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Oscars: Best International Feature Category Gets New Rules With an Eye Toward Global Inclusion

Oscars Oscar Academy Awards Placeholder
Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has changed voting protocols for one of its most complicated categories, best international feature — known until last year as best foreign language film.

Announcements were sent to various branches on Thursday alerting members to a change in category rules — which will significantly open up voting on the shortlisted films that eventually become nominees for the Academy Award.

Phase one of voting represents a preliminary round in which the international features committee screens the 93 contenders submitted for consideration. From there, a short list of 10 films is selected (previously nine) and eventually chopped to five nominees. The new changes now state that any Academy member who has seen the 10 shortlisted films can vote on the eventual nominees.

Furthermore, the Academy has been increasingly moving toward a streaming system for voters. Members who stream the 10 shortlisted international films will be qualified to vote in the second phase, overturning a previous rule that the contenders needed to be seen in theaters. Phase one of voting technically only provides seven short list entries. The AMPAS executive committee, consisting of about 30 members, supplements the list with an additional three titles (usually perceived as bold or unusual choices),

The organization recently announced it would stream additional titles for awards consideration. Voters are already able to stream documentaries, animated films and shorts on the Academy’s viewing site. Narrative features are now available via the Academy Screening Room app.

One insider with knowledge of the Academy said the changes encourage a bigger global footprint in the best international feature category. The individual estimated that 20% of the AMPAS membership is outside the U.S.