In the past, nominees were chosen in two phases, with the bulk of the work done by Academy members who volunteered to watch dozens of foreign-language movies at Los Angeles-based screenings. That’s where the category got a bad rap, since the task skewed heavily to older and retired members who had the time to put in the effort.
Now, according to a letter sent last week by the category’s executive committee, all Academy members — from Peoria in Illinois to Paris in France — can participate in Phase One, so long as they can attest to having seen at least 15 of the eligible submissions on the big screen can opt to vote. That should be especially helpful for those who live in cosmopolitan cities or else travel the festival circuit, where many of these films unspool.
A separate rule change to Phase Two significantly broadens the number of people who pick the final five nominees.
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Previously, for Phase Two, the Academy screened the entire shortlist in four big cities — Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and London — and anyone who saw them all could vote. Two years ago, the Academy allowed its international contingent to join in via streaming, and now, all members who opt in to vote are being given the same option, though there will still screenings in those cities (n.b. this year, the shortlist has been expanded from nine finalists to an even 10).
“If they see all 10 movies, they can vote,” committee co-chair Larry Karaszewski says. By offering streaming to everyone in Phase Two, the Academy hopes to increase participation in the category. This in turn, could benefit foreign films chances in the best pic race, as more people will see these key global offerings.