Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Will "Slumdog" protests affect Oscar votes?

They're burning Danny Boyle in effigy.

Initial reaction in India to "Slumdog Millionaire" was mixed, and has since turned sour. Way sour. Cinemas have been looted and vandalized, and a story from an international news service quoted one of the protest leaders as promising to burn director Boyle in effigy in 56 slums. (Why 56 and not, say, 62 is beyond me.)

This scrappy little movie has been the feel-good hit during the awards season, and had been seen as the odds-on favorite to win Best Picture at the Oscars on Feb 22 (although I've had my doubts about mainstream Hollywood lauding a largely international cast and crew). Will these protests affect how Academy voters choose?

My first instinct is no. The deadline for ballots is actually very soon, so the news may not have filtered out to all the Academy voters, whose average age is something like 74. But if the protests turn violent or become widespread, it could cost "Slumdog" votes.

Most of the anger over the movie seems to rest on applying the word "dog" to children in the poorer Muslim sections of India. Dogs, of course, are considered dirty creatures in much of the Arab and Muslim world.

But within the context of the movie, the term is clearly used in a derogatory way, so it's not like Boyle and the other filmmakers are celebrating the term. It would be like children of unwed parents getting riled up about the title of Quentin Tarantino's forthcoming movie, "Inglorious Bastards."

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