What it takes to get into Oscars?
by Raven & MovieCrow Editor
With Barfi being nominated as India’s official entry to the Oscars, there are two major concerns floating around -- First opinion is Vazhakku Enn, Kahaani or Eega are better movies and should have been selected ahead of Barfi. Secondly, Barfi is inspired/copied from Hollywood movies and hence should not have been sent to Oscars. We decided to get to the roots to see what may be going wrong in the selection process by interviewing some people impacted by these selections.
1. India's Oscar entry is NOT selected by directors/technicians
The Film Federation of India(FFI) and film chambers from all over India hand-pick a few movies from each language and throw it in a basket and select the best candidate from the mix. Even though this is not much different from how our Indian Cricket team is selected. However, the fundamental flaw in this approach is that the Film Federation of India is nothing but an association of film producers, distributors and exhibitors. Yes, you heard it right... India's entry for Oscar is not selected by leading directors, actors nor technicians. But, by a number of business leaning people who may not have a keen eye for appreciating the art form.
2. Misconceptions about what is Regional Vs Global
As the Oscar jury comprise of mostly American film-makers, one of the unwritten criteria is to make sure the selected movie appeals to western sensibilities. Unfortunately, none of us in India really understand what actually appeals to American audience. If we really did, our directors would have given at least one cross-over hit movie able to reach out to US mainstream audience. Contrary to popular belief among the film chamber members, Vetrimaaran and Vasantabalan's movies in the past have proved that sometimes more regional a movie gets, the more international its appeal is.
For example in 1998, Jeans was selected over Aamir Khan's 1947 Earth and Mani Ratnam's Dil Se just because Shankar's movie was backed by Amritraj's production and the movie was shot in the US. The preference for western oriented movies has been superficially applied over a number of years. This is where one might feel that a film like ‘Vazhakku Enn 18/9’ could have been a stronger contender with strong universal emotional connection.
3. Producer should have deep pockets to lobby
This is indeed true about Academy due to practical difficulties and competition from hundreds of movies from numerous languages from all over the world. Hence, our film chamber members give importance for a film that can be backed by a rich production house who is willing to lobby and spend millions to convince the Oscar jury members to even catch a glimpse of the movie. The movie must be skillfully marketed, screened to a number of jury members while building rapport as their votes decide pushing through the initial rounds. The committee believed that ‘Barfi’ has a better chance over 'Eega' or other leading movies in contention as the former is produced by UTV Motion Pictures, who is well experienced in going through this Oscar process.
4. Government's role in ensuring India is not shown in negative light
It is an irony that Satyajit Ray never won an Oscar while the legend ended up receiving lifetime achievement Academy award with strong nomination support from the likes of George Lucas and Martin Scorsese. Many movies of Satyajit Ray were shot down from entering into Oscar race because of their negative portrayal of India's poverty and political structure. Same reason why Vazhakku Enn 18/9 may have been left out since it shows corruption and politics in India. The jury might have wanted a film that shows India on a positive light and ‘Barfi’ scores higher on that point.
Despite holes in selection process, Barfi is not a bad choice after all!
Even though a number of scenes in 'Barfi' are inspired from ‘The Notebook’, Amelie and other Charlie Chaplin’s classics, ‘Barfi’ still has its heart in the right place. The soul of the film appears to be original and backed by riveting performances by leading cast members. The technical aspects are extra-ordinary and of truly international standards. So, Barfi is not a bad choice after all. We should leave our mixed opinions aside and wish ‘Barfi’ to get us the elusive academy award for best foreign language film.