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China's entry for foreign language Oscar undecided after Warlords pulled out
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China's film authorities are keeping tight-lipped on the possible mainland candidates for the best foreign language film for the next Academy Awards.

With the highly anticipated battle epic, "The Warlords", officially withdrawn from competition, the Chinese mainland's hopes for a blockbuster candidate appear to have been dashed.

However, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), which has the final say on the selection, said it was determined that mainland films would still be in the running.

"We won't let this chance go by. There will certainly be a film selected to compete for the award," said a SARFT official, who declined to be named.

Chinese blockbusters have been submitted as candidates for best foreign language film, but Ang Lee's Golden Lion-winning thriller "Lust, Caution" will represent Taiwan and Jiang Wen's "The Sun Also Rises" has been put forward as a Hong Kong offering.

According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, only one picture will be accepted from each country.

"Every year we set up a special committee to vote for the candidates recommended by mainland film companies, and we will do so this year," the SARFT official told Xinhua.

However, he refused to give the detailed criteria and the names of the possible candidates for the best foreign language Oscar.

The withdrawal of "The Warlords" has prompted speculation as to what films might be contending for the mainland entry.

Yan Yunfei, film reporter with the Shanghai Morning Post, listed "The Knot" and "A Railway in the Cloud" as possibles.

"The Knot", directed by Yin Li and starring Chen Kun, Vivian Hsu and Isabella Leong, is a sweeping romantic epic spanning the years since the 1940s and set across China.

"A Railway in the Cloud", directed by Feng Xiaoning, tells the story of an attempt to build a railway on the frozen Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in the 1950s.

"'The Knot' is not that competent for Oscar level, but it's very likely to be a candidate for the mainland in a situation like this," said film critic Yi Yuxiang, who has written for magazines including "Movie View" and "Hit Occident Music".

"Other Chinese films released in this year are mostly at the same level," he added.

"It's hard to just pick some possibilities, but I think 'The Knot' and 'A Railway in the Cloud' are the most deserving," said Huang Haikun, executive editor of "Movie View" magazine. "Their stories are moving and realistic; they have good box offices; they were made elaborately.

"Overseas audiences should know that Chinese films are not only about martial arts," Huang added.

"The Assembly", the latest film by bankable director Feng Xiaogang whose works include "The Banquet" and "A World Without Thieves", has been ruled out because it will fail to meet the entry deadline.

Director Peter Chan's "The Warlords", starring Jet Li, Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro, had been announced as a possible candidate for best foreign language film, but was withdrawn after opposition from U.S. investor Morgan Chan Films, said Yu Dong, general manager of Beijing Poly-bona Film Publishing, the mainland publisher of the film.

The U.S. backers wanted the film to hit American theaters early next year, allowing it to qualify in the general categories for the 2009 Oscars, said Yu. "They felt it would lose award possibilities if it was submitted for a single foreign language nomination."

"We had to give up the competition under the pressure from the American side," said an insider surnamed Wang with Media Asia Films, one of the film's Chinese investors.

That means "The Warlords" will miss February's Academy Awards and have to wait another year.

Academy rules stipulate that films must have been screened in commercial cinemas for at least one week before the submission deadline of Oct. 2 in order to qualify for the foreign language category.

Last year "Curse of the Golden Flower" and "The Banquet" fought unsuccessfully for an Oscar nomination.

(Xinhua News Agency September 25, 2007)

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