Afghan Star is the U.K.'s Selection for Best Foreign Film Oscar -- And It's a Doc
Afghan Star, Havana Marking's documentary about an American Idol-style singing contest that captured the hearts of the country, really couldn't come along at a better moment. As the threat of a resurgent Taliban increases steadily, it puts an extraordinarily human face on the victims of the escalating violence and nightmarish civil rights abuses in that region. Unfortunately, since it screened on U.K. TV this year, that disqualified it for competition in the Documentary category at this year's Oscars. But all hope is not yet lost -- the film is taking an unusual route on the way to awards season, as it's been submitted as the U.K.'s selection in the Foreign Language Film category.
The rules state that for a film to be eligible in that category, it must come from outside the U.S., and the majority of the dialogue track must be in a language other than English. The U.K. has had only two other Foreign Film nominees in Oscars history. If nominated, Afghan Star would be the third. Even more unusual, however, is the fact that it is a documentary. We spoke with director Marking yesterday:
"Waltz with Bashir was an animated film and classed as a documentary and that made it into last year's nominations," she explained, referring to last year's animated doc about the 1982 Israeli-Lebanon war. "I think that was a pretty exceptional case though. While I realise it is a strange route for a documentary film, I have been continuously surprised by Afghan Star's journey: it seems to have a life of its own now. The reaction been overwhelming from the word go."
The idea, it turns out, came not from Afghan Star's producers or distributors, but rather BAFTA itself: "They rang us up out of the blue and informed us they were putting us forward," Marking explained. "It was astounding! We didn't know the rules of the Academy and had not considered this category."
It's a longshot, but stranger things have happened -- and it truly is a remarkable film. For more background, we'd invite you to revisit our interview with Marking.