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Oscars Disqualify Afghan Foreign Language Entry ‘Utopia’ (Exclusive)

The film was determined to contain too much English dialogue, reducing the field from 81 to 80


The Afghan film “Utopia” has been disqualified from the Oscar foreign-language race for containing too much English dialogue, the Academy confirmed to TheWrap on Sunday.

The disqualification reduces the number of films in the race from 81 to 80.

“Utopia” was directed by Hassan Nazer, and stars Hannah Spearritt as a woman who wants a child but whose husband has been incapacitated by the fighting in Afghanistan. She travels to the UK, where a sperm-bank employee switches the anonymous sample with his own.

It was Afghanistan’s 10th submission in the category since it first entered the Oscar race in 2002. The country has yet to have one of its films receive a nomination or make the nine-film foreign shortlist.

The film was filmed partially in English and partially in the Dari language, but an Academy spokesperson said it did not meet the rule that requires a submission to be primarily in a language other than English.

When contacted by TheWrap on Sunday, a spokesperson for the film’s director and producer said they had not been contacted by AMPAS and were unaware of the disqualification.

The film had been scheduled to screen for the Oscar foreign-language voters on Nov. 12. It recently screened at the Asian World Film Festival, where actress Malalai Zikria won the best-actress award.

Previous rulings in this year’s foreign-language race included the rejection of China’s initial entry, “Wolf Totem,” which was directed by Frenchman Jean-Jacques Annaud and was replaced by “Go Away Mr. Tumor,” and of Panama’s submission, the documentary “Box 25.” Unlike the disqualification of “Utopia,” both of those rulings were made before the list of entries was announced and the screening schedule was set.

Even though “Utopia” was taken out of the competition well after the deadline, the Academy gave Afghanistan’s Oscar selection committee the chance to submit an alternative film. The Afghan committee did not do so.