By Matt Mueller

<<Mark Johnson, chairman of AMPAS’s foreign-language film award committee, tells Matt Mueller about the quiet revolution that has led to films such as Amour and Ida winning the coveted Oscar

The foreign-language Oscar once used to be the preserve of soft-centred films about gentle subjects – “Anything with a grandfather and his grandson,” remarks AMPAS’s foreign-language committee chairman Mark Johnson – but recent years have seen the selection of more eclectic, edgier films.

Last year, Wild Tales, Ida, Leviathan and Timbuktu all made the shortlist. Much of this can be chalked up to leadership of Johnson, the Oscar-winning producer of Rain Man. In his 12 years at the helm, Johnson has spearheaded reforms to the voting and nomination process.

Screen International: You must be pleased the category is more reflective now of films that have triumphed on the international circuit.

Mark Johnson: It was clear that in order for the category to be relevant, things had to change. When I became chair there was a year [2007] in which we didn’t shortlist 4 Months, 3 Weeks And Two Days and Carlos Reygadas’s film Silent Light. I said, “I can’t represent this committee. I don’t know where we connect.” To their credit the board said, “The problem is not with you; it’s with the process. Please change it.”>>

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