French Producer Boycotts Oscars

March 16, 2001 -- PARIS (Variety) — Charging that "America doesn't give a damn about European cinema," the producer of France's Oscar-nominated The Taste of Others is snubbing the Academy Awards to protest the film's poor U.S. distribution.

The wryly humorous picture was released in the United States on Feb. 12 by New York-based Off Line on just eight screens. It has since shrunk to five. It has grossed about $500,000 in North America.

Agnes Jaoui's directorial debut tells of an unlikely romance between an uncultured businessman and a serious theater actress who lives for her art. It was the second most popular release at the French box office last year.

While stressing that the poor distribution "wasn't Off Line's fault," outraged producer Charles Gassot told Daily Variety on Thursday, "I thought an Oscar nomination meant something, but we have had to beg for screens. It is economic censorship. We have been mistreated, and so I'm not going to the Oscars."

Gassot added that he had not even received official notification of the film's nomination in the foreign-language race. The awards will be handed out March 25. Director Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is considered the front-runner in the category.

"The fact is the Oscars are for the Americans, and the rest of us don't exist. America doesn't give a damn about European cinema," Gassot said.

On home soil, The Taste of Others has sold more than 4 million tickets and has also picked up four Cesars, French Oscar equivalents — including one for best film.

One of France's most successful filmmakers, Gassot also produced director Patrice Chereau's Intimacy, which won the top prize at the recent Berlin Film Festival.