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Taiwan has picked The Great Buddha+, a dark comedy filmed mostly in black and white, as its official submission in the best foreign-language film race at the 2019 Academy Awards.
The film is the feature debut of veteran Taiwanese documentary director Huang Hsin-yao. The Great Buddha+ has won a slew of awards since its premiere in Taiwan in late 2017, including six prizes at the Taipei Film Festival, the NETPAC Award at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, five Golden Horse awards in Taiwan and best Chinese-language film at the Hong Kong Film Awards.
The Great Buddha+ follows a night security guard at a Buddha statue factory who witnesses his boss’ dark secrets while furtively watching some dashcam videos with a friend for kicks. The “+” of the movie’s title is a reference to the fact that the film is a feature-length expansion of an earlier short directed by Huang.
THR critic John DeFore summed up the film as: “An audacious and funny switch to features casting a sharp eye on social inequality.”
“I have always wanted to tell a story about some forgotten place or people in the southern Taiwan,” said Huang in a statement. “I feel that the comical portrayal of Taiwanese people on television or in film often fail to convey the true nature of our lives.”
Known for their satirical tone, Huang’s nonfiction films include Bluffing, Tuvalu and the 2015 work Cloud, which comprised just 55 shots, no dialog, no music and sans protagonist (the film attempted to depict the moods of an island through pure image).
Taiwan has won just one foreign-language Oscar — for Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000 — and has been nominated on two additional occasions, in both cases also for Lee films.
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