"Slumdog Millionaire," the effervescent, rags-to-riches fable set in India, is the best-picture front runner at this year's Oscars, and if it wins, it'll be a marvelous story. The movie was made for just $15 million, contains long stretches of Hindi dialogue and features a cast of all-Indian (or British-Indian) actors. But if "Slumdog" wins big, this global Cinderella story could get an awkward dose of reality. Onscreen, "Slumdog" is filled with brown faces—but onstage at the Oscars, virtually all of the people collecting trophies for it will have white ones.
Despite appearances, "Slumdog" is a British production. It was produced by Christian Colson, directed by Danny Boyle ("Trainspotting") and, though based on Indian author Vikas Swarup's novel "Q&A," scripted by Simon Beaufoy—all of whom are white and sure bets for Oscar nominations. Meanwhile, out of the sprawling cast, only Dev Patel has a shot. "Storytelling has no boundaries," says a spokesperson for the film's studio, Fox Searchlight. "There are hundreds … of films made by filmmakers about cultures and societies other than their own."
Though not without a lot of help. Boyle has said that his casting director, Loveleen Tandan, was so indispensable to the complex Mumbai shoot that he gave her a "codirector" credit. But only Boyle's name appears on the Oscar ballot, because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Directors Guild of America don't recognize such titles. Guess she'll have to settle for a thank-you.