Bashir at Center of Oscar Controversy

As Oscar season heats up, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is being criticized for a change in rules that has made the Israeli animated feature Waltz With Bashir ineligible for competition in the Best Documentary category. According to The Hollywood Reporter, distributors and film festivals are up in arms over the new rule that requires a doc to have a one-week qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles by Aug. 31.

A festival favorite, Bashir has been submitted as Israel’s Best Foreign Language Film entry, and is also eligible for Best Animated Feature. The potential to be the first toon nominated in those two categories and the Best Documentary race was squashed by a decision the Academy claims is aimed at encouraging theatrical distribution of documentaries.

Distributors are reportedly protesting the move because they don’t necessarily want to screen films for media outlets in New York before their official releases. In years past, distribs only had to give their pics a limited engagement in Los Angeles and ten other U.S. cities. The New York Film Festival, along with other fests, is also against the new rule because organizers want to host the New York premiere of each film in competition.

Rather than blowing the chance to be featured in the New York Film Festival, the producers of Bashir opted to skip the Gotham Oscar qualifying run. Sony Pictures Classics will give the movie a limited U.S. theatrical run starting Dec. 25, the same window it gave last year’s foreign animation standout, Persepolis.

Festival organizers and filmmakers are lobbying Academy members to revise the documentary requirements. A petition is being circulated in advance of a late-October meeting of the documentary committee. The compromise being suggested would have screeners submitted by the end of August, but qualifying runs slated for later in the year.