BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. - The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has changed the way it chooses nominees for best foreign-language film and eliminated a rule requiring entries to be in the official language of the submitting country.
The academy's governors approved a new process in judging foreign-language films, allowing New York-based academy members to participate in the selection for the first time, according to a statement issued Friday.
Under the new procedure, a committee consisting of several hundred members in Los Angeles that has viewed the roughly 60 annual submissions will arrive at a nine-country shortlist. Then a 30-member committee, including 10 New York-area members, will view that shortlist and select the five Oscar nominees.
In another change, entries submitted in the category no longer must be in the official language of the country submitting the film. As long as the dominant language is not English, a picture from any country may be in any language or combination of languages.
Last year, Italy's initial selection, Private, directed and written by Saverio Costanzo, was ruled ineligible because its dialogue was mostly in Arabic and Hebrew. The film is about a Palestinian family whose home gets taken over by Israeli soldiers.
The academy's executive director, Bruce Davis, said Private qualified for the foreign-language film category "in every other way except one: there was no Italian language in it."
"The rules clearly prohibited that, but the situation didn't seem fair to us," Davis said. "So if the Taiwanese want to send us a picture with exclusively Portuguese dialogue this year, we're ready for them."
Oscar nominations will be announced in January. The 79th annual Academy Awards will be presented Feb. 25.
The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.
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