December 22, 2005


Eric Khoo's Sinaporean film, BE WITH ME, is not authentic enough for the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Despite having played at the Toronto Film Festival, Cannes and the Telluride Film Festival, BE WITH ME was disqualified as Singapore's entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar because, after timing the print, the Academy decided that it had too much English in it. An Academy rule says that Foreign Film submissions must be made in a non-English language, and when they sat down with the stop watches they discovered that English got more screentime that Hokkien, ISL or Mandarin in BE WITH ME.

This is the eighth film disqualified from the Foreign Film category this year, including the very well known PRIVATE (Italy's entry about Israel didn't have any Italian in it) and CACHE (Austria's entry had its dialogue in French, not German).

The Academy doesn't see it as a problem that their rules have a 1950's view of the world (English is widely spoken in Singapore, and every Singaporean movie I've seen, except for FIFTEEN, had scads of English in it) and said that if this happens next year maybe, just maybe, they might rethink their rules.

December 22, 2005 at 09:23 AM in News | Permalink


I'm hardly surprised. Read the foreign film qualifications on the Oscar website (http://www.oscars.org/78academyawards/rules/rule14.html) and you'll see how stifling the regulations are for what's deemed acceptable.

I find that the language issue is related to the Academy's ignorance about transnational cinemas (as least the kind without Hollywood as one of the players) going on in Europe and Asia now. For example, how can a film like THREE...EXTREMES get recognition if it can't be submitted by a single country? Which is an especially pressing issue since films like THREE...EXTREMES, PRIVATE, CACHE are cases where directors (often exiles) are forced by Hollywood domination in their home countries to find new strategies for making films about their increasingly hybridized identities. So I think it's not just that the Academy has a 50's view of the world, it's that it has a monopolistic, imperialist view of the world which finds it necessary to define "the foreign" in ways that pleases the Hollywood market system. I've griped about this further in an article I wrote last year on the foreign film submissions:

And poor Singapore. The country has a hard enough time already trying to settle on its official language(s) and now the Oscars come in and try to define it for them.

Posted by: Brian | Dec 22, 2005 10:01:36 AM

To be fair to the *American* Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, don't they hand out Best Foreign *Language* Film Oscars (as opposed to Best Foreign Film ones)? Also, if its members can understand Singlish without needing any English subtitling assistance, they must deserve some kind of comprehension kudos!

Also, for the record, Singapore has four official national languages: I.e., Mandarin, English, Malay and Tamil. But just you try to find one Singaporean who can speak all of these languages...

Posted by: YTSL | Dec 24, 2005 5:51:06 PM

Post a comment