BEIJING, Oct 12, (Agencies): Beijing authorities have dropped Sino-French co-production Wolf Totem as China’s foreign language Oscar submission at the last minute in favour of a romantic comedy, reports said, apparently over concerns it was insufficiently Chinese. Wolf Totem, directed by acclaimed French auteur Jean-Jacques Annaud, is in Mandarin and Mongolian, with Chinese actors and filmed in China.
It is based on a semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, recounting the time the author spent as a “sent-down” youth among nomads in Inner Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution and his attempts to raise a wolf in captivity. Chinese media had said it would be submitted to the Academy Awards as the country’s candidate for the 2016 foreign language Oscar.
But the China Film News, a state-run paper managed by broadcasting authorities, said it had been replaced with “Go Away Mr Tumor”. That more popcorn-friendly movie, based on a true story, depicts a young woman suffering from cancer but who seeks to live life to the full. It stars popular heartthrobs Daniel Wu and Bai Baihe, and has taken more than 500 million yuan ($80 million) at the Chinese box office.
The China Film News reported the decision was made because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had said Wolf Totem — which had four screenwriters, only one of them Chinese — lacked sufficient Chinese nationals or residents in creative roles to be eligible. But the change surprised even the director of “Go Away Mr Tumor”, 31-year-old Han Yan, who wrote on Chinese social media: “I didn’t know about this until I saw it on the news!”
Online commentators were incredulous Monday. “Are you sure this isn’t a joke?” asked one weibo poster. Another said that “Go Away Mr Tumor” was too lightweight to be a feasible choice: “It’s a bit too much about positive energy rather than deep meaning.” The Academy picks nominees for the foreign language Oscar from submissions from individual countries, which can only put forward one candidate each year.
Chinese contenders are chosen by the secretive State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, which does not publicise its criteria. Last year it picked another Sino-French co-production, “The Nightingale”, which also had a French director. The only Chinese movie to be shortlisted for an Oscar was Zhang Yimou’s “Hero”, which was among the nominees in 2003. Annaud previously won the 1976 Oscar for Best Foreign Film with a submission for the Ivory Coast. The Academy did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment by AFP.
LOS ANGELES: Alibaba Pictures, the film investment arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has committed to invest in upcoming South Korean movie “Real.” The picture stars Kim Soo-hyun, the male lead from “My Love From The Stars,” the smash hit Korean TV series that has been widely exported and earned large online viewership in China. APG will have exclusive control over the film’s distribution rights in China. It said that it plans to exploit opportunities including advertising placement, brand licensing and e-commerce development.
“Real” is to be directed from December by Lee Jeong-sub (“Romantic Island”) and produced by special purpose vehicle Real SPC. Aside from Kim, no other cast attachments have yet been confirmed. The deal was signed last week in Busan by Alibaba Pictures Group head Zhang Qiang, Keyeast, the talent agency that represents Kim confirmed.
“We’re investing in ‘Real’ because the Korean film industry is arguably the most influential creatively in the region at present, and the hugely popular Kim Soo-hyun is the embodiment of that,” said Zhang in a statement. “We aim to support regional movie making in Asia, as well as bigger Hollywood movies. Indeed, we continue to explore cooperation opportunities with the best film production houses globally. So our vision here is truly global.”
APG was set up in mid 2014 when Alibaba acquired majority control of listed company ChinaVision. The company retains its separate listing on the Hong Kong and Singapore stock exchanges. Alibaba has suggested that it will transfer several entertainment assets to APG, though has not yet done so. To date the company has invested in “The Ferryman,” a film being produced by Wong Kar-wai; “Little Door …,” an animation that is set to release in January 2016; and “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation.”