Austria’s contender for the international feature film Oscar has been disqualified from the race for having too much dialogue in English.
Sudabeh Mortezai’s “Joy” is the second film to be ruled ineligible to compete for what until this year was known as the Academy Award for best foreign-language film. Last week, the disqualification of Nigeria’s “Lionheart” on the same grounds – for being predominantly in English – caused waves among critics who noted that English is one of the country’s official tongues as a result of British colonization.
The disqualification of Joy is still based on the best international feature category, which states that its dialogue must not be predominantly in English, which both films fall short of.
According to The Academy’s rules, it states that “an international film is defined as a feature-length motion picture (defined as over 40 minutes) produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track.”
The Academy’s customary review process found that two-thirds of the dialogue in Joy, which was written and directed by Sudabeh Mortezai, is in English.
Austrian selection committee was notified of the Academy’s verdict Monday morning.
Joy, which centres on Nigerian sex workers in Vienna, premiered September 3, 2018 at the Venice Film Festival en route to a January 18, 2019 theatrical release in Austria and a May 24, 2019 American debut on Netflix (which is also the distributor of Lionheart).
It currently stands at 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Prior to Joy, Austria had submitted 42 films for consideration for the award that, until April 2019 was known as best foreign language film. Two, 2007’s The Counterfeiters and 2012’s Amour, went on to wins; two others, 1986’s ’38 — Vienna Before the Fall and 2008’s Revanche, settled for nominations; and one, 2005’s Cache, was disqualified.
Cache was deemed ineligible not because it was found to be predominantly in English, but because it is predominantly in a different language other than the official language of the submitting country, namely French. At the time, that was against the rules.
“As we do every year, the Academy is in the process of reviewing the films submitted for the International Feature Film category to determine whether they meet our eligibility rules. The film Joy, submitted by Austria, was just reviewed and is ineligible because only 33% of the dialogue is non-English.”, The Academy stated, according to The Hollywood Reporter.