Mother, the Bulgarian entry to this year’s international Oscar race for feature films has not been considered by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The director of the film, Zornitsa Sophia, announced the decision on social media this week.
Academy sources confirmed to TBEN that: Mother was rejected because more than 50% of the spoken dialogue track is in English.
In her post, Zornitsa Sophia, whose 2004 film Mila Van Mars was Bulgaria’s Oscar entry that year, explained that Mother‘s production team had contacted the Academy to request clarification about the eligibility rule, which states that “the recording of the original dialogue track and the finished photograph must be predominantly (more than 50%) in one language or languages other than English.”
She said the Academy’s response was that eligibility is determined by timing the duration of the English and non-English dialogue, so two members of her team, using stopwatches, independently clocked the length of the dialogue tracks. One rated the film’s non-English (Bulgarian, Swahili, Maasai) dialogue as 30 seconds longer than the English dialogue; according to the other person, the difference was 1 minute 35 seconds in favor of non-English speech.
Convinced that the film fits the Academy’s requirements, the team submitted Motherr for Oscar consideration earlier this month.
The other contenders who competed against Mother for the nomination of the country included SpeculatorS (director Georgi Kostov), Escape (director Viktor Bojinov), At the heart of the machine (director Martin Makariev), To say the least (director Anri Kulev, animation), Petya from My Petya (director Alexander Kossev), herringbone (director Dragomir Sholev), Shakespeare as a mutt (director Valeri Yordanov) and Phi 1.618 (director Theodore Ushev).
The Bulgarian Selection Committee, chaired by Oscar nominee Borat star Maria Bakalova, has until October 3 to submit another film for consideration.
This isn’t the first time the Academy has rejected an Oscar entry for an international feature film because of the amount of English-language dialogue; Deepa Mehtas funny boy, filed by Canada two years ago was rejected on the same grounds.
The news marks the second year in a row that Bulgaria’s selection process has been controversial. Last year, the choice for migrant drama Fear led to a slew of accusations, from an illegal vote to “systemic racism, sexism and denial.” This time Bojinov pulled his film Escape out of the running, alleged conflict of interest for one of the committee members. That member was subsequently replaced, but Bojinov did not resubmit his film.
Written by Zornitsa Sophia (real name Zornitsa Popgancheva) and Miglena Dimova and directed by Zornitsa Sophia, Mother is inspired by real life events. It centers on Elena (Daria Simeonova), a theater director who struggles to advance her career while trying to conceive with her husband, Leon (Leon Lucev). After hopes of starting a family are dashed when Elena unexpectedly enters menopause at age 32, she focuses her energies on a life-changing theater program for orphans in Bulgaria, and is later invited to launch the program in Kenya.
The film, an international co-production, is expected to open Cinemania 2022 in Bulgaria in November.
The 95th Oscars will be on March 12, 2023. The shortlists for the International Feature and other selected categories will be announced on December 21, ahead of the nominations announcement on January 24.
Here is the current list of films submitted for the International Feature race.