SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY: And the Oscar will not go to...

16th September 2007

EVER wondered what an overwrought Oscar winner's speech would sound like in Gaelic? Well, you'll have to wonder a lot longer.

Gaelic feature film The Inaccessible Pinnacle has been robbed of potential Academy Award glory after London-based film experts took the controversial decision that it was not even worth nominating for a foreign language Oscar.

The move has outraged many in the Scottish movie industry, who were convinced Seachd - its Gaelic title - was a shoo-in as the UK's official candidate for the prestigious title.

Seachd created a buzz at early screenings, was compared to the Ewan McGregor fantasy film Big Fish, and will open in British multiplexes next month alongside the latest Hollywood blockbusters.

But it seems the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) failed to read the script. A Bafta subcommittee responsible for putting forward UK films to be considered for Oscar nomination decided against including The Inaccessible Pinnacle.

Bafta film awards officer Louise Beasley told Scotland on Sunday that a Welsh language film had also been up for consideration but: "The jury has decided not to put any films forward."

She added: "I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to discuss the contents of the jury's discussion because it's confidential."

Seachd producer Christopher Young, whose credits also include Venus Peter, Gregory's Two Girls and Festival, said: "I'm gobsmacked. I just assumed that there was a better film in their opinion. I'm gobsmacked that they just said 'Oh no, we don't like your film and we're not putting anything forward.' I think that's a bit weird."

The national film agency Scottish Screen, which put £170,000 of taxpayers' cash towards the movie's £700,000 budget, also criticised Bafta. Chief executive Ken Hay, said: "Seachd is an excellent film which deserves to reach the widest possible audience.

"We have supported the film through its development and production, and we are obviously disappointed and puzzled that it won't have a chance to compete for an Oscar."

And Margaret Cameron, business manager at the Gaelic Media Service, which put in £400,000, said: "We think the film has delivered and it also tried some innovative things by bringing along new Gaelic talent in the writing and directing areas.

"It's short-sighted of Bafta not to make any nomination, whether it was the Welsh or Gaelic film. I think it's bad news for minority languages when they make decisions like that."

In the film, which was shot on Skye, an old man - played by Gaelic poet and novelist Angus Peter Campbell - tells his grandchildren a series of far-fetched stories involving a magic horse, a man who has lived for 1,000 years and a couple of ship-wrecked sailors - one from the Spanish Armada and a Scot called MacDonald, who may or may not have a lasting impact on fast food.

Each film-making country is allowed to submit one foreign-language film to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which considers the national submissions and whittles them down to the final list of five nominations.

An Oscar nomination would have been a tremendous boost, not just for Seachd, but also the Scottish and the British film industries, with free worldwide publicity.

Without explanation or justification, a committee of six unnamed individuals in London decided not to exercise the British right to be part of that.

Reviewers raved about the movie on its release. James Rice, one of the programmers for the Edinburgh Film Festival, praised its vision and landscape photography and wrote: "Seachd is a literate, captivating success. Just the thing for anyone who loves a good story."

The English novelist Jonathan Coe enthused about it after seeing it at the festival. "This film glows with warmth and humanity," he wrote.

Bafta has a long history of controversy and outright gaffes when it comes to awards. Prime Suspect won the 1992 Bafta award for best drama serial in a secret jury vote. But four of the seven jurors then publicly declared that they had voted for GBH. It was dubbed "Baftagate".

A few years ago Bafta issued voters with lists of potential candidates for its acting awards, but missed some out and got the sex wrong for others.

by Brian Pendreigh