “What could be better than that for them? If the French want to choose it as next year’s title I can always hope there, but unfortunately it didn’t work out in terms of qualification,” he said.

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