Disaster epic enters foreign-language category

BEIJING — Feng Xiaogang’s disaster epic “Aftershock,” the most successful Chinese movie ever, will be China’s entry for consideration in the foreign-language Oscar category, the Film Bureau’s international office said Sunday.

“Aftershock” is a powerful drama about the disastrous 1976 Tangshan earthquake, which killed at least 240,000 people — some put the figure even higher. Pic stars Xu Fan, Zhang Jingchu, Li Chen, Chen Daoming, Chen Jin and Guogiang Zhang.

Feng is China’s most bankable helmer, whose “If You Are the One” took $48 million in 2008, and he is also known for “The Banquet” with Zhang Ziyi, the war epic “Assembly” and the zippy domestic comedy “Cellphone.”

The pic is Feng’s 12th movie and his biggest budget yet at $19.1 million. It is the first Chinese pic to make it to an IMAX screen and has taken well over $100 million in B.O.

Pic’s producers, Huayi Brothers, had been hoping “Aftershock” would get the nod as China’s entry for the category, although Feng himself is skeptical about his movie’s prospects in the Oscars.

” ‘Aftershock’ will not find favor in the eyes of the Academy, neither will it be an Oscar-winning movie, because it is meant to appeal to Chinese audiences only,” he told the China News Service last month.

Feng maintains that censorship makes it difficult for Chinese helmers to produce films that will work abroad, and that U.S. auds are not interested in pics with subtitles.

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