Maltese film Simshar has been accepted for consideration in the upcoming edition of the Oscars.

The local production is among 83 films which have made it into the race for the category of Best Foreign Film in the 87th edition of the Academy Awards.

Widely touted as the most prestigious of cinematic accolades, no Maltese film has ever been in the running for one of the coveted golden statuettes before.

The semi-fictional film, inspired by the tragedy which struck a Maltese fishing boat bearing the same name back in 2008, is fused with the irregular migration saga in the Mediterranean.

The vessel exploded while out at sea, killing four, but the chain of events has remained shrouded in mystery. While its crew of four and a young boy survived the initial blast, all eventually succumbed to the sea and the scorching sun except one, Simon Bugeja, who was rescued after an intensive search operation.

Rebecca Cremona, who co-wrote and directed the production, told Times of Malta, the inclusion of the film was a milestone for the local industry.

“To be in the running for these awards one has to meet a lot of very high standards. This is the first time a Maltese production has been accepted and it is a big deal for the local industry,” she said.

For the Academy Awards, countries have to submit entries in the hope of having the titles shortlisted. Final submissions are then voted upon in a final round.

The Maltese language film was submitted by a local committee, which included the Malta Film Commission and several other government entities. But, for the film to be accepted the country has to meet a strict set of criteria.

“To be in the running, the submitting country has to meet specifications from the financial structure of the local industry, technical specifications.

“This is particularly hard on new countries,” Ms Cremona said, adding that a number of first-time countries had not been accepted for this year’s awards.

Malta’s acceptance will inevitably mark the beginning of an intense promotional campaign for the film in the US.

“We will have to head to the US and start promoting the film, holding screenings and question and answer sessions, to try to generate awareness,” she said.

Aimed at a worldwide audience, Simshar was shot in Maltese and English and stars Maltese and foreign actors, including Tunisian award-winning Lotfi Abdelli, playing the lead role of Simon Bugeja.

The award is presented annually by the Academy to a feature-length motion picture produced outside the US that contains primarily non-English dialogue.

Nine shortlisted contenders will be revealed a week before the announcement of the Oscar nominations.

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