Czech Republic names its Oscar contestant


    The Czech Republic late Friday weighed in with its candidate for the Academy Awards competition. Director Jiří Menzel's new film, I Served the King of England, will be recommended to the American Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences (AMPAS) for nomination in the category of Best Foreign Language Film (www.oscars.org, www.oscar.com).

    The Czech Film and Television Academy (www.cfta.cz) had three major candidates to choose from, according to ČFTA representative Martin Šprinc. The other two were the smash comedy hit Empties by director Jan Svěrák (www.sverak.cz) and Secrets by director Alice Nellis. "I Served the King of England got the most points in the final balloting," Šprinc told the Czech news agency ČTK.

    The nominations for the Oscars will be announced on Jan. 22, 2008, and the awards ceremony will take place Feb. 24. About 100 productions from all over the world are competing to be one of five nominations in the Best Foreign Language Film category, and ultimately the winner of a prestigious Oscar..

    I Served the King of England
    , based on the famous novel by Czech author Bohumil Hrabal, is hugely successful both in cinemas and international film events such as Cannes, Montreal and Moscow. More than 800,000 people have seen it in the Czech Republic, according to the Czech Association of Film Distributors (www.ufd.cz). It follows the life of a young man who rises from busboy to hotel owner in wartime Prague, and whose life is shaped by the fate of his country. It was budgeted at 85 million crowns (€3 million) and won the Critics Prize at this year's Berlin International Film Festival.

    Menzel didn't seem optimistic about his chances. "It would be a miracle if they chose my movie," he said in an interview on Czech television (www.ceskatelevize.cz). Yet Menzel already holds one Oscar statuette, won in the best foreign language category in 1966 for Closely Watched Trains, based on another novel by Hrabal. Other Czech Oscar winners have been The Shop on Main Street directed by Jan Kadar in 1965 and Kolya directed by Jan Svěrák in 1997. Another six movies have been nominated.

    "While situated in World War II and the communist era, I Served the King of England has the potential to interest members of Academy," Petr Vachler, president of ČFTA, said on Czech television.