Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Four-legged Film: ‘Wolf Totem's’ Probable Entry to the Oscars

Jon Khristian Maclang | Sep 07, 2015

Chen Zhen (Feng Shaofeng) enjoys the company of his "pet" pup in “Wolf Totem.”
Chen Zhen (Feng Shaofeng) enjoys the company of his "pet" pup in “Wolf Totem.” (Photo : Movie Trailers/YouTube) 

Last year was nightingale. This time it might be wolf.

Most likely to be the country’s entry for the Foreign Language Film category of America’s highly esteemed Academy Awards is “Wolf Totem,” the Mandarin-language drama based from a popular novel.

Though a strong contender, there is still no official announcement made, reported Women of China.

“Wolf Totem,” under the helm of award-winning French filmmaker-screenwriter-producer Jean-Jacques Annaud, is an adaptation of Jiang Rong’s (Lu Jiamin’s pen name) 2004 novel of the same title, which, according to Annaud, is the “biggest bestseller since Chairman Mao’s ‘Red Book,’” reported Boston Herald.

Annaud told Los Angeles Times that Lu/Jiang became his “wonderful friend,” and he read the French translation of the book. “I was very excited to see that one of the bestselling books in China was precisely about something that everyone in the West is unaware of--that China has a deep movement that understands the need for the conservation and protection of nature and promotion of environmental issues,” said Annaud.

Set in 1967 in Inner Mongolia, the Chinese-French co-production movie stars Chinese actor Feng Shaofeng in the lead role, Chinese-Canadian actor Shawn Dou and Mongolian actress Ankhnyam Ragchaa.

If ever “Wolf Totem” brings home the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, it will be the second one for the 71-year-old Annaud. His work on the 1976 war movie, “Black and White in Color,” which happened to be his directorial debut, won him the said recognition.

This is also Annaud’s third film involving four-legged actors.

Bart, a 9-foot-6-inch tall Kodiak bear or Alaskan brown bear, was the main star of the 1988 family drama, “The Bear” (based from American author James Oliver Curwood’s 1916 novel, “The Grizzly King: A Romance of the Wild”). In the 2004 adventure “Two Brothers,” the siblings were played by two tigers.

Annaud directed American actor-producer Brad Pitt (“Troy” and “World War Z”) in the 1997 war drama, “Seven Years in Tibet” (based from Austrian author and mountaineer Heinrich Harrer’s 1952 book of the same title).

It was this “pro-Tibetan” film that prompted China to ban Annaud and Pitt and his co-star English actor David Thewlis (Remus Lupin of the “Harry Potter” series) from entering the country, according to Boston Herald.

Los Angeles Times reported that the country received Annaud “with open arms” in 2012. He got invited to lead the jury in the 15th edition of the Shanghai International Film Festival.

Per regulations set by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), movies must be screened in their country of origin between Oct. 1, 2014 and Sept. 30, 2015. Countries have until Oct. 1 to submit an entry.

“Wolf Totem” was first released in the country in February and will premiere in the U.S. on Sept. 11.
The country’s entry for the 87th edition of the Oscars was the 2013 Chinese-French co-production drama, “The Nightingale,” starring Li Baotian and directed and written by Philippe Muyl.

The 88th Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 28, 2016 at the Dolby Theatre (formerly the Kodak Theatre) in Los Angeles, California.