LOS ANGELES?The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nine films that made it to the next round of voting in the foreign language film category of the 81st Oscar Awards. Despite an aggressive nomination campaign by its filmmakers, the Philippines? ?Ploning? did not make it to the shortlist.
Sixty-five films, including ?Ploning,? had originally qualified in the category.
The films in the shortlist are: Austria, ?Revanche,? Gotz Spielmann, director; Canada, ?The Necessities of Life,? Benoit Pilon, director; France, ?The Class,? Laurent Cantet, director; Germany, ?The Baader Meinhof Complex,? Uli Edel, director; Israel, ?Waltz with Bashir,? Ari Folman, director; Japan, ?Departures,? Yojiro Takita, director; Mexico, ?Tear This Heart Out,? Roberto Sneider, director; Sweden, ?Everlasting Moments,? Jan Troell, director; and Turkey, ?3 Monkeys,? Nuri Bilge Ceylan, director.
Aside from ?Ploning,? the Academy?s shortlist voters did not include such acclaimed films as Italy?s ?Gomorrah,? which won the Grand Prize in last year?s Cannes Film Festival, swept the 2008 European Film Awards, including best film and best director and was expected to be a forerunner in the Oscar race; Jordan?s ?Captain Abu Raed,? Russia?s ?The Mermaid,? Norway?s ?O? Horten,? Argentina?s ?Lion?s Den,? Kazakhstan?s ?Tulpan? and Chile?s ?Tony Manero.?
The ?Ploning? team, led by director Dante Nico Garcia, actress Judy Ann Santos and co-producer Guia Karla Gonzales, launched a well-organized campaign for the Philippines to land its first ever nomination in the highly competitive foreign film language category of the Academy. Using novel fund raising means, Santos raised the money needed to launch an Oscar nomination campaign.
It was the first time that the Philippines aggressively made a bid for a nod. Some prominent Filipino-Americans in Hollywood lauded Santos and company for at least making a sincere effort to bag an Academy nomination.
But in a trend that is decried by Oscar critics, an increasing number of contenders are forced to launch expensive Oscar campaigns, which include ads in the major US newspapers and in the film trade publications like Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, cocktail receptions and other marketing tools.
It also takes a lot of money to hold as many screenings as possible to reach a lot of Academy voters.
The increasing cost of lobbying for an Oscar nomination is seen by critics as unfair to entries from developing nations with no cash-rich film organizations or companies to spend for their films to be noticed by voters.
Gonzales, Garcia and Santos hired Murray Weissman, who is considered one of the deans of Oscar campaigning, to run ?Ploning?s? campaign. Murray helped engineer the upset victory of ?Crash? over ?Brokeback Mountain? as Oscar?s Best Picture in 2006.
?For Your Consideration? ads of ?Ploning? ran in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, the entertainment industry?s trade bibles. Several screenings of ?Ploning? were held, some attended by Santos. The campaign was seen by some Filipino-Americans as having helped promote awareness of Filipino films in the world?s film industry capital.
The Academy, in an attempt to avoid the embarrassment in previous years in which acclaimed entries such as France?s ?Persepolis? and Romania?s ?4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days? failed to make the final five nominations in this category, revised the rules by doing the nominations selection in two phases.
A Phase I committee, consisting of several hundred Los Angeles-based members, screened the 65 eligible films between October 2008 and January 10, 2009. That committee?s top six choices, and three additional selections chosen by the Academy?s foreign language film award executive committee, constituted the shortlist. The revised procedure still resulted in notable omissions in the list announced Tuesday.
The glaring omission of even a well-reviewed and much-awarded entry like ?Gomorrah? pointed to another hurdle faced by ?Ploning?s? filmmakers. The depth of the competition is impressive. The rivals of the film set in Cuyo, Palawan included prestigious film festival winners, critically acclaimed movies and films directed by name filmmakers.
The nine films that made it to the shortlist will now vie for the five final nominee slots to be voted by committees in New York and Los Angeles.
The nominations in all categories will be announced on Thursday, January 22. The Academy Awards will be held on February 22.