Academy Rejects China’s Oscar Submission for Foreign Language Film


Amy Qin, The New York Times про відмову Американської кіноакадемії прийняти до розгляду фільм «Тотем вовка», висунутий Китаєм.

BEIJING — Usually, Chinese film officials are the ones telling foreign production companies that their films do not contain enough “Chinese elements” to be considered official co-productions, a coveted status that entitles foreign companies to certain revenue-sharing arrangements.

But the tables were turned last week when Chinese film authorities received a notice from the Academy Awards organizers stating that “Wolf Totem,” China’s entry to the Oscars competition for best foreign language film, had been rejected for consideration for not being sufficiently Chinese, according to Chinese state media reports on Saturday.

China Film News, the official newspaper of the China Film Bureau, reported that local film officials were told that the Sino-French co-production did not have enough Chinese people among its top creative staff to be eligible for consideration for the award.

Instead, officials have replaced the film, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, who is French, with “Go Away Mr. Tumor,” a lighthearted romantic comedy about an optimistic woman coping with cancer.

The news came as a surprise to many in the Chinese film industry, who considered “Wolf Totem” to be a shoo-in to represent the country at the Academy Awards. Han Yan, the director of “Go Away Mr. Tumor,” was among those surprised. The director said on the Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo that he had only found out about the decision after seeing it on the news.

Part of the surprise stems from the fact that ”Wolf Totem,” which made $110.5 million in China, is on the surface very Chinese. Based on the best-selling semi-autobiographical novel by Jiang Rong, the film tells the story of a young Han Chinese man who goes to live among nomadic herdsman and wolves in Inner Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution. Almost all of the actors are Chinese and the movie was filmed entirely in China.

It was also the second year in a row that China had submitted a Sino-French co-production as its selection for the Oscars. In 2014, film officials entered the 2013 film “The Nightingale,” a tender film directed by Philippe Muyl about an old man and his granddaughter who embark on a journey to the man’s native village in rural China.

Like “The Nightingale,” Mr. Annaud’s “Wolf Totem” had a diverse production crew that included both Chinese and non-Chinese people. But the bulk of the editing, cinematography, sound editing and script-writing for the newer film was undertaken by people who are not Chinese. The Oscar-winning American composer James Horner created the score.

In an interview prior to the film’s release in China in February, Mr. Annaud emphasized his creative control over the project, a response in part to the heightened media scrutiny surrounding the question of possible censorship issues during filming.

“It’s extraordinary because I’ve been given carte blanche,” Mr. Annaud said at the time. “I did the screenplay freely, I cast freely, I picked the places I wanted to shoot, I chose to do it in 3-D. They always said you decide, this is your movie.”

But that freedom appears to be what award organizers have taken issue with. The official rule with regard to the foreign language film reward states that “the submitting country must certify that creative control of the motion picture was largely in the hands of citizens or residents of that country.”

The Academy did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It has been criticized in the past for what some say are its anachronistic rules with regard to the foreign language film category that fail to recognize the increasing globalization of film production.

In 2004, for example, “Maria Full of Grace,” which was performed entirely in Spanish and featured Colombian actors, was disqualified as the Colombian submission for the foreign language category on the grounds that the director (who also wrote the film) and the producer were from the United States.

The disqualification of “Wolf Totem” is a setback for China. It has never won in the category and has failed to make the nomination shortlist 12 years in a row.

Amy Qin, The New York Times, 12 жовтня 2015 року