Oscars: How did Angelina Jolie’s ‘First They Killed My Father’ and ‘BPM’ get left off Foreign Language Film shortlist?

On Thursday (Dec. 14), the academy announced the nine semi-finalists in the Foreign-Language Film race at the Oscars. Among those films from the record 92 entries that did not make the cut were two that had been tipped as potential winners: Angelina Jolie‘s Cambodian language “First They Killed My Father” and Robin Campillo‘s French language “BPM (Beats Per Minute).”

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Jolie earned rave reviews for her heartfelt film which chronicles the horrific childhood of Loung Ung under the deadly Khmer Rouge in 1970s Cambodia. Jolie worked with Ung, who is now a human rights activist, to adapt her 2000 memoir of the same name. Jolie hold dual citizenship with Cambodia, thus making it eligible for consideration in this category. One of Jolie’s children, Maddox, is Cambodian by birth, and she says he was the one who encouraged her to make “First They Killed My Father” as he wanted to know more about his heritage.

Campillo’s film, which was France’s Oscar entry, tells the compelling story of AIDS activists fighting the deadly epidemic that became more prevalent in Paris during the early 1990’s. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May where it was awarded the Grand Prix. Since then “BPM (Beats per Minute)” has won Best Foreign Language Film from several critics groups including New York, Los Angeles (tied with “Loveless” from Russia), Washington, DC, San Francisco and Atlanta.

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Both of these films failed to find favor in either step of the selection process. First, they didn’t number among the six semi-finalists that were chosen by the several hundred academy members who volunteered to be on the Foreign-Language Film screening committee. Each of those hardy folks was required to watch 15 or so submissions over a two-month period that ended in early December. All of those who could attest to seeing at least two-thirds of their assigned screenings were entitled to cast ballots on which they rated the films they had seen on a scale from 6 to 10.

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Jolie’s and Campillo’s films also failed to find favor with the executive committee, which is chaired by academy governor and Oscar-winning producer Mark Johnson (“Rain Man,” 1988). These 20 or so Oscar voters got to add three more films to the roster, bringing it up to nine semi-finalists.

The next stage in the process will see these nine semi-finalists screened three per day beginning in early January by select academy members in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and London. They will also be available online. Those who can attest to seeing all the semi-finalists can vote for the final five which will be revealed, along with the other Oscar nominations, on Jan. 23. The entire academy membership will get screeners of these five nominated films and vote for the winner, which will be revealed on the Oscars March 4.

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