Joshua Marston, the director of “Maria, Full of Grace,” is not Albanian. But he argues that his latest film “The Forgiveness of Blood” is.
In a last minute switcheroo influenced by hometown politicking that many could have foreseen, Marston’s acclaimed Berlin fest premiere has been disqualified as Albania’s submission for the foreign-language Oscar race. According to Variety, the film was deemed not Albanian enough.
Shot on location in Albania, with dialogue that is 100% Albanian, the film is about the country’s tradition of blood feuds. But Marston is, of course, American, as is producer Paul Mezey, and the film’s cinematographer Rob Hardy is British, which probably was enough to throw the submission in turmoil after an Albanian director Bujar Alimani had written a formal letter of complaint demanding that Marston’s film be disqualified on that grounds that it was an American production.
Marston told Variety: “It’s disappointing, to be sure. There was so much Albanian creative involvement in the making of the film. For the Academy to focus only on six key crew positions as the barometer of its Albanian-ness, to me, is sad.””
“[‘The Forgiveness of Blood’] is made by Albanians, in Albania, about Albania and in the Albanian language,” he also said. “And yet a great film like Kaurismaki’s ‘Le Havre,’ which was shot in France with a French cast and a French story, qualifies as Finnish? And ‘As If I Am Not There,’ which was shot in the Balkans and is in Serbo-Croat with a cast from that region, qualifies as Irish? It’s absurd.”
“I think there’s a problem with the system when Hollywood claims to know better than the submitting country whether a film belongs to them. It is incredibly disempowering and disenchanting for a country with a young film industry.”
Now Alimani’s “Amnesty” has replaced Marston’s film as Albania’s entry, a film which I suspect doesn’t have much of a chance of getting on to the Academy’s shortlist.