Acad speaks new language

Loosens foreign language rules

Oscar is growing more multilingual.

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.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences has issued significant changes in the nomination procedure for both the foreign-language film and sound-editing categories.

While the Acad’s 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. (Italy’s replacement submission, “Don’t Tell,” went on to receive a nomination.)

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 Gotham-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.

Shortlist will be whittled 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 Gotham-based members — who will view the nine pics 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 exec 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.”

Acad also made significant rule changes in the sound-editing category, upping the number of nominees from three to five and eliminating the annual bakeoff, a 25-year tradition. Sound branch members now will nominate five pics in the category by ballot.

Rules changes in the docu and short-film categories were approved by the board of governors earlier this year. New terms added an eight-city rollout requirement for feature-length docs and a four-city rollout requirement for short docs, while changing the voting system from an averaged-point system to a preferential system. Also, producers or producing teams in the short-film category now may submit multiple entries.

Acad rules 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.

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