"Biutiful," the haunting tale of a cancer-stricken father and one of this year's five foreign language Academy Award nominees, would never have been made today, the film's director, Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu, said Saturday during a panel at the Academy's headquarters.
He said he doesn't think he would be able to find funding.
"I started shooting literally one month before the economic collapse in 2008," Gonzalez-Inarritu said. "This film would never be financed again. The fact that he's dying? It would just be impossible to make a film like that again. I was really privileged with the resources that I had. The budget I had was like $20 million, so it was expensive for a film like this."
That figure seems meager when compared to such Oscar contenders as "Inception" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1," whose budgets were in the $200 million range. But Gonzalez-Inarritu said finding distribution for the Mexican film, which stars best-actor nominee Javier Bardem, was difficult in the United States because of the film's dark tone.
The other nominated foreign-language filmmakers were envious of the "Biutiful" budget. Yorgos Lanthimos, the Greek director of the overprotective family drama "Dogtooth," said the debt crisis in his country, which funds the production of approved Greek films, made it tougher to shoot his next film. He said "Dogtooth" originally cost about $250,000 to make.
"It's really difficult to raise the money," said Lanthimos. "I did my next film with even less than that. I don't know how much it will cost me in the end. It's really difficult when the Greek Film Center doesn't have money. We know the situation with Greece. My next film was approved to be funded by the Greek Film Center, but they don't have any money."
Rachid Bouchareb, the Algerian director of "Outside the Law," said he didn't have to battle a budget to make his film about three Algerian siblings in France during Algeria's struggle for independence, but he did have to fend off controversy in France where "Outside the Law" was intensely criticized for its depiction of Algeria's fight for liberation.
Susanne Bier, the Danish director of "In a Better World," insisted that any financial limitations spurred creativity while making her film about a pair of separated parents and their bullied son.
Denis Villeneuve, the Canadian director of the Middle East drama "Incendies," said he only filmed scenes that would end up in the film in order not to waste money.
"What you see on the screen," said Villeneuve, "is what we shot."