Angered by the Academy’s disqualification of The Band’s Visit, a much-praised Israeli film, because it had, in their judgment, over 50% English and less than 50% Hebrew or Egyptian in the dialogue, and having heard from Band’s Visit‘s producer Ehud Bleiberg that allies of Beaufort, another Israeli-produced contender, had lobbied against The Band’s Visit on this issue, I wrote a paragraph the other day that voiced my feelings but which also contained a small but crucial error.
I wrote that “if I were king I would scratch Israel’s Beaufort” from consideration for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar [as] There doesn’t appear to be any question that Beaufort‘s producers lobbied the Academy’s foreign film committee on the 50%foreign-language issue that wound up disqualifying The Band’s Visit. Punish the Beaufort team for playing dirty, discourage this kind of thing, etc.”
Wrong. What happened is that Beaufort allies addressed the issue in some fashion with Israel’s motion picture academy, not the Beverly Hills AMPAS, and somehow I switched the two in my head. I hereby apologize to the Beaufort producers for blurring this and confusing the facts.
The principal ranter against the Beaufort team has been Bleiberg, producer of The Band’s Visit and producer / CEO of Bleiberg Entertainment. When I spoke to Bleiberg on or about Tuesday, 10.16, about the unfortunate 10.11 (or 10.12) AMPAS decision against The Band’s Visit for eligibility for Best Foreign Language Feature, he was emphatic in saying that certain parties allied with Beaufort had lobbied and/or strategized in some fashion to push the language-qualification issue.
Bleiberg was adamant about this, and asked me to quote him as having said this. He said that even the Beaufort people hadn’t made a secret of their agenda in this matter.
I had suspected that someone’s agenda was being served in the disqualification, and as Beaufort obviously benefitted from the AMPAS decision logic suggested they had a rooting interest in the matter.
Part of my determinations came from a 9.25 story about this matter by Deadline Hollywood Daily‘s Nikki Finke. Having spoken to Israeli film critic Yair Raveh, she reported that “rivals are claiming that the political movie…has more than 50% English dialogue and therefore must be ruled ineligible for the nomination. Raveh…reports that The Band’s Visit producers, backed by Sony Pictures Classics, insist the English dialogue is less than 50%. The Israeli motion picture academy says it’s the producers’ call, not theirs. That has infuriated rivals who are calling on the local academy to check into the matter before the film is officially submitted.”
Raveh explained to me today that “days before [Israel’s] Ophir awards I heard that Beaufort‘s producers sent the Israeli Academy a letter from their international sales agent Bavaria Films, saying they counted the words in The Band’s Visit, it has 60 percent English and therefore will be probably be disqualified. Beaufort‘s team wanted the Israeli academy to find out only one thing: whether they will have the chance to send the runner up after dead-line if the film is disqualified? This is the only lobby I heard of from Beaufort’s producers, and it was aimed at the local academy.”
Two days after an announcement of the AMPAS decision to disqualify — on Sunday, 10.14 — IndieWire‘s Anthony Kaufman wrote that The Band’s Visit had been disinvited from the Abu Dhabi Film Festival for cloudy reasons. The festival’s director Jon Fitzgerald told Kaufman “it’s not the cleanest situation” and then Kaufman quoted you as saying that the film was turned down for “political reasons.”
Here we go again, I said to myself. The Band’s Visit once again getting elbowed out of the room due to political agendas and back-room maneuvering.
Raveh’s final word on the situation is that Bleiberg’s claims were inaccurate — he and others allied with The Band’s Visit knew the English language content was more than 50% all along, Raveh says — and overheated. “No one ratted anyone out. Not that I know of. As I see it, it’s all about a producer lying — as producers often do, and maybe should in order to protect his movie — and when Bleiberg’s bluff was called he said ‘someone snitched’ instead of bowing out with grace.”