Producer Ron Yerxa and former AMPAS executive Bruce Davis are new co-chairs of a committee overseen for 12 sometimes controversial years by Mark Johnson
Ron Yerxa and Bruce Davis are the new co-chairs of the Academy's Foreign Language Award Executive Committee, ushering in a new era for the Oscars' foreign-language award.
But that new era will probably look a lot like the old one.
The two men are taking over from Mark Johnson, the longtime chair of the committee and one of the primary architects of a controversial three-step nomination process.
Both men have been supporters of and participants in the system, which has drawn fire from some members even as it has reduced the number of shocking oversights and questionable nominations.
Producer Yerxa ("Little Miss Sunshine," "Ruby Sparks") served as vice chair of the committee last year; Davis (left), the Academy's former executive director, worked closely with Johnson in formulating the current process.
Oscar-winning producer Johnson ("Rain Man") had been chair of the committee for 12 years, which was three years longer than Academy rules allowed. But because he was also a member of the AMPAS Board of Governors, he fell under a separate rule that allows governors to serve longer as committee chairs.
In July, though, Johnson lost his seat on the board to producer Kathleen Kennedy, which meant he could no longer escape the term limits and had to relinquish his role as chairman.
Though the board always expressed strong support for the changes instituted under his watch, Johnson had become a lightning rod for criticism from some voters who felt marginalized by a system that allows the executive committee to choose three of the nine shortlisted films, and then hands the final nominating decision to a mostly hand-picked committee of 30.
That system was put in place at the request of the board after the 2007 Oscars, when a number of critically acclaimed international films — including Romania's "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," Germany's "The Edge of Heaven" and Mexico's "Silent Light" — failed to even make the shortlist.
Since that time, nominations in the category — while not without occasional surprises — have been more adventurous and more in line with critical opinion.
"There are different forms of democracy," Yerxa (above) told TheWrap last year. "I think this one has worked out pretty well."
Two countries have already announced their submissions in this year's race, Cambodia with Cchay Bora's "Lost Loves" and Morocco with Faouzi Bensaidi's "Death for Sale."