Magazine article Screen International

Oscars 2016: Inside the 81 Best Foreign-Language Film Submissions

Magazine article Screen International

Oscars 2016: Inside the 81 Best Foreign-Language Film Submissions

Article excerpt

Predicting the winner of the best foreign-language film Oscar used to be easier. Academy rules dictated voters had to see the foreign-language entries in a cinema, in the US. This meant the average voter in this category tended to be someone, usually retired, with plenty of time on their hands.

A sentimental and conservative group, they enjoyed historical epics, Second World War stories and "anything with a grandfather and his grandson", suggests Mark Johnson, chair of the Academy's foreign-language film award committee. But Johnson's 12-year tenure has gradually re-invigorated the category.

Johnson has introduced screeners, reduced the number of films members have to see to be eligible to vote, and internationalised the selection process. And the category has subsequently felt much more reflective of the films that have electrified the international industry over the past year.

The voting is split into two stages. In Phase 1, nearly 400 Academy members (who must commit to watching at least 16 films) split into three groups, giving each a numerical rating of between seven and 10 (including half points). The top six point-scorers go through to the next round.

The executive committee, led by Johnson, then chooses a further three finalists - typically titles overlooked by the three groups - to bring the tally up to nine films. …

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