'Gravity' director praises role of foreigners in Hollywood

HOLLYWOOD - Mexican film director Alfonso Cuaron, nominated for an Oscar for the space thriller "Gravity", sees foreigners in Hollywood today as part of a long industry tradition.

Cuaron spoke at an event late Friday organised by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for nominees in the Best Foreign Language Film category, to be awarded at Sunday's Oscar ceremony.

Cuaron took a long view when asked to comment on the large number of foreigners who are candidates for an Oscar this year.

"This is an industry of immigrants," said Cuaron, speaking in Spanish. "In the 30s and 40s and 50s the majority were German, Austrian and Hungarians." "Among the virtues and defects of Hollywood, this is one of the great virtues," he added.

While Cuaron downplayed his chance of winning an Oscar for best director - "I don't see my job as a horse race" - he was open in his admiration for the event.

The annual Cannes Film Festival in France, for example, "has a certain type of prestige," he said.

"But definitely the most famous awards are the Oscars. It is unquestionable." Italian director Paolo Sorrentino was also modest about his widely hyped place as the front runner to win a foreign language film Oscar for "The Great Beauty." "It's been very long. I am happy and tired, and very eager to arrive to the big night," he told AFP.

"I don't like this position. That's too much pressure when you're considered the frontrunner," he said.

"There are five movies, all very beautiful, so I think that every movie can win." Yet Sorrentino would be thrilled to take home the coveted statuette.

"The Oscar is really a dream. When you start to do this job, you see the Oscar like the impossible dream," he said.

Cuaron praised Sorrentino in his presentation speech at the event. "If Paolo Sorrentino is our guide, the future of cinema is in good hands," he told the audience.

Also nominated in the foreign language category are "The Missing Picture" from Cambodia; "The Broken Circle Breakdown" from Belgium; "The Hunt" from Denmark; and the Palestinian film "Omar." "All of these films are truly extraordinary and deserve great lives beyond just these next few days," said Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow as she introduced the director of the Cambodian film Rithy Pahn.

The Oscar ceremony will be held Sunday at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre.