Oscars: Australia Submits ‘Arrows of the Thunder Dragon’ for Foreign-Language Category

Screen Australia

The film was shot in the tiny Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan in the local Dzongkha language.

Native Bhutan-language feature, Arrows Of The Thunder Dragon, is Australia’s official entry into the 2016 Oscar’s foreign-language film category, agency Screen Australia confirmed on Friday.

Written, directed and produced by Melbourne-based filmmaker and former Buddhist monk, Greg Sneddon, the film is set in the 1980s and told in the local Dzongkha language of the remote Himalayan highland villages of the tiny Buddhist kingdom, featuring a cast from those villages.

It tells the story of brother and sister Kuenphen and Jamyang, who learn traditional archery, the national sport of Bhutan, from their old warrior grandfather. It becomes clear Kuenphen has opportunities to further his interests while Jamyang must stay home to weave, cook and get married; a fate she is not willing to accept without a fight.

Arrows Of The Thunder Dragon is loosely based on the life story of Bhutan female archer Sherab Zam, who competed at the 2012 London Olympics and is training for the Rio Olympics. She and her coach, Tshering Chhoden, appear in the film. Sneddon’s co-producer is Bhutanese television producer Tshering Dorji.

It is the first international film out of Bhutan made by a Bhutanese crew, and the micro-budget was fully self financed.

“I wanted to work with the people of Bhutan to give them an international view of what their culture is,” Sneddon told THR.

He added: "I’m thrilled and honored for our film to represent Australia in the Academy Awards foreign-language category. The Bhutanese traditional way of life and death is quite remarkable in its sophistication.”

Richard Harris, head of business and audience at Screen Australia said: “Despite being an English-speaking country, Arrows of the Thunder Dragon marks our fourth selection in a row for this category after Charlie’s Country in 2014, The Rocket in 2013 and Lore in 2012."

If Arrows of the Thunder Dragon does get nominated in the category, it would be a first for an Australian entry.

One version of the film was screened at several festivals and in the market at the Cannes Film Festival and Berlinale in 2013. The now final version had a limited release in Australian cinemas in April this year. Paris-based Wide Management is handling international sales. Sneddon is now hoping to get a wider cinema release in his home country.

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