'Kekexili' a change of direction

SHANGHAI — Helmer Lu Chuan’s “Kekexili” is China’s entry for foreign-language film at the 78th Academy Awards, according to reports in state-owned news service Xinhua and south China’s Shenzhen Daily.

The film — Lu’s follow up to his debut “The Missing Gun” in 2002 — is a gritty tale about Tibetans trying to defend antelope from poachers. Pic was a success at the domestic box office late last year, and has had a string of invitations to overseas film festivals, including Sundance.

It’s a change of direction for China — the country’s two previous candidates for foreign-language Oscar were big-budget kung fu pics: Zhang Yimou’s “Hero” and He Ping’s “Warriors of Heaven and Earth,” neither of which won.

The nominee is chosen by regulator the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (Sarft) and there had been some speculation that helmer Chen Kaige’s upcoming “The Promise” would get the Sarft stamp of approval.

Lu is cautious about his film’s nomination, saying, “I haven’t been informed officially, so I can’t say if it’s true or not.”

Countries must submit their films for consideration in the category to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences by Oct. 3. The awards ceremony will be held March 5.

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