‘The Nightingale’: Why China Chose a French-Directed Film as Its Oscar Submission

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For WSJLilian Lin and Josh Chin: After decades of failed bids for the best foreign-language film Oscar, China appears to be hoping it can borrow a little of France’s Academy Award magic. Actually, make that a lot.

“It’s a mild, breezy, accessible, feel-good drama which really pictures China as a harmonious, wonderful place where conflicts of various stripes – across age, class or geographical divides – could easily be reconciled.”

In a surprise choice, China’s film authority submitted “The Nightingale,” a Sino-French co-production nightingale-directdirected by French director Philippe Muyl, as its entry in this year’s foreign-language category at the 2015 Academy Awards, state media reported this week.

“It really fits with the Chinese government’s current dominant political narrative of seeking to maintain stability in society at the same time when chaos sweeps across the body politic.”

— Clarence Tsui, The Hollywood Reporter

The Nightingale,” which tells the story of a road trip taken by an old man and his spoiled granddaughter through the southern Chinese countryside, is an adaptation of Muyl’s uplifting 2002 odd-couple drama “The Butterfly,” which was well-received in China despite never being officially released here.

Although the structure of the two films is similar, Mr. Muyl has described the “The Nightingale” as a thoroughly Chinese story. “We originally planned to make a Chinese version of ‘The Butterfly,’ but later we changed our mind and wanted to created something more originally Chinese,” he said in a video promotion for the film.

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In choosing “The Nightingale,” China’s film authorities passed over a number of strong candidates, including period drama “Coming Home” by Zhang Yimou, arguably the country’s most prominent director, and Diao Yinan’s noirish “Black Coal, Thin Ice,” which walked away with the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year.

Precisely how China landed on the film as its Oscar choice remains unclear. The film’s Chinese producers declined to comment. Several Chinese film critics also declined to comment on the record, saying they didn’t want to be seen as criticizing the government.

A person close to the selection process told China Real Time that the effort to identify Academy Award submissions is typically overseen by the country’s top film regulator, the General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, based on… (read more)

China Real Time Report – WSJ

–Lilian Lin and Josh Chin



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