Should ‘The Artist’ count as a Foreign Language film?

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Everywhere I go, all I see is The Artist.

With clusters of five stars and glowing one-line reviews adorning its promotional posters, The Artist is about George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a popular silent film star in the 1920’s whose career and personal life is affected by the transition into talking pictures, as well as a chance encounter with an aspiring dancer Peppy Miller, played by Bérenice Bejo (wife of the film’s director, Michel Hazanavicius).

Without a doubt, the film is the cinematic highlight of this week as it is finally released nationwide in the UK.

It recently received six Golden Globe nominations, including Best Actor (Dujardin), Best Supporting Actress (Bejo) and Best Motion Picture for a Musical or Comedy, making it the film to beat in next year’s awards ceremony.

However, something bothers me.

It is a film produced in France, it is ‘silent’ and any dialogue from the characters is shown through English intertitles. So with this in mind, could The Artist have been eligible for Best Film in a Foreign Language in 2012 Academy Awards?

According to the Academy Award eligibility rules, a foreign language film is a feature-length motion picture produced outside of the US with a predominately non-English dialogue track. English is only used on intertitles; they do not constitute any exchange or speech in the film.

Feel free to disagree, but seeing as there is no dialogue track featured, this must count towards the eligibility of The Artist as a foreign language film.

Film fans take note that the 1983 Algerian ballroom dance film Le Bal was nominated for Best Foreign Language film even though it had no dialogue. The same rule should apply here – there is no audible speech exchanged between the characters, just meaningful glances and physical gestures.

The Artist has achieved great acclaim, especially in comparison to the big budget, CGI-heavy offerings of recent times.

However, should The Artist have been put forward as France’s choice for Best Foreign Language Film, and could it also have won the coveted Best Film award? The last foreign language film to be nominated for Best Picture was 2006’s Letters from Iwo Jima but can Hazanavicius’s labour of love kill two birds with one stone?

If so, that would have been a historic achievement.

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