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Foreign-Language Film Nominees: The Process


So what exactly is a foreign film? That's become a tougher question as the film industry - like many others - has become more global. With a bit of an explainer and a bit of history here is DAY TO DAY'S Steve Proffitt.

STEVE PROFFITT: It's not easy to qualify for a best foreign film nomination. First, each country is allowed to put forth one film. The Academy requires that natives of the host country demonstrate they had creative and artistic control over the film. However, a change in the rules in 2005 means that principal dialogue in the film no longer needs to be in the host country's dominant language. So, for instance, a film made by Australians set in Vietnam and shot primarily in French could qualify as an Australian movie.

This year, some 80 countries submitted films. A committee of hundreds of Academy members picks a short list of nine, which is then called to the five nominees by a smaller group of members. The Academy began offering special and honorary awards for foreign films in the 1940s, but the first official best picture award wasn't handed out until 1956. In recent years, the best foreign film category has been overshadowed to some extent by Hollywood's embrace of a global business model.

On Sunday night, such foreign favorites as "The Queen", "Notes on a Scandal" and "Volver" are all up for mainstream nominations, but none is nominated in the foreign film category. And a Japanese woman could win best supporting actress for her role in "Babel", a film made by a Mexican director. "Babel"-which features dialogue in Arabic, Berber, Spanish, English and even Japanese sign language - is nominated for seven awards, but doesn't qualify as a foreign film. Steve Proffitt, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Proffitt
Steve Proffitt is Senior Producer for Day to Day. In addition to on-air reporting, he’s responsible for a stable of contributing writers, including humorists Brian Unger and Annabelle Gurwitch, and musician and critic David Was.