Will the new Academy Awards requirements benefit films with greater resources' Peter Bowen reports

After altering the rules in 2005, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Ampas) is again changing the rules dictating the eligibility of documentary features.

In short, a doc must have a seven-day qualifying exhibition in either New York or Los Angeles that must be completed by August 31, must roll out in 14 markets in at least 10 states, and cannot have a television airing until 60 days after its eligibility screening - as well as the usual technical specs, including pressing a film print.

While the rules are meant to keep so many films from qualifying without having a robust theatrical life, some fear it could exclude no-budget video work from making the grade.

As Shadow Distribution's Ken Eisen points out: 'Obviously the rules make it more difficult and/or expensive - same difference - for a film to qualify, so they tend to favour those films with greater resources.'

But Toronto International Film Festival programmer Thom Powers disagrees. 'I don't think that any film gets an advantage,' he says. 'The expectation that a film should play in 14 cities is perfectly reasonable.'

There is one point that Powers suggests is making producers nervous: 'The early dates are bunching documentaries in the fall.'