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China-Themed Films Make Oscars Shortlists

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Several China-themed films have made the Oscars shortlists for possible 2020 Academy Award nominations. On Monday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced contenders for nine categories, including international feature, documentary feature, animated short, and best original score.

Among the shortlisted films that relate to China are American Factory, One Child Nation, The Farewell, and Sister.

Two of the films, One Child Nation (shortlisted for best documentary feature) and Sister (shortlisted for best animated short), grapple with the human cost of China’s one-child policy.

The Farewell (shortlisted for best original score, but hopefully with more nods on the way) tells the story of a Chinese-American woman returning to China with her family to see her grandmother before she dies of cancer, a prognosis kept secret from the grandmother per common Chinese custom.

American Factory (shortlisted for best documentary feature) is about a Chinese auto factory in Ohio and documents the culture clashes between the plant’s American and Chinese workers.

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The Oscars shortlists come shortly after this year’s Golden Globes nominations were unveiled, giving The Farewell two nods: one for best foreign-language film, and one for Awkwafina for best performance by an actress — musical or comedy.

Controversy emerged over The Farewell’s Golden Globes nomination for best foreign-language film. Many thought the film deserved to be among the films nominated for best motion picture — musical or comedy. But The Farewell was not eligible because less than 50 percent of its dialogue was in English, requiring it to stay within the foreign-language category, a stipulation that also affected Parasite and Pain & Glory.

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For the Academy Awards, there is no shortlist for the best picture category, so fans of The Farewell will have to wait until January 13, when the Oscars nominations will be formally announced, to know if the movie has made the cut.

Nezha, the Chinese animated mythological blockbuster that scored big at the box office, was China’s submission for the Academy Awards’ best international film award. It did not make the shortlist.

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Zach Hollo
    J. Zach Hollo is a RADII contributor currently based in Guangzhou. He recently competed a master's degree in international affairs at National Chengchi University in Taipei, where he studied as a Fulbright scholar. Before that, he taught English in China's Hunan and Henan provinces. As an undergraduate, he attended Northwestern University's campus in Doha, Qatar, where he majored in journalism.