A documentary seven years in the making, a supernatural love story, and the highest grossing film in Taiwan in ages have entered the competition to snab nominations.
“Dream Weavers – Beijing 2008,” Gun Yu
This 90 minute documentary of the seven-year preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics screened at the Shanghai International Film Festival in June. It took seven full years to make, starting from when China won the bid in 2001 to right before the opening of the games. The film is a grand present for the Olympics. It gives panoramic glimpses of a nation on track for the biggest sporting event on the planet. With the construction of the National Stadium as the main storyline, the film documents the lives of five groups of ordinary people. They include star hurdler Liu Xiang and his path to success, the workers who built the National Stadium, a local family who had to move to make way for the construction of the stadium; three young gymnasts in training and their trials and tribulations; and an Olympic security guard team.
“Painted Skin” (Wa pei)
In this Mandarin-language supernatural thriller, a ghost uses human skin to transform into a beautiful woman. The film is the first in a trilogy of adaptations of China’s most famous classic ghost stories.
“Cape No. 7,” Wei Te-sheng
The romantic comedy, recently chosen to screen at October’s Hong Kong Asian Film Festival, made headlines in Taiwan when it topped the TWD100 million mark, prompting star Fan Yi Chen to skinny dip at a beach where much of the film was shot. The film, which tells the story of long-lost love after the surrender of Japan, won three awards at this year’s Taipei Film Festival. The film is mainly in Mandarin Chinese but also contains significant lines in Taiwanese and Japanese. Prior to this film, the two leading actors Van Fan (范逸臣) and Chie Tanaka (田中千絵) only had minor acting experience while some of the supporting roles were filled by non-actors. Even without a strong promotional campaign, this movie has attracted widespread popularity in Taiwan and has become the highest grossing film produced on the island.
I’m quite happy at this year’s selection. I applaud China’s unconventional decision to submit a documentary which was obviously a labor of love, over other potential candidates, and Cape No. 7 gives me hope for Taiwan’s movie industry, which has been not spectacular nor as prolific as China or Hong Kong’s.
Hong Kong’s selection is completely baffling, as it wasn’t really perfect. It made tons of money, but it seemed messy. It was directed by a Hong Kong director, in a sort of cheap-looking, old-school HK style, but populated by mainland actors, who were excellent, but didn’t really fit that style. They should have either gone for a more obvious tongue-in-cheek approach or gotten a mainland China director better suited to the cast which probably would have made it more epic looking instead of simply kind of cheap.
I have no idea why Red Cliff wasn’t picked instead, but come to think of it, I haven’t watched this movie nor do I have any desire to (I think the thought of seeing Tony Leung in another movie makes me back away slowly). Which has to be a bad sign. Painted Skin it is.
Oh, and in more happy news, China extends foreign media freedoms.
I’ve always felt China needed to do two things to achieve its potential as a major film distributor: stop all kinds of censorship (except on porn maybe) and stop piracy. Hopefully this is a first step.