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<nettime> Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sez: Palestine's n
Francis Hwang on Wed, 29 Jan 2003 08:18:41 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sez: Palestine's not a country

Academy snubs fine Palestinian movie

By Sherri Muzher

On Feb. 11, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will 
nominate films for the Oscars. One highly acclaimed Palestinian film, 
which premiered Jan. 17 in New York City, will not be considered, 
however. It seems that Middle East politics has found its way into a 
ceremony committed to recognizing excellence in filmmaking.

Divine Intervention, a comedy about the Israeli occupation, has 
captivated critics and audiences, winning a special jury prize at the 
Cannes Film Festival and best foreign film at the European Film 

The film follows a Palestinian Jerusalemite filmmaker (director Elia 
Suleiman) and his relationship with his Palestinian West Bank 
girlfriend. Because she is not allowed into Jerusalem, their 
relationship consists of meetings at a lot next to a checkpoint. The 
film, which demonstrates the lunacy that has become everyday life for 
Palestinians, glosses up its profound messages with comic relief, 
from the way the attractive stiletto-heeled Palestinian struts past 
an Israeli checkpoint to the balloon of Yasser Arafat's smiling face 
that freely floats from the occupied territories into Israel.

The academy told the American distributor of Divine Intervention that 
it's ineligible for Oscar considerations because "Palestine" is not a 
country recognized by its rules. But the academy has accepted entries 
from Taiwan and Hong Kong, and neither are states. Further, Palestine 
has had observer status at the United Nations since 1974 and is 
recognized by more than 115 countries.

Sadly, the academy's refusal to consider Divine Intervention shows 
that it is far from being an impartial, apolitical body. Although 
Hollywood is no stranger to world events and free speech, controversy 
at the Oscars should never include such censorship.

Of course, the brutality of Israel's occupation wouldn't dissipate if 
the academy recognized a Palestinian film on its merits. But 
Palestinians should be encouraged to use cinematography as a peaceful 
avenue to express their sentiments.

"Cinema is the negation of the notion of nationalism," Suleiman told 
The New York Times. "Of course, if there's a denial of Palestinianism 
as a cultural or national entity, then you fight for it. But, in 
fact, cinema is yearning to cross those boundaries all the time."

Unfortunately, the motion picture academy seems to feel otherwise.

Sherri Muzher is a media analyst in Mason, Mich.

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