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Is Zhang Yimou’s Remarkable “Shadow” Set to be China’s 2019 Oscars Pick?

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That’s what movie website MTime reckons (link in Chinese), and they’re usually pretty on the money with their predictions and “in the know”-type stories. If they’re right, it would be the veteran Chinese director’s fourth film to be put forward for an Academy Award, following Ju Dou (1991), Raise the Red Lantern (1992), and Hero (2003). Despite those nominations, the Fifth Generation figurehead has not yet won an Oscar.

Shadow probably stands more of a chance of winning a statuette than nationalist war flick Operation Red Sea, which got the nod for Hong Kong’s selection recently.

Released a day before the official deadline for selection and right ahead of China’s week-long National Day holiday, Shadow is a highly stylized, slightly ludicrous (although not as ludicrous as Great Wall, of course) tale of revenge and double-crossing. Filmed almost in monochrome and backed by a stirring guzheng soundtrack, it delivers a steady cavalcade of lush, moody set pieces. Oh, and it features an androgynous lethal umbrella-wielding army at one point.

For a Chinese cinematic release, the Three Kingdoms-set movie is surprisingly violent, especially as it winds its way to a conclusion, and yet more evidence that China really needs to bring in an age certificate system for its film industry (at present, all films are supposed to be suitable for all audiences — this isn’t).

It’s also Zhang’s best film in a while. Here’s a trailer for a taste:

The rumors of an attempted Oscar run come as it was announced that Shadow will take on Dying to Survive and Elephant Sitting Still in the Best Film category in Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards, which celebrate movies made in all the variants of the Chinese language. Zhang was also shortlisted for the Best Director prize, one of 12 nominations for Shadow at the awards; winners are due to be revealed in November. Operation Red Sea, hilariously, didn’t receive a single nomination.

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Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.

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