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Last Updated: Friday, 23 September 2005, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Penguins 'miss' French Oscar nod
March of the Penguins
March of the Penguins has made more than $70m in the US
Film-makers have queried the decision to pick an unreleased movie instead of March of the Penguins to represent France at the 2006 Oscars, reports say.

Joyeux Noel, about a troops armistice during the First World War, was queried as it is not out until 9 November, according to Screen Daily.

A film must have been released for a week between 1 October and 30 September to be up for a foreign language Oscar.

March of the Penguins is France's most successful film at the US box office.

It is also a strong contender for the Academy's documentary feature award.

Merry Christmas, directed by Christian Carion, is currently playing a one-week engagement in the north of France that technically makes it eligible for consideration.

'Political'

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences also stipulates the chosen film must be supported by an advertising campaign "normal and customary" to the industry.

In addition, the French body that selects the film - the Centre National de la Cinematographie (CNC) - has an unofficial rule saying it must have sold 200,000 tickets.

Alex Ferns
Merry Christmas stars former EastEnders actor Alex Ferns

Marie Masmonteil, president of France's Independent Producers Union, told the Screen Daily website she believed France's Oscar decision was a political one.

An international co-production featuring French, German and English dialogue, Merry Christmas' Cannes premiere in May was attended by all 25 European culture ministers.

"I'm not contesting that it's a beautiful film," she is quoted as saying. "It just has a lesser chance of winning."

Criticism

According to the Hollywood Reporter, March of the Penguins is one of many feature-length documentaries vying for Oscar consideration.

Others include The Aristocrats, a comic expose of the dirtiest joke ever told; Murderball, a film about quadriplegic rugby players; and Why We Fight, a look at US foreign policy.

Film-makers hoping to compete for the best documentary award were required to submit entry forms, exhibition plans and DVDs to the Academy by 1 September.

The line-up of likely candidates firmed up on Wednesday when the International Documentary Association (IDA) announced the 13 nominees for its Distinguished Documentary Achievement Awards.

Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church in Sideways
Sideways won six Independent Spirit Awards in February
Handed out in Los Angeles on 9 December, they may indicate which films will make the Academy's shortlist.

With the awards season under way, the Independent Feature Project - the body behind the annual Independent Spirit Awards - announced it is to raise the budget ceiling for eligible titles to $20m (11m).

According to Screen Daily, the decision follows criticism at this year's awards when Sideways - which cost $16.5m (9.2m) to make - was considered eligible while Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - which cost about $20m - was not.

Dawn Hudson, executive director of Film Independent, said its board of directors felt the $20m ceiling "gave the committee wide latitude in choosing original, provocative films that are still made with an economy of means".

The deadline for submissions for the 2006 awards is 14 October.


SEE ALSO:
Penguins 'top' French films in US
14 Sep 05 |  Entertainment
Penguin secrets captivate US viewers
19 Aug 05 |  Entertainment
91 countries up for foreign Oscar
06 Jul 05 |  Entertainment
Sideways dominates Spirit awards
27 Feb 05 |  Entertainment


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