Oscars Selection Process Criticized by Iran’s Filmmakers

By Azadeh Karimi

The Farabi Cinema Foundation (FCF), which promotes the Islamic Republic’s film industry abroad, has selected “Finding Farideh,” a feature-length documentary, as a contender in the Best Foreign Language Film category for the Academy Awards on February 9, 2020. This is the first time that Iran has entered a feature-length documentary in the Foreign Language Film category.

According to Raed Farizadeh, the FCF’s deputy director for international relations, the selection committee chose three finalists from among the 70 films submitted for screening. They included Reza Mirkarimi’s “Ghasre Shirin” (released under the English title ‘Castle of Dreams’), Saeed Roustayi’s “6.5 Per Meter” and “Finding Farideh” by Azadeh Mousavi and Kourosh Ataee. The committee ultimately nominated “Finding Farideh” to represent Iran at this year’s Oscars.

Several filmmakers who had submitted their works to the FCF have questioned the hasty selection process and this year’s choice for the Oscars.

In previous years, the public relations department of the FCF would first announce the judges, then release a list of films submitted to the foundation, as well as the timetable for screening and selecting the final nominee for the Oscars. This year, the FCF reportedly rushed the process and announced its decision shortly after midnight on August 18.

“A month early. A few hours past midnight. Worse than a coup d’état,” said Saeed Roustayi, the director of “6.5 Per Meter,” in a post that listed the release dates for the selections from the previous 12 years. “Isn’t that strange? There is plenty of time between now and the end of September.”

[aesop_image img=”https://kayhanlife.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/سعید-روستایی.jpg” panorama=”off” credit=”Saeed Roustayi ‘s post. Source: Kayhan London” align=”center” lightbox=”on” captionsrc=”custom” captionposition=”left” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

Hamed Behdad, the leading male actor in “Ghasre Shirin,” tweeted: “Congratulations to everyone involved in the production of ‘Finding Farideh’ which will represent Iran at the 2020 Oscars. Given this year’s unusual procedure for choosing the jurors and the final nominee, and for the sake of transparency, we ask the FCF to release the minutes of the selection committee’s two meetings on the 2020 Oscars.”

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. ضمن تبریک و آرزوى موفقيت به عوامل سازندهء فيلم مستندِ! «در جستجوی فریده» براى معرفی به عنوان نماینده سينمايی، به مراسم اسکارِ ۲۰۲۰، با توجه به شکل غیر معمولِ تشکیل کمیتهء انتخاب، بر خلاف روال دوره هاى قبلى و شایعات و ابهامات موجود، دربارهء نحوهء انتخاب نمایندهء سينمايی ايران و نظر به سیاست شفاف‌سازی ریاست سازمان سینمایی، درخواست انتشار جزییات و شرح مذاکراتِ دو جلسهء اخیرِ هیاتِ انتخاب نماینده ایران در اسکار ۲۰۲۰ را داریم! #حامدبهداد #حامد_بهداد #hamedbehdad

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This was the response from the FCF.

“The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has made some changes to the Foreign Language Film category,” Mr. Farizadeh said. “The Academy Awards used to give us more time to submit our selection. We had until October 1 to provide them with all the required information and material. That gave the Oscars enough time to acknowledge receipt of the film by the deadline; otherwise, they would reject the submission.”

Meanwhile, Algeria, Georgia, and Switzerland are the only countries which have so far announced their selections for the Foreign Language Film category.

Freshteh Taerpour (producer), Fatemeh Motamed-Arya (actor), Abolhassan Davoudi (director), Touraj Manouri (cinematographer), Rasoul Sadrameli (director), Amir Esbati (set designer), Morteza Razagh Karimi (producer) and Mehrzad Danesh (film critic) are the members of this year’s selection committee for the Oscars.  Mr. Farizadeh is the legal advisor to the committee.

This year’s selection “Finding Farideh” is a feature-length documentary that tells the story of Farideh, a 39-year-old Iranian woman who was abandoned by her biological parents when she was only six months old. More than a year later, a Dutch couple adopted Farideh who by then was living at an international orphanage in Tehran and took her to the Netherlands where she grew up. The filmmakers follow Farideh as she goes back to Iran in search of her biological family members.

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]