Gordon Chan film joins Oscar race

HONG KONG — Hong Kong has selected the Donnie Yen starrer “Painted Skin” (Wa pei) as the territory’s contender for this year’s foreign-language Oscar.

Selection was announced Wednesday on the website of China Film Group and confirmed by Hong Kong’s Motion Picture Industry Assn. at a later press conference.

“We think this film has something very special,” MPIA chair Crucindo Hung said. “It is a very interesting portrayal of Chinese culture that is different to the usual.”

Pic, an action-thriller centered on a vampire-like woman who eats the skins and hearts of her lovers, was helmed by Gordon Chan (“The Medallion.”)

Pic was initially skedded for an Oct. 2 bow in Hong Kong, but had its release date moved forward to Sept. 24 in order to comply with Academy regs requiring a minimum seven-day local theatrical release before the nomination closing date of Oct. 1.

“The MPIA was asking us if we were ready to release ‘Painted Skin’ earlier,” said Kathy Lan, head of Golden Sun Films, one of the pic’s production companies. “At the same time, because the film will be released in China, Singapore and Thailand on the 26th, we thought it best to bring the Hong Kong theatrical release in line with these territories.”

The nomination comes after a month-long guessing game between local press and the MPIA. In August, MPIA chairman Crucindo Hung indicated that the nomination would go to Chen Kaige’s upcoming “Mei Lan Fang.” The claim was refuted by the director, who said that the pic would not be completed before the Oct. 1 deadline, and by Hong Kong’s Emperor Motion Picture, which has a minority stake held in the film.

Nominated films from the region have had a history of cutting it close to the Academy deadline for foreign-language film submissions. In order to qualify for the Oscar nomination, Chen’s “The Promise” was screened for a week in September 2005 in Chengdu ahead of its nationwide Dec. 15 release.

Other films on the MPIA’s shortlist included last year’s Jet Li starrer “The Warlords” and “Connected,” the Benny Chan-helmed remake of the 2004 Hollywood thriller “Cellular.”

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