Toback Speaks Out on ‘Tyson’ Oscars Snub

The shortlist for the best documentary Oscar, which came out on Wednesday, has caused quite a bit of comment in the blogosphere, with such films as Anvil! The Story of AnvilCapitalism: A Love Story and Tyson being left off the roster.

The New York Times caught up with Tyson director James Toback, who, the paper says, is fighting mad. Toback, without giving details, suggested to the Times that an irregularity in the process had contributed to what he saw as a snub.

At a time when the validity of even presidential elections is questioned, Toback said, “How is some tiny, dirty, covert, weirdly protective little group within the Academy going to be immune?”

Pressed for details, Toback said only that he had experienced something connected with the selections process, “which I put fully in the category of extortion that I did not go along with.”

He added that he was “furious” at himself for “having chosen to be passive and quiet in the face of that extortion.” 

Vincent Maraval of Wild Bunch, which handled Tyson internationally, told Wiretap he was surprised by the omission. “I was expecting at least to be on the shortlist. The film played well in Cannes and had great reviews, but you never know. It all depends on who the voters are.”

Maraval bears no bitterness, however, and said he also expected films he didn’t represent, like The September Issue and Capitalism, to be included. Then again, he says, “It’s different with Michael Moore. Documentary directors don’t like him; they don’t consider him a documentary filmmaker.”

He should know from experience, having handled Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.

Regarding Toback’s extortion comments to the Times, Maraval said he had no idea what the director was talking about.

Asked about that same claim by the NYT, Rob Epstein, a filmmaker who is chairman of the executive committee of the documentary branch, told the Times: “I have no idea. It certainly hasn’t come before me.”