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Two Chinese Movies to Vie for Oscar
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The competition among four Chinese movies to vie for next year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar is over. The Banquet has been selected for entry into the category as a Hong Kong film, while Curse of the Golden Flower will likely represent the Chinese mainland, learned today.

Leading up to this decision, the two blockbusters The Banquet and Curse of the Golden Flower enjoyed a heated nomination battle for the Chinese authority's favor since the Academy Awards will only accept one movie per country or region. The surprising climax came when both films were accepted for selection, leaving outsiders Curiosity Kills the Cat and The Road.

In order to participate in the 2007 Oscar race, the movie must be released between October 1, 2005 and September 30, 2006, and be screened in 35 mm or 70 mm film for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial cinema. The movie must have a dialog track, principally in the nation's main language with English subtitles.

The Banquet, directed by Feng Xiaogang, has been selected as a Hong Kong movie to go to the award amphitheater, due to the fact that it was co-produced by a Hong Kong company Media Asia Films and the mainland's Huayi Brothers. Wang Yang, an official from Huayi Brothers, confirmed the report to following a press conference by the Federation of Motion Film Producers of Hong Kong held yesterday afternoon to announce the decision.

The Banquet has received 90 million yuan (US$11.38 million) at Chinese box offices in two weeks since its nationwide premiere on September 14, despite mixed criticism. Wang said it would undoubtedly pass the 100 million yuan (US$12.65 million) mark, which is considered as an excellent performance in China. This will give tonight's celebration party, hosted by the movie company, additional reason to celebrate.

Curse of the Golden Flower, Zhang Yimou's latest effort, held week-long small movie viewings in Beijing a week ago. Rumor has it that Curse of the Golden Flower has already got the Oscar recommendation from the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television because of positive reactions from audiences and cinema managers.

Zhang Weiping, the movie's producer, blithely confirmed this to several Chinese media, saying they have just been notified by the film bureau and are preparing for various promotions. However, when called Beijing New Picture today, staff still stated that they had received no notice on this issue yet, while officials of the film bureau neither confirmed nor denied its entry.

But with its biggest rival out of the way, Curse of the Golden Flower is likely to get the nod. Nevertheless, Zhang Weiping wanted more. In an interview with yesterday, Zhang said that they would like to compete in other Oscar categories too since the movie was co-invested in by his company Beijing New Picture, Sony Pictures, Hong Kong and American banks. Thus, it may qualify for status as an American film.

However, Zhang said these decisions will be discussed with Sony Pictures. Besides, two premieres as well as fashion & weapon shows will be held in New York and Los Angeles in mid-November before its worldwide release on December 21.

"It is very coincidental for two Chinese movies with similar storylines and subjects to rival for Oscar. But I think it's a good thing," Zhang added when he was asked how he felt about the continuing race between The Banquet and Curse of the Golden Flower at the Academy Awards next year.

Other strong competing movies for Oscar's Best Foreign Language Film are Blue Cha Cha from China's Taiwan, Hula Girl from Japan, King and the Clown from South Korea, Rang De Basanti from India, The 9th Company from Russia, Das Leben der Anderen from Germany, and Pan's Labyrinth from Mexico.

Chinese directors' Oscar dreams have only come true once when Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon commandingly won in 2001.

( by Zhang Rui, September 29, 2006)

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