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China Selects Zhang Yimou's Flowers of War, Starring Christian Bale, as Oscar Entry

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 23, 2011 at 8:34AM

The backers of Zhang Yimou's The Flowers of War, a tough period drama set during the horrific 1937 Nanking Massacre, are heaving sighs of relief. China has chosen the film as its official Oscar entry. It is due for December 16 release in Asia and was for sale at the recent Toronto Film Festival, where I saw a stunning 20 minutes of footage. This means that a buyer is now more likely to step up to qualify the film at year's end for a Christian Bale Oscar campaign, knowing that The Flowers of War may wind up a foreign Oscar nominee. (There's just enough Chinese in the English/Mandarin dialogue to qualify.)
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Thompson on Hollywood

The backers of Zhang Yimou's The Flowers of War, a tough period drama set during the horrific 1937 Nanking Massacre, are heaving sighs of relief. China has chosen the film as its official Oscar entry. It is due for December 16 release in Asia and was for sale at the recent Toronto Film Festival, where I saw a stunning 20 minutes of footage. This means that a buyer is now more likely to step up to qualify the film at year's end for a Christian Bale Oscar campaign, knowing that The Flowers of War may wind up a foreign Oscar nominee. (There's just enough Chinese in the English/Mandarin dialogue to qualify.)

Based on a screenplay by Heng Liu (Assembly, The Story of Qiu Ju), THE FLOWERS OF WAR is adapted from Geling Yan’s historical novel 13 Flowers of Nanjing. Produced by Zhang Weiping, THE FLOWERS OF WAR features award winning filmmakers Director of Photography Zhao Xiaoding (Under the Hawthorn Tree, House of Flying Daggers), Production Designer Yohei Taneda (Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Villain), and Sound Designer Tao Jing (Hero, House of Flying Daggers).

Inspired by true life events, THE FLOWERS OF WAR tells a genuine story of hope, love and sacrifice. Set in 1937, Nanking stands at the forefront of a war between China and Japan. As the invading Japanese Imperial Army overruns China’s capital city, desperate civilians seek refuge behind the nominally protective walls of a western cathedral. Here, John Haufman (Bale), an American trapped amidst the chaos of battle and the ensuing occupation takes shelter, joined by a group of innocent schoolgirls and thirteen courtesans, equally determined to escape the horrors taking place outside the church walls.

THE FLOWERS OF WAR is executive produced by Chaoying Deng and David Linde. International Sales are handled by Glen Basner and FilmNation Entertainment.

This article is related to: Awards, Box Office, Genres, Headliners, Oscars, Winter, Period, Drama, Foreign, Christian Bale


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.