Wolf Totem dropped as China's Oscar entry
BEIJING authorities have dropped Sino-French co-production Wolf Totem as China's foreign language Oscar submission at the last minute in favour of a romantic comedy, reports said, apparently over concerns it was insufficiently Chinese.
Wolf Totem, directed by acclaimed French auteur Jean-Jacques Annaud, is in Mandarin and Mongolian, with Chinese actors and filmed in China.
It is based on a semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, recounting the time the author spent as a "sent-down" youth among nomads in Inner Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution and his attempts to raise a wolf in captivity.
Chinese media had said it would be submitted to the Academy Awards as the country's candidate for the 2016 foreign language Oscar.
But China Film News, a state-run paper managed by broadcasting authorities, said late Saturday it was replaced with Go Away Mr Tumor.
The more popcorn-friendly movie, based on a true story, depicts a young woman suffering from cancer who seeks to live life to the fullest. It stars Hong Kong heartthrob Daniel Wu and Chinese actress Bai Baihe, and has made more than 500 million yuan (S$110.7 million) at the Chinese box office.
China Film News reported that the decision was made because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Wolf Totem - which had four screenwriters, only one of them Chinese - lacked sufficient Chinese nationals or residents in creative roles to be eligible.
But the change surprised even the director of Go Away Mr Tumor, 31-year-old Han Yan, who wrote on Chinese social media: "I didn't know about this until I saw it on the news!"
Online commentators were incredulous yesterday. "Are you sure this isn't a joke?" asked one Weibo poster.
Another said that Go Away Mr Tumor was too lightweight to be a feasible choice: "It's a bit too much about positive energy rather than deep meaning."
The academy picks nominees for the foreign language Oscar from submissions from individual countries, which can put forward only one candidate each year.
Chinese contenders are chosen by the secretive State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, which does not publicise its criteria.
Last year, it picked another Sino-French co-production, The Nightingale, which also had a French director.
The only Chinese movie to be shortlisted for an Oscar was Zhang Yimou's Hero, which was among the nominees in 2003.
Annaud previously won the 1976 Oscar for Best Foreign Film with a submission for the Ivory Coast.