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Sunday, Oct 5, 2014

Showbiz

China reportedly picks French-Chinese film The Nightingale for Oscars

AFP | Sunday, Oct 5, 2014

BUSAN, South Korea - China is reportedly set to spring a surprise after picking a Chinese-French production The Nightingale as the nation's Oscars entry for Best Foreign Film.

The movie features a Chinese cast speaking Mandarin, but it is written and directed by Philippe Muyl, a Frenchman, and was co-financed with French money.

It follows a journey undertaken by an old man and young girl in southern China and is an adaptation of the director's 2002 French film The Butterfly.

No Chinese entry had been received for the 2015 Oscars when the deadline for submissions past last Wednesday.

However reports emanating from the Busan International Film Festival on Sunday claim the delay had been down to the fact China's two-day National Day holiday started on the same day.

"The movie (The Nightingale) was chosen shortly before the National Day public holiday and will be announced officially after the holiday," an industry source told The Hollywood Reporter.

Academy Awards officials have so far not commented on the report.

More than 60 countries met last Wednesday's official deadline for submissions, with many nations revealing their entries - but China, home to a fast-growing film industry, was not among them.

Film buffs had thought Chinese officials were debating whether to offer up Coming Home, the Zhang Yimou, family-led drama set during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution, or gritty contemporary thriller Black Coal, Thin Ice. But no official explanation behind the delay had previously been given.

"We haven't heard anything," said Zhang Zhao, producer of Coming Home, on the sidelines of the festival in South Korea. "There are many outstanding Chinese movies around now, so for us it is wishful thinking."

The United States Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is to announce its shortlist of five selected foreign entries in January, ahead of the Oscars ceremony on Feb 22. Hong Kong's official submission is The Golden Era, a biopic of the writer Xiao Hong from the acclaimed director Ann Hui. Italian film The Great Beauty, directed by Paolo Sorrentino, won this year's prize.

Coming Home has been screening in Busan, and its director Zhang Yimou, 62, said he hoped it had shed some light on his country as it tours the international festival circuit.

The director of Ju Dou (1990) and Hero (2002) - both nominated for Best Foreign Film Oscars - said he wanted the world to understand Chinese history across the many eras that held "special places" in his heart.

"Whatever film I make I want to draw attention to the characteristics as well as the uniqueness of Chinese people and Chinese culture," he said.

He will next turn his attention to more commercial fare with a blockbuster fantasy set around the mythical ancient beginnings of China's Great Wall.

Hollywood star Matt Damon is rumoured to be putting his hand up for a role, but the director said he had only just begun the casting process for the film, tentatively set for release in 2016.

"The movie I plan to start at the beginning of next year will be very different," he said. "It will be a very commercial film - it will be a sword-fighting film, and it will be a fantasy film."

As the world's second largest film market, China is increasingly becoming involved in international productions, and Zhang Yimou's Great Wall film is being backed by US studio Legendary Pictures. He previously worked with British Oscar-winner Christian Bale for his 2011 drama The Flowers Of War.

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