Oscar 2006: Changes in Foreign-Language Category

June 30, 2006–The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences has made significant changes in the nomination procedure for the foreign-language category. A movie no longer has to be in an official language of the submitting country to qualify for a foreign-language film nomination under the newly approved rules for the 79th Oscar season.

While the one-country, one-film rule is still in effect, a picture now may feature any language or combination of languages — so long as the dominant language is not English — and still be eligible for consideration.

The language barrier proved particularly thorny last year when Austria's entry, Michael Haneke's French-language “Cache,” was deemed ineligible, as was Italy's entry, “Private,” which featured Arabic and Hebrew but no Italian dialogue.

Haneke's “The Piano Teacher,” which, like “Cache,” features French actors speaking French dialogue, was submitted by Austria in 2002 and deemed eligible on the basis of a German-dubbed print. The same tactic wouldn't have worked for “Cache,” however, as the Academy changed its rules to restrict eligibility to the film's original soundtrack.

The foreign-language film category also will adopt a dual-committee nominating procedure that, for the first time, allows N.Y.-based Acad members to participate.

First committee will be the same Los Angeles-based group, made up of several hundred members, that has historically determined the five nominees. This year, however, the committee will arrive at a shortlist of nine films.

The shortlist will then be reduced down by a second panel, comprising 10 randomly selected members from the original committee, 10 L.A.-based members not in the original group and 10 N.Y.-based members, who will view the nine movies in a three-day bicoastal marathon and determine the five nominees.

“We've always been eager to have more members be able to participate, and we know that's not very realistic with such a huge viewing load,” said Academy executive director, Bruce Davis. “This will get at least some of them involved in making the final decision. The idea is that the committee would have different members every year, and it would be kind of an honor to serve on it.”

Acadmey rules for the various categories are reviewed annually by branch and category committees. The awards rules committee reviews all proposed changes before presenting its recommendations to the board of governors.