Hong Kong, Taiwan make Oscar picks

'Prince of Tears,' 'No puedo vivir sin ti' chosen

HONG KONG -- A melodrama set in 1950s Taiwan with a predominantly Taiwanese cast has been chosen to represent Hong Kong as the candidate for the best foreign-language film at the Academy Awards.

The Federation of Motion Film Producers of Hong Kong named Yonfan's "Prince of Tears" as the candidate film Tuesday.

Directed and written by Yonfan ("Peony Pavilion"), produced by Fruit Chan ("Hollywood-Hong Kong") and starring Wing Fan ("Miao Miao"), Joseph Chang ("Eternal Summer"), and Zhu Xuan, "Prince of Tears" tells a personal story of betrayal set against the political background of anti-communist witch hunt known as "white terror." The film has just held its world premiere at the 66th Venice Film Festival and is scheduled for release in Hong Kong on Oct. 22.

That would normally make "Prince" ineligible under the Academy's rule 14, which says that a film must have a commercial release for at least a week by the end of September. But the federation's chairman Crucindo Hung told Hollywood Reporter that said the film will be released on Sept. 24 for one week at the Grand Cinema in Kowloon as an "introductory screening," complete with newspaper advertisements that make it eligible.

Boxoffice blockbusters and local award-winners including John Woo's "Red Cliff II," martial arts biopic "Ip Man," summer hit "Overheard," and Ann Hui's "Night and Fog" were on the shortlist for the candidate spot, but lost to Yonfan's art house pic, which is its main appeal to the producers who chose the film to represent Hong Kong.

"In the past, we've picked boxoffice hits or big-budget blockbusters as the Hong Kong candidate, but those were never chosen by the Academy," Hung said. "So this time we try to find an artistic, less commercial film and see if it'll suit the Academy's taste."

"Prince of Tears" was produced by Yonfan's own Hong Kong-based Far Sun Film and is in the process of applying for a film subsidy from the Taiwan government. The subject matter and its cast hardly stand for Hong Kong, but the Federation said it aimed to take a larger view on the local film industry. "The film's director, writer and producer are all from Hong Kong, so it satisfies the criteria for best foreign language film set by the Academy. Nowadays very few films are made only in Hong Kong or financed solely locally, so we try to look at co-productions in the Greater China region," said Hung.

In Taiwan, director Leon Dai's "No puedo vivir sin ti" has been announced by the Taiwanese Government Information Office as the candidate film to represent Taiwan in the best foreign-language film race. The true story -- a drama about a widower's fight for the custody of his daughter -- won the top price at July's 11th Taipei Film Festival, and prompted discussions within the Taiwan.