Oscars Overhaul and Open Up Foreign Language Voting Process

AMPAS eliminates the color-coded voting groups from past years, and drops its longstanding conflict-of-interest rules in the category

In advance of what is expected to be a record year for entries in the Oscars’ Best Foreign Language Film category, the Academy has made significant changes in the voting process used to select nominees.

In a Thursday afternoon email to all Southern California-based members of the Academy, the organization used the subject line “Come see the world with us!” and invited the members to “help us choose the next foreign language film award nominees,” also linking to a page that described the new voting system.

In the biggest change, the color-coded screening groups have been eliminated. In the past, Oscar voters who volunteered to vote in the category were separated into three or four different groups, named for colors; screenings of the eligible films were divided among the groups, and voters had to see at least 65 percent of the films in their group to be eligible to vote.

They were free to see films outside their group — but in an attempt to spread out the viewing evenly, every three films seen outside the group only counted as two films to satisfy the 65 percent requirement.

Under the new system, by contrast, all the films will be screened at the Academy’s theaters in Beverly Hills and Hollywood, tentatively beginning on Oct. 16 and running through Dec. 9. But these will not be “blue group,” “white group” and “red group” screenings. Instead, voters will be free to attend whatever screenings they desire.

Each member will, however, be given a “Required Viewing List” of films he or she must see in order to qualify to vote. (The Academy says that members must see each of the films “in full or in part,” which apparently opens the possibility of only watching a portion of the film.)

Voters are also encouraged to see as many films not on their list as possible.

The Academy has also eliminated the conflict-of-interest rule that in the past has barred members from voting if they are involved in the production or promotion of a film in competition.

The voting changes have the potential of increasing the number of voters in the category. They also raise many additional questions, including how many films will be assigned to each voter, whether screeners or links will now be allowed (or provided) and whether the process will accommodate the increasingly large number of Academy members who live outside the United States.

The Academy did not immediately respond to a request for comment from AMPAS president John Bailey, who has taken a particular interest in the process, or from longtime Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee head Mark Johnson.

The link from the Academy email said only, “More information will be available after the October 2nd film submission deadline.”

Nearly 70 countries have already announced their entries in the Oscars race, putting the category on pace to break its record of 85 submissions two years ago.

Top contenders so far include Sweden’s Palme d’Or winner, “The Square,” Germany’s “In the Fade,” France’s “120 Beats Per Minute,” Austria’s “Happy End,” Russia’s “Loveless,” Israel’s “Foxtrot” and Cambodia’s “First They Killed My Father,” directed by Angelina Jolie.

TheWrap has a complete list of submitted films, with links to trailers, here.