'Better Days' got a honorable Oscars nomination, but Chinese moviegoers' strong affection to the 'Oscars' knot' has gone
Published: Mar 18, 2021 10:41 PM
Better Days

Better Days

Eighteen years after Zhang Yimou's Hero was nominated in the international feature film category at the Academy Awards, Chinese film Better Days has once again been nominated, but Chinese moviegoers' affection for the "Oscars' knot" appears less strong than in the past. 

Just a few days before the announcement of the Oscar nominations for 2021, the China Film Association held a meeting which included a discussion about adding international feature films into China's Golden Rooster Awards. This means China started to be the game maker, similar to the Oscars in the US and other major international film festivals in Europe, Chinese film observers said.

"The Oscars have lost their purity in the pursuit of the art of film and are more close to a political stand. Even such a biased political film as Do Not Split can get a nomination. In this case, we can hold a festival in line with our own standpoint," Shi Wenxue, a film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Shi pointed out that award-winning Chinese films at other major international film festivals have not stirred strong interest among audiences in China. So Long, My Son which won the Golden Bear at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival, only grossed 45.23 million yuan ($6.95 million) after being released in the Chinese mainland. Compared with the box office of the Spring Festival blockbuster Hi, Mom - which raked in 4.83 billion yuan - So Long, My Son did not do so well in the Chinese film market. 

"As more different genres of Chinese films have emerged, winning an international award is no long the only criterion in judging the film's quality. Chinese moviegoers are more likely to favor films that appeal to them. That's why the film Hi, Mom and Wolf Warrior 2 can achieve such high box office returns," Zhang Peng, a film researcher at Nanjing University's National Research Center of Cultural Industries, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Chinese audience's interest in the Oscars took a hit after the application of Zhang Yimou's The Flowers of War. In order to do well at the Oscars, the film's production team decided not to focus on major European film festivals and applied for 13 individual awards at the 84th Academy Awards, but did not make the final shortlist in any of them. 

One decade ago, China desperately wanted to participate in international film festivals with the hope of winning awards due to the desire to integrate into the world and gain the attention of more foreign investors, according to Zhang, but amid improved Chinese cultural confidence, there is more interest in films like Leap and less desire for Oscar recognition.

"The Oscars is essentially an industry award in the American film industry. It may be closer to the domestic Golden Rooster Awards. However, we still need to learn from the Oscars in terms of its professionalism, credibility, and international influence," Xiao Fuqiu, a film critic based in Shanghai, told the Global Times.

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