Puerto Rican Directors Fight to Compete in Oscar Category for Best Foreign Language Film

Lead Photo: Art by Alan Lopez for Remezcla
Art by Alan Lopez for Remezcla
Read more

Every year the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) celebrates global cinema at the Oscars in one particular category. The movies that make the cut and get nominations for Best Foreign Language Film shed a light on movie industries around the world. Earlier this year, the winner was Sebastián Lelio’s A Fantastic Womanwhich cemented Chilean cinema as one to watch. But since 2010, one country has been deemed ineligible for the coveted award. After successfully submitting eleven films since 1986 — and earning one nomination for Jacobo Morales‘ 1989 comedy Lo que le pasó a Santiago  — the Academy ruled that U.S. territories and protectorates are not allowed to vie for that particular category. Now, a group of prominent Puerto Rican filmmakers are hoping to get that decision overturned.

In a letter sent to the Academy dated July 25, 2018 and obtained by Latino Rebels, the likes of Morales and director Marcos Zuñiga, are asking AMPAS to reconsider and include Puerto Rico in the Foreign Language category competition. Their argument is simple: Puerto Rico is, no matter how you want to dub it, a colony of the United States. This may make it an “unusual grey area” as then-AMPAS chief operating officer Ric Robinson put it in a 2012 Daily News article quoted in their letter. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be more clearly seen, especially in light of how Puerto Rican cinema operates on the island.

In fact, the letter attempts to clarify for those who may not be well-acquainted with Puerto Rico’s film industry — not to mention its status under the United States’ control. “Since colonization is an illegal status based on inequality with an unfair and demeaning relationship that violates human rights, just as slavery and apartheid did,” the letter reads, and then goes on to state they feel their demand to have the country reinstated in the Foreign Language category should be heeded on four counts:

  1. Puerto Rico is a nation despite the fact that we are considered a US territory.
  2. We are of Puerto Rican nationality despite the fact that we have US citizenship.
  3. The movies we produce are not made in the USA, they are created in the nation of Puerto Rico, proudly stamped “Hecho en Puerto Rico” (Made in Puerto Rico).
  4. We are a country outside of the USA.

Whether the Foreign Language committee will address the letter at all remains to be seen. But, Hurricane María — and the White House’s unconscionable response to the damage done to the island — have put front and center the way Puerto Rico’s “unusual grey area” begs to be brought into the spotlight for mainland citizens and organizations alike, we hope all seventeen signatories get the response they deserve.

[h/t: Latino Rebels]