China to Submit 'The Flowers of War' in Foreign-Language Oscar Race

23 REP INTERNATIONAL Zhang Yimou and Christian Bale
Beijing New Picture FIlm Co

Christian Bale (right) spent eight weeks working on location in Nanjing, China, with director Zhang Yimou. 

Zhang Yimou’s The Flowers of War, starring Christian Bale, will be China’s submission for the best foreign-language film Academy Award, China’s Film Bureau announced on Friday.

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Adapted by screenwriter Liu Heng from Yan Geling’s historical novel 13 Flowers of Nanjing and produced by the director's long-time producing partner Zhang Weiping, the movie is set in Nanking in 1937 as the Japanese Imperial Army overruns China’s capital city. Bale plays John Haufman, an American missionary who helped protect a group of schoolgirls and prostitutes from the invading army.

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The film, with dialogue in both Mandarin and English, cost $90 million to produce. It was executive produced by Deng Chaoying and David Linde. Glen Basner’s FilmNation Entertainment, which is handling international sales, previewed footage during the recent Toronto International Film Festival, and several U.S. buyers are currently circling the project.

The third time may be the charm for Zhang, who directed the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. Despite having been nominated previously with Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern, Zhang has yet to bring home an Oscar. 

Composer Su Cong became the first citizen of the People's Republic of China to win an Academy Award, for his work with David Byrne and Ryuichi Sakamoto on the soundtrack for Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor. Hunan province-born Tan Dun later won for Best Original Score for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Flowers gets full China domestic release in December. No U.S. release date is set, although the Oscar nomination will spur interest.