Oscar-nominated foreign language filmmaker taking figurine star to festivities

The Associated Press

This image released by Strand Releasing shows a scene from "The Missing Picture." The film is nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign picture. The 86th Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, March 2, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Strand Releasing, file)

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By DERRIK J. LANG, AP Entertainment Writer

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — The star of one Oscar-nominated foreign film won't be taking a limo to the ceremony. He'll be arriving inside his director's pocket.

Rithy Panh, the filmmaker behind the Cambodian entry "The Missing Picture," revealed that he's bringing the clay figurine that serves as the main character in his film around town during Oscar week.

The 51-year-old filmmaker pulled the small figurine out of his blazer during a Saturday event celebrating the five foreign language film nominees at the motion picture academy's headquarters.

"Clay is good," Panh said. "After the film (was finished), he's been traveling with me a little bit. Maybe he will turn back to clay, water or dust, and there will be no trace — just one soul living with us forever."

Unlike the other foreign film nominees, "The Missing Picture" stars hundreds of similarly carved clay figures — not actors — to illustrate how the Khmer Rouge regime left more than 1.7 million people dead from starvation, medical neglect, slave-like working conditions and execution in Cambodia.

"I tried to make a fiction, but it's not possible for me," Panh said. "Maybe it's more possible for people who did not live during a genocide to direct actors on how to die and kill, but it seemed to me a little too hard for someone who lived during a genocide."

"The Missing Picture," the first-ever Oscar-nominated film from Cambodia, is up against Belgium's "The Broken Circle Breakdown," Denmark's "The Hunt," Italy's "The Great Beauty" and Palestine's "Omar." The latter is new language by the academy.

The human stars of several the foreign language nominees, including Veerle Baetens of "The Broken Circle Breakdown," Adam Bakri of "Omar" and Mads Mikkelsen of "The Hunt," were on hand at the event on the eve of the Oscars.

"I was told to never work with children or animals," said Thomas Vinterberg, director of "The Hunt," which stars both a young girl and a dog alongside Mikkelsen. "In fact, it paid off really well. They were nice to work with. They don't ask questions. You ask them to bark, and they do. No offense, Mads."

The 86th annual Academy Awards will be presented Sunday at the Dolby Theater.

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Online:

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang.

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