Fiji enters Academy Award race for first time

Fiji has entered the foreign-language Oscar race for the first time with “The Land Has Eyes,” while South Korea’s biggest film of the year, “Welcome to Dongmakgol,” and Taiwan’s “The Wayward Cloud,” have thrown their hats into the ring.

Helmer-scribe’s Vilsoni Hereniko “The Land Has Eyes,” based the story on his childhood on the island of Rotuma, was submitted by the Fiji Audio Visual Commission, which funded half the cost of the pic’s transfer from digital to 35mm.

Australian-based distrib Ronin Films opened the film at the only multiplex in the Fijian capital of Suva on Sept. 8 to qualify for the Oscars.

Tsai Ming-liang’s “The Wayward Cloud,” a racy sex musical, bagged a trophy for artistic achievement and the Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin Film Festival.

The helmer successfully fought government attempts to cut pic’s graphic sex scenes and “The Wayward Cloud” opened domestically in its original version.

Its nod could be seen as vindication for Tsai, who has a confrontational history with government brass.

His “Goodbye, Dragon Inn” was Taiwan’s foreign-lingo Oscar contender last year.

“Welcome to Dongmakgol” was chosen by a subcommittee of the Korean Film Council.

Pic’s story and tone make it an unusual pick. Directed by Park Gwang-hyun, “Dongmakgol” is a comedy drama about soldiers from both sides of the Korean divide who live among villagers who know nothing of the war.

It beat out more arty hopefuls and commercial hit, “Marathon,” about an autistic boy who finds his feet through running.

“Dongmakgol” has much leverage from its mega-B.O. run. Released in August by Showbox, pic has rung up more than 7 million admissions, with word of mouth powering it past a raft of September blockbusters.

Its attendance numbers put it at No. 4 on the all-time Korean B.O. list.

(Bobbie Whiteman in Hollywood contributed to this report.)

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