Friday, October 12, 2007

Proposed Rule Change for Foreign Movies

I wish to make a proposal to change the names of the Best Motion Picture and the Best Foreign Language Film (BFLF) categories effective for the 2009 81st Academy Awards®. A change is long overdue. Read on to see why it may make some sense.

In June, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences® (AMPAS®) mailed rules and entry forms to 95 Countries inviting them to submit a feature motion picture for the Best Foreign Language Film of 2007 Oscar® category. The 80th Academy Awards will be this coming February.

The rules for the Best Foreign Language Film (BFLF) this year are contained in Rule 14. The old language rule for the BFLF read that the film must be in the official language of the submitting country. Last year, the Academy designated that, "A foreign language film is defined as a feature-length motion picture produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track." The members made no changes in this rule for 2007. See link on right sidebar under Archives for July 2006 for more on the rule changes last year.

Apparently, the two-phase committee screening process instituted last year is still in place, since the previous nominating process has not been rescinded. Five motion pictures will be nominated from the committee(s). The final voting for the BFLF Award still will be restricted to active and life Academy members who have attended Academy screenings, or other exhibitions, and have been certified as to having seen all five motion pictures nominated for the award.

It is the producer of a motion picture who accepts the golden statuette for a Best Motion Picture at the Academy. However, in most countries, it is the director who accepts awards for Best Picture (Film). Therefore, in regards to the BFLF, the Academy this year determined that, "The Academy statuette (Oscar®) will be awarded to the picture and accepted by the director on behalf of the film's creative talents." Finally!

Someone took issue about my statement that GĂ©raldine Chaplin might be nominated for her role as Aurora in THE ORPHANAGE (the official selection from Spain submitted for the BFLF category), which I wrote in a previous post. I wish to point out that the Academy rule is specific. The rule states, "Films submitted for BFLF Award consideration may also qualify for the 80th Annual Academy Awards in other categories, provided they meet the requirements of the special rules governing those categories." In this case, any special rules governing the acting categories.

Actually, Rule One, Paragraph 3, states that, "Awards of Merit in the form of gold statuette trophies of the Academy (Oscar®) shall be conferred annually for the following achievements: . . . " and the major awards are outlined.

Rule Two, Paragraph 8, states, "Motion pictures from all countries shall be eligible for the annual awards listed in Rule One [sic] Paragraph 3, as long as they satisfy the requirements of the other applicable rules, and contain English subtitles if released in a foreign language."

In other words, the spoken language in the movie is not a problem in any category other than the BFLF, yet the Academy specifically requires that motion pictures from other countries adhere to the non-English rule. Clint Eastwood's movie LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, filmed in Japanese, was nominated with the American movies for Best Motion Picture of 2006, under the current rules. Mel Gibson made a movie in a language other than English, too, APOCALYPTO, 2006. Both were domestically produced, but they are non-English movies. BABEL, Best Motion Picture of 2006 is a multi-language movie. Spoken English is only a small portion of the dialogue.

One of the hottest movies this year will be THE KITE RUNNER, directed by Marc Forster (FINDING NEVERLAND, 2002), whom I've been told chose to film KITE RUNNER (USA) in English, Dari, Pashtu, Urdu and Russian, much like last year's Oscar winner BABEL At any rate, there will be more multi-language movies made by American companies and foreign countries in coming years.

Besides spoken words, motion pictures have visual, rythmic, technical languages that are far more important than the ethnic dialogue attached to them.
I have a proposal for a change in the rules for Best Motion Picture, and Best Foreign Language Film categories - - both categories need renaming. Either remove the word "Language" from the BFLF category, or the two categories should read: Best Motion Picture in English and Best Motion Picture in a Language other than English.

My questions are, "If American directors can make movies in any language and submit their movie to the Academy, why are directors outside America required to use a language other than English? Why can't a Japanese director make a movie solely in English for his country to submit as their official representative foreign motion picture for the Oscars, if an American director can make a motion picture solely in Japanese and it is eligible for an Oscar, no language restrictions applied?"

The answer is: Because of the way the current rules are written and the categories are named. By insisting upon a language qualifier, the Academy keeps the foreign producers and directors at a disadvantage at the U.S. box office. The rules as written are now discriminatory, but I certainly advocate including foreign motion pictures at the Oscars.

Also, why is the top category "Best Motion Picture" while the foreign category is "Best Foreign Language Film?" Both are feature-length movies made through the same process and qualify within the same length restrictions. Therefore, I suggest the categories be designated as: Best (Domestic, American, U.S, etc.) Motion Picture of 20_ _, and Best Foreign Motion Picture of 20_ _.

At the very least, the designation should be motion picture, and not film for the foreign category. It has become customary to use film with the other categories along with their other qualifiers (feature, short, live, documentary, animated, etc.), but they are all motion pictures.

I once had a film professor at Southern Cal (USC) who clarified it this way, "A motion picture is a filmed or taped series of pictures that move, which is viewed by some mechanical or electronic means." On the other hand, "Film is one material (tape or film) and/or process that allows the motion picture to be made and viewed." I like those definitions.

Of course, all of this will be a mute point in less than ten years when everything will be digital, and new students will ask, "Tape? Film? What are those?"

However, a motion picuture will still be a series of pictures that move, but the new definition is likely to include holographic pictures that move. It is even possible within that same ten years the Academy will be obliged to adopt a new name for this century such as, American Academy of Cinematic Arts and Sciences. Think about it!

I suggest these changes because I believe they are needed due to this quickly evolving electronic and cultural age in which we live. I hope the Board of Governors will give these suggestions serious consideration.

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Thank you for commenting! Mimi