SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Oct. 26, 2011 — Rene “Calle 13,”Esai Morales, Benicio del Toro, Jimmy Smits, Maria Conchita Alonso, Marcos Zurinaga, Yancey Arias, Miriam Colon, Teofilo Torres, Bertha Navarro, Celines Toribio along with groups such as the National Puerto Rican Coalition, The Puerto Rico Film Office Management and Staff, producer Luillo Ruiz and other film industry leaders have joined the request for an appeal to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science (the Academy) on its decision to deprive Puerto Rico from participating in the Foreign Language Award Category.
The claim was made public today in www.recognizepuertorico.com.
In their petition, the group states that the Academy’s decision was uninformed and a mistake that seems discriminatory against all Puerto Ricans and offensive to the Latino community in general.
“According to the 14th rule for the Foreign Language category, Puerto Rican films qualify because we produce in Spanish and we are geographically and legally outside of the US, as resolved by the US Supreme Court. The Academy must honor the category’s criteria,” wrote Frances Lausell, producer of America. “I will not avoid this controversy because it’s about defending my Puerto Rican heritage — I am not a ‘homegrown US filmmaker’ as the Academy wants to portray!” pointed out Lausell.
In her response to the Academy, Lausell explained: “I was born and raised in an island outside the US with Spanish as my language and a distinct culture I am proud of. This is not a political issue, it’s about a culture’s right to make art that conveys its essence and be recognized as such by the international community. The decision is incorrect on many levels, as even our production company is considered a foreign corporation for tax and legal purposes, because it’s registered to do business in Puerto Rico.” The document goes further in explaining that although Puerto Ricans share the citizenship with US residents, they do not have the same nationality.
“I understand the Academy was lead to make an uninformed decision that could wrongly portray it as a discriminatory entity against Latinos and Puerto Ricans. I just want to help them make the right decision based on all the facts.”
Lausell and director Sonia Fritz submitted their film America, based on Puerto Rican writer Esmeralda Santiago’s book, America’s Dream, as the Puerto Rican entry for the Foreign Language Award Competition at the Oscars. It was subsequently discarded by the Awards Coordinator Torene Svitil with an email stating that the film was going to be returned and that “last year was the final year for Puerto Rico submission … we have accepted entries from Puerto Rico in the past, but this is no longer the case.” In the email, Svitil indicates that they based their decision on the citizenship of this country. Ever since the announcement, the Academy has been inundated by supporters of America who would like to see it competing in the Foreign Film Category. If you would like to add your signature to this request, go to www.recognizepuertorico.com.