Norway’s Oscar film candidate ‘should never have been nominated’

The Norwegian short film Tuba Atlantic that was in the running to win an Oscar at last weekend’s Academy Awards should never have been nominated, reports newspaper Aftenposten, because it had been shown on Norwegian television. That broke Academy rules, according to an Academy spokeswoman.

The short film "Tuba Atlantic," starring an elderly man with six days to live, attracted massive media coverage in Norway over its Oscar nomination that now appears to have broken the rules of the Academy Awards. PHOTO: Filmweb

Torene Svitil of the Academy told Aftenposten that if the film had won the Oscar, it likely would have had its coveted prize withdrawn because of the violation of strict rules governing the competition. The rules prohibit any public showings of nominated films outside of a cinema. That means that airing the film on TV, cable TV, home videos or the Internet before its launch in Los Angeles or before it won any prize at a festival or the Student Academy Awards, is strictly forbidden.

The rules further restrict any public showings of excerpts from films submitted for nomination to just 10 percent of their total length. That implies that only a maximum of two-and-a-half minutes from the 25-minute Tuba Atlantic could have been shown.

An Academy spokeswoman says "Tuba Atlantic" would have been disqualified for an Oscar, because it was shown on NRK before it won a Student Academy Award. PHOTO: Filmweb

Instead, officials at the Norwegian Film School in Lillehammer — where the film was made and directed by Hallvar Witzø when he was still a student there — had allowed the film to be shown on state broadcaster NRK2 in August 2010. Tuba Atlantic was aired in its entirety during a two-and-a-half-hour-long program that included six films made as part of final exam projects at the school. The NRK program aimed to present new Norwegian talent within filmmaking.

Svitil of the Academy said the producers of Tuba Atlantic “did not disclose the film’s television release.” She also told Aftenposten that entry forms that need to be filled out when submitting films for consideration specifically ask whether the film has been shown, when and on which channel. She said the Norwegians submitting Tuba Atlantic checked off the box for “no” on the forms. “Per the rules, any kind of television or Internet broadcast before the film wins its qualifying award or is theatrically released disqualifies it from consideration,” she wrote in an e-mail to Aftenposten.

Svitil said she was “astonished” that “the filmmaker (Witzø) said the Academy knew about the television broadcast. This is certainly not the case as far as I know.” Witzø, who was in Los Angeles for Academy Awards events over the weekend, had told Aftenposten on Sunday that the Academy was aware of the showing, while film school dean Thomas Stenderup also claimed the Academy knew about them. NRK aired the film on national TV before the Academy Awards show began on Sunday as well, and Stenderup said he believed exceptions were allowed for student films.

Not so, according to Svitil. “If we had known about these television broadcasts when the film was shortlisted (for an Oscar nomination), we could have investigated (and rejected it as soon as the TV broadcast was confirmed),” she told Aftenposten.

The rule violation seems unlikely to have any further consequences, since Tuba Atlantic didn’t win the Oscar after all. Nor will it affect a Student Academy Award it won last summer. That competition doesn’t prohibit TV showings.

“Since Tuba Atlantic did not win the Oscar, we will not pursue this matter,” Svitil told Aftenposten, noting, though, that “a screening on television before the film won the Student Academy Award would disqualify Tuba Atlantic.”  Witzø was said to be on a flight from Los Angeles back to Norway and unavailable for comment.

See Aftenposten’s story here (external link, in Norwegian).

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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