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China’s choice of Jiang Wen’s ‘Hidden Man’ for 91st Oscars bid sparks discussion online

2018/10/11 9:31:16   source:Global Times

The organizers of the Academy Awards released the complete list of 87 movies competing for the 2019 Oscars foreign language category on Monday, revealing that the Chinese mainland's pick this year is Jiang Wen's action drama Hidden Man.

Jiang's studio posted the news on its official Sina Weibo account on Tuesday, with a number of celebrities and stars posting in the comments to congratulate the team for having the honor to represent China at Hollywood's top event.

Directed by mainland actor-director Jiang Wen, who is famous for his noir comedies including Devils on the Doorstep (2000) and Let the Bullets Fly (2010), Hidden Man tells the story of a young Chinese martial artist in the 1930s who is trained in the US as a secret agent and eventually comes back to China to take revenge on the men who murdered his teacher. The film pulled in a total of 583 million yuan ($84 million) when it made its mainland debut in mid-July.

This is the first time that one of Jiang's directorial works has been chosen to compete for an Oscar.

Before the official announcement came out, many Chinese netizens speculated that Zhang Yimou's period drama Shadow would represent the mainland at the Oscars, but film industry insiders immediately pointed out that the film is not eligible for the competition as the rules stipulate that films for the foreign language category "must be released in the country submitting it no earlier than October 1, 2017 and no later than September 30, 2018, and be first publicly exhibited for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial motion picture theater for the profit of the producer and exhibitor."

Shadow's mainland debut on September 30 apparently disqualified it from this year's competition.

Some Chinese film critics expressed their disappointment, as they feel Shadow stands a far better chance than Hidden Man.

"Zhang Yimou's Shadow is the safest choice - there is hope that it could be nominated. A pity that its release time disqualifies it," renowned Chinese film critic Dark Knight posted on Sina Weibo on Wednesday.

"Though there is little chance that Hidden Man can make it to the final competition, it is a far better film than those chosen [to represent the mainland] for the category in the past few years," Dark Knight wrote.

Some critics worry that the film's cultural-rich dialogue and Jiang's obscure cinematic style might become obstacles for members of the Academy.

"The film's witty Jiang-style lines of dialogue might sound great to Chinese audiences, but probably not to overseas judges who come from a different cultural background; the film's cinematography may interest them more," Chinese writer Du Jinghua posted on Sina Weibo.

A number of critics, on the other hand, are optimistic about the film's prospects.

"I think Hidden Man still has a chance due to its fantastic aesthetic style and display of black humor," wrote Chinese film blogger Yingshi Pinglunyuan.

Looking back on the mainland's previous choices for the Oscars over the past decade, about half are period dramas that depict major historical events or figures, such as 2016's Xuan Zang, 2013's Back to 1942 and 2010's Aftershock. Zhang Yimou, Feng Xiaogang and Chen Kaige are the directors most-often picked by China's film authority for the competition.

Zhang ranks at the top with seven works submitted to the Oscars, followed by three films from Chen and two from Feng. However, while Zhang had three of his films make it into the final round, the latter two directors have not yet had that honor.

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