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Daily Drip

China Film News: Marvel Flicks and Strange Oscar Picks

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Some interesting movement happening in the China film sphere right now, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t break it down for you.

First off, Marvel has shocked cinephiles everywhere by announcing that their new big thing, The Eternals, will be directed by Chloe Zhao.

It’s a big switch-up for the Beijing-born, UK/LA/NYC-educated filmmaker. Zhao has risen to high standing on the festival circuit in recent years, having directed 2016’s Songs My Brothers Taught Me and 2017’s The Rider. Both films are subtle, honest, and raw explorations of Native American/rural identity in the US, and with her next film about Bass Reeves, the first black US Deputy Marshal, Zhao seems to have carved out a neat niche of telling US cultural stories from a more detached, semi-outsider perspective.

Related:

3 Chinese Filmmakers Making the International Festival Rounds

So the news that she’s signed on to direct Marvel’s newest glossy, high-impact space blockbuster comes as a bit of a shock. The series is positioned to fill the imminent void that will occur once The Avengers franchise is laid to rest. Nonetheless, Zhao has thus far proven her chops at bringing stories together, and we’re optimistic to see how she handles the Hollywood machine.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong has chosen Operation Red Sea as its Oscar pick for Best Foreign Language Film, for some reason.

Operation Red Sea was the second highest-grossing film in Chinese box office history, pulling in 576 million USD, and ranking just behind Wolf Warrior 2 (both films fall squarely into the “Chinese commandos save the day in Africa” subgenre).

A product of Hong Kong director Dante Lam, Hong Kong’s presence in the movie is surprisingly dim, with just one lead actor coming from the territory. The rest is distinctly Mainland, featuring a nearly-all Chinese cast, and heavy Chinese military presence (the film was made with the support of the Chinese navy, and was presented in part to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, as well as the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th National Congress). It earned only 1.1 million USD in Hong Kong during its two-month run.

Related:

Why Is Operation Red Sea Winning the “Post-Spring-Festival Film War”?

It seems a strange pick, and we’re certainly not holding out for an underdog win from the generous explosions of Operation Red Sea.

Last but not least, if you’re not stirred by the gripping action of outer space and Africa, respectively, you might still enjoy TAIKO Studios’ award-winning animated short One Small Step, available for viewing now on Vimeo (and embedded below).

The studio itself is a hybrid effort between the US and China, founded by former Disney and Sony animators. The beautiful seven-minute animated short tells the story of a Chinese-American girl named Luna who dreams of becoming an astronaut, and of her shoemaker father who supports her through the years on her way to her goal. Fair warning: only watch if you want to cry.

One Small Step from TAIKO Studios on Vimeo.

For more insight into China’s increasingly diverse film presence:

Meet the New Wave of Chinese Filmmakers

3 Chinese Filmmakers Making the International Festival Rounds

Meet the New Chinese Members of the Academy

Adan Kohnhorst
Adan Kohnhorst is a Shanghai-based writer, producer, and multimedia artist, and the Associate Editor at RADII. His work has been featured in publications such as Maxim and the Chinese-language StreetVoice, and he’s an active member of the hip-hop and DIY music scenes in Shanghai, NYC, and Dallas. He learned Mandarin in high school so he could train at the Shaolin Temple, but now just uses it to interview rappers.