China-funded 'Green Book' takes top honor at Oscars

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, February 26, 2019
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Cast and crew of "Green Book" accept the Best Picture award during the 91st Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. [Photo/VCG]

"Green Book", funded in part by Alibaba Pictures, became the biggest winner with three honors, including best picture, at the 91st Academy Awards held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood Sunday night.

The film, directed by Peter Farrelly and starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, is set in the 1960s, following African-American classical and jazz pianist Don Shirley and Tony Vallelonga, an Italian-American bouncer who serves as Shirley's driver and bodyguard, on a tour through the racially-divided South. 

During their tour, they are guided by "The Negro Motorist Green Book", a mid-20th Century guidebook by Victor Hugo Green for black travelers touring southern states during an era of racial segregation and discrimination.

"Green Book" defeated strong competition from "Black Panther," "BlacKkKlansman," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "The Favorite," "Roma," "A Star Is Born" and "Vice." It also received Oscars for best supporting actor (Mahershala Ali) and best original screenplay. This is Ali's second Oscar after he won in the same category for his role in "Moonlight" in 2017.

"The whole story is about love," said Farrelly, "It's about loving each other despite the differences and finding out the truth about who we are. We're the same people."

The film was produced by Participant Media, DreamWorks Pictures and was co-funded by China's Alibaba Pictures. It had won many awards before the Oscars, including the Best Motion Picture in the Musical/Comedy category at the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards in January. 

Its Oscar-winning participation also made Alibaba Pictures the first Chinese internet film company to have ever funded such an achievement. 

"Green Book" will be released in the Chinese market on March 1, Alibaba Pictures announced, making it the fastest imported Oscar-winning film to be shown. The Chinese premiere of the film was held in Beijing on Monday just hours after the Oscar awards were announced. 


Creators of the "Green Book" pose for photos after winning the Best Picture award in the press room during the 91st Academy Awards ceremony, or the Oscars, held at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, the United States, on Feb. 24, 2019. (Xinhua/Li Ying)

Besides "Green Book," there are other Chinese presences at this year's Oscars. "Free Solo," a documentary directed by Chinese-American directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, claimed the best documentary feature award. The film follows elite rock climber Alex Honnold as he attempts an unassisted ascent of the El Capitan vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park without ropes.

"This film is for everyone who believes in the impossible," Vasarhelyi told the audience and thanked National Geographic "for believing in us and for hiring women and people of color because we can only help make the films better."

"Free Solo" beat off strong competition from "Hale County This Morning, This Evening," "Minding the Gap," "Of Fathers and Sons" and "RBG." "Minding the Gap" was also directed by a Chinese-American director named Liu Bing. 

The Chinese-centered "Bao" claimed Best Animated Short at the Academy Awards ceremony. The short was written and directed by Chinese-born Canadian director Domee Shi and produced by Pixar Animation Studios. "Bao" explores the life of a Chinese immigrant mother living in Toronto with her inattentive husband and struggling to cope with loneliness after her beloved son flies the nest.

Shi is the first woman and first Chinese writer and director of a Pixar short.

One competitor for her award was "One Small Step," a Chinese-American animated short film. Directed by China-born Disney animator Shaofu Zhang, it tells the story of a young Chinese-American protagonist who dreams of being an astronaut.


(L-R) Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes and Shannon Dill, winners of the Best Documentary Feature award for "Free Solo," pose in the press room during the 91th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, the United States, on Feb. 24, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

Other big winners include Alfonso Cuaron's "Roma," a Spanish-language autobiographical drama that won the best director, best cinematography and best foreign language film awards; and the rock superstar Queen's biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody," which won four awards including best actor for Rami Malek, as well as best film editing, sound editing and sound mixing.

Malek, who was born and raised in Los Angeles to Egyptian immigrant parents, became the first Egyptian-American to win the Oscars' top acting prize. "This is a monumental moment. I'm so appreciative to all of you, to everyone who had a hand in getting me here," said Malek in his acceptance speech.

Directed by Bryan Singer, "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a foot-stomping celebration of the British rock band Queen, their music and their extraordinary lead singer Freddie Mercury, tracing the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound.

Superhero films also shone, as the Marvel animation "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" won best animated feature film, while another Marvel Studios' blockbuster "Black Panther" took home best costume design and best production design awards, as well as best original score. Although it was nominated, it didn't become the first superhero film to win the Oscar for best picture.

Sunday night's Oscars also marked a record-breaking year for recognizing the achievements of black artists, with seven winners in six categories, including Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler who took home the awards for costume design and production design respectively, for their work in "Black Panther" and Spike Lee, who got his first Academy Award for co-writing "BlacKkKlansman" along with Kevin Willmott. Others included Regina King and Mahershala Ali taking the supporting actress and actor categories, and "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" co-director Peter Ramsey.

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