Oscars Expand International Feature Shortlist to 15, Remove the ‘Saves’ in Preliminary Voting

The Oscars have made some adjustments for the best international feature category.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has provided many challenges, both in viewing the films up for awards and voting. To ensure that the process’ integrity remains intact, the international feature film preliminary committee will vote via a secret ballot that will produce a shortlist of 15 films from different countries, up from the previous 10. In previous years, the preliminary voting would occur in person. This year, the process would need to be conducted in a virtual setting, which brought forth security concerns. As a result, the International Executive Committee will not meet to augment the voting with additional selections. The Board approved this change of Governors at a recent meeting.

Since 2008, the international feature branch’s voting system would occur in Los Angeles with representatives from PricewaterhouseCoopers revealing the films that received the most votes in a closed-door meeting to the International Executive Committee. In a spirited debate, the committee would then select films to complete the shortlist, becoming known in the awards industry as the “saves.” Films like “The Great Beauty” have been long-rumored but never verified by the Academy to have been saved by the committee years past. This process was adopted after Romania’s “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” failed to make the shortlist during the 2007 film year.

The new rule change removes the “save,” and the top 15 films that receive the highest number of votes will complete the shortlist, set to be announced on Feb. 9. This is expanded from the originally announced 10 films. This leaves no safety net to correct any glaring omissions during the preliminary voting process.

Unlike other Oscar categories, best international feature does not have an Academy-specific branch. Various filmmakers from different disciplines serve on the executive committee that includes Susanne Bier and Larry Karaszewski. The International Feature Executive Committee is responsible for administering category rules and determining a film’s eligibility.

The contenders are plentiful this year, which includes Denmark’s “Another Round,” France’s “Two of Us” and Mexico’s “I’m No Longer Here.” Variety reported on some of the campaign challenges by the filmmakers and strategists. “This gives more films a fighting chance,” says an awards publicist. “But there are some incredible films that are built to be saved, and we have just to pray that the members who opted in watch as many of the submissions as they can.”

After an unofficial record-breaking 93 submissions on the Academy Screening room, members who opted to vote for the international feature shortlist will take place on Feb. 1-5.

The 93rd nominations for the Academy Awards will be announced on March 15, with the telecast scheduled for April 25.

Visit THE AWARDS HUB to see the full list of contenders by category.

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