The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has made some changes to the way films are being shortlisted for the International Feature Film category (formerly named the Best Foreign Language Film) in the 93rd Academy Awards.
This is owing to complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
What happens usually is that the main committee of volunteers from the Academy choose their seven picks, then a smaller International Film Executive Committee adds three more titles – generally referred to as "saves" – to create a shortlist of 10 films.
However, in 2021, the main committee will complete all of the work in phase one of the voting, this time creating an expanded shortlist of 15 choices.
This is similar to how it was done in the past, before it was changed in 2008 owing to controversy over glaring omissions of global successes such as 2002's City of God, set in Brazil, and Romania's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.
The updated rules made sure the best of world cinema wasn't passed over by the larger committee of volunteers.
What films are "saves" and which ones were originally chosen by the larger committee is never divulged, so not to influence the selection of the five nominees and the winner.
This year, however, we won't have to wonder, when, on Tuesday, February 9, the expanded list of international contenders is revealed.
The reason for these changes stems from the way in which the executive committee would have met. Usually, the films that received the most votes would be confidentially revealed to the executive committee by representatives of accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. After debate, they then add their three "saves".
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, they could not meet in person, but instead virtually, which would increase the risk of leaks. This new process cuts out the need for a meeting at all.
This year, there was an unofficial record-breaking 93 submissions. Among them are seven from the Arab world, including Jordan's 200 Metres, Lebanon's Broken Keys and Scales from Saudi Arabia.
The nominations for the 93rd Academy Awards will be announced on March 15, with the ceremony, which was originally scheduled for Sunday, February 28, now taking place on Sunday, April 25.