Christian Bale film among 63 vying for foreign language Oscar
China's "The Flowers of War," Zhang Yimou's historical epic starring Christian Bale, will be among the 63 films competing to win the foreign language Oscar at the 84th Academy Awards ceremony, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced Thursday.
"Flowers," directed by the famed Chinese auteur whose resume includes "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers," is set in 1937 during the Japanese invasion of Nanking, and casts Bale as a salty mortician who risks his life to protect a group of schoolchildren. The drama will be in contention alongside films such as Iran's "A Separation," Asghar Farhadi's festival darling that Sony Pictures Classics will release at the end of the year, and Israel's "Footnote."
Among the biggest surprises is the entry for Albania, with the academy choosing "Amnesty," from director Bujar Alimani, over Joshua Marston's "The Forgiveness of Blood," the country's initial choice. Marston's film, which was co-written by an Albanian writer and was shot in Albania with Albanian-language dialogue, came under scrutiny initially with some protesters, including director Alimani, claiming that a film by an American should not be the country's official choice.
It's the second time a film from Marston did not meet the eligibility requirements set forth by the academy's foreign language committee. Marston's 2004 feature "Maria Full of Grace," which depicted the life of a Colombian drug mule, was deemed ineligible for not featuring sufficient Colombian creative input.
Also disqualified was the entry from the Central African Republic. It too was filmed by an American, in this case a woman, and didn't feature enough crew members from the selected country.
Screenings of the films begin this weekend at the academy.
-- Nicole Sperling
Photo: Director Zhang Yimou, left, with Christian Bale on the set of "The Flowers of War." Credit: YAO/New Pictures Film