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Controversial Oscar Nom Due on DVD in March

21 Feb, 2006 By: Erik Gruenwedel

The controversy surrounding Paradise Now, the first Palestinian Oscar nominee, is likely to raise the profile of the foreign-language film competition during next month's 78th Academy Awards.

The title streets March 21 ($27.95 DVD) from Warner Home Video.

Israeli-produced Paradise Now, from director-writer Hany Abu-Assad, profiles the last days of two Palestinian childhood friends who have been recruited for a bombing mission in Tel Aviv. When they are intercepted at the Israeli border and separated from their handlers, a young woman who discovers their plan causes them to reconsider their actions.

Paradise Now won the Golden Globe Award for best foreign-language film and multiple prizes at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival. It was an official selection of the 2005 Venice International Film Festival, the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival and the 2005 New York Film Festival.

Mark Gill, president of Warner Independent Pictures and Paradise Now's U.S. theatrical distributor, said the company was pleased with the Oscar nomination and critics' accolades.

“They're embracing an unflinching artistic exploration of some of the most vexing issues in the world today,” Gill said. “This may induce discomfort in some circles, but it's an absolutely vital, essential part of not only our protected first-amendment right to free speech, but of the artistic process to perhaps contribute to insight and understanding that can lead to positive societal change in the future.”

Reports of an on online petition denouncing the film's nomination due to the subject matter have increased the controversy surrounding the film. Some also have raised concerns about what to call the film's country of origin: Palestine, Palestine Authority, or other.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences stated it would likely choose the more neutral Palestinian Authority reference as used by the U.S. State Department. The decision reportedly angered director Abu-Assad, who said it represented a slap at the Palestinian people and their national identity.

“It's not like suddenly if you change your name, you didn't exist before,” Abu-Assad told the Associated Press. “If it's (Palestine) under occupation, it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.”

Other foreign film nominees include Italy's Don't Tell, France's Joyeux No?l, Germany's Sophie Scholl — The Final Days and South Africa's Tsotsi.

Zeitgeist Films' Sophie Scholl highlights the final days of a female member of an underground resistance movement against Hitler's Third Reich. Zeitgeist will release the DVD this summer, a spokesperson said.

A Buena Vista Home Entertainment spokesperson said the studio plans to release Tsotsi, about a week in the violent life of a young Johannesburg gang leader, on DVD also in the summer.

A Sony Pictures Home Entertainment spokesperson said a release date for Joyeux No?l, about an impromptu soccer game that temporarily unites warring German, Scottish and French soldiers during World War I, hasn't been determined.

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