The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a lot of organizations to change the ways that they conduct business, and the Academy is no different. While we’ve already seen the pandemic result in a massive push back of the award ceremony, an even more specific, highly detailed, shift has just been announced regarding the way that the Academy will select their shortlist for nominees in the Best International Feature category, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.
Usually there is a preliminary committee made up of volunteers from the Academy’s many branches who screen the films submitted from around the world (countries are only allowed one submission each) at the Academy’s headquarters in Beverly Hills or its Linwood Dunn Theatre in Hollywood. This committee then chooses seven films to appear on the shortlist. They share those seven choices in secret with the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the firm then selects three other titles to add to the list, ultimately producing a shortlist of 10 films.
The first change for this year was that those screenings will now happen exclusively online, and therefore the Academy decided to allow all of its members to participate in the selection process, as members no longer had to go to those theaters to see them. Due to this decision, this year’s shortlist will be decided solely by this preliminary committee, rather than having those three titles chosen by PwC.
Additionally, with the mammoth undertaking of having less than a month to see as much as they can from the record breaking 93 submissions in the category this year, the Academy has decided to expand the shortlist from 10 films to 15. This gives more opportunity for some of the lesser seen titles to receive recognition if they have enough love, and perhaps allow those to get enough of a spotlight to make the eventual list of five nominees.
The selection process for the category (formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film until last year’s renaming of International Feature) has always been a hotly debated one, and this year’s chaotic mess of reorganization has only made it even more difficult to parse out. Committee members are divided into viewing groups and asked to make sure they have watched a specific grouping of submitted films, this year numbering 12, after which they can vote to shortlist those or any others.
The Academy will, as ever, soldier on, warts and all. The Best International Feature shortlist, along with all other shortlists, will be announced on February 9th, 2021, before the final nominations are announced on March 15th, with the ceremony to take place on April 25th.