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Meet the New Chinese Members of the Academy

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Every year, millions of Chinese sit in front of their televisions and computers to watch the Academy Awards, aka the Oscars. Next year, the award winners we’ll see standing on the Dolby Theatre stage in Hollywood will be selected by more Chinese judges than ever.

Last week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that it was inviting 928 filmmakers from 59 countries to be admitted as new members, raising the total membership to 9,226 people. According to Variety, “If accepted, [the invitations] will result in 38% of the Oscars’ governing body’s new class being comprised of people of color, increasing their representation from 13% in 2017 to 16%. Meanwhile, the new class is 49% female, boosting the total representation of women from 28% in 2017 to 31%.”

These unprecedented numbers show the Academy’s efforts to achieve greater diversity following 2016’s #OscarSoWhite controversy, as well as to address the power imbalances brought to light by the #MeToo movement, which resulted in prominent Academy members Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, and Bill Cosby being ejected within the last year.

Actress and director Sylvia Chang

“Each of the Academy’s 17 branches draws its own list of new members, and candidates must be sponsored by two members of the branch they will be invited to join,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. “[Actors] must have a minimum of three theatrical features under their belt, while directors must have a minimum of two helming credits.”

Meeting these requirements, Chinese actor Andy Lau (House of Flying Daggers, Infernal Affairs), director and actor Sylvia Chang (Love Education, 20:30:40), and Chinese-Japanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro (Red Cliff, House of Flying Daggers) were invited by the Academy. Lau thanked the Academy this week, saying (link in Chinese): “I will work hard, like I always say.” Chang also replied happily: “Looking forward to seeing more good Chinese films.” Takeshi’s response was the coolest, a simple, “Thanks.”

Lau and Takeshi in House of Flying Daggers

Besides the three actors, quite a few Chinese filmmakers received an invitation as well, including directors Lou Ye (Suzhou River, Summer Place) and Chloé Zhao (The Rider, Songs My Brother Taught Me), screenwriters Wang Hui Ling (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Fleeing by Night) and Yan Geling (Youth, Coming Home), and documentary filmmakers Du Haibin (A Young Patriot, 1428) and Fan Jian (Still Tomorrow, Wu Tu, My Land).

Wang Zhongjun and Wang Zhonglei — founders of China’s Huayi Brothers Media — and Yu Dong, president of Bona Film Group, were also invited into the Academy as film executives.

“Faces from China are making deeper impressions on the scene,” reported China Daily. Last year, actors Jiang Wen, Tony Leung and Donnie Yen, actresses Maggie Cheung and Carina Lau, as well as directors Ann Hui, Peter Chan and Feng Xiaogang were all invited.”

Whether this will improve mainland China’s record of just two Oscar nominations since 1979 remains to be seen. 

Cover image: Upmedia.mg

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Fan Shuhong
    Shuhong (aka Rita) is a language instructor, English/Chinese translator, writer, and proud bunny owner based in Beijing. She's previously worked in Washington D.C. and IUP at Tsinghua University. She loves Chinese language, Japanese arts, post-rock music and good English TV series. Instagram: rita_van

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