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Zhang Yimou’s moody, monochromatic action drama “Shadow” is the strong favorite in the annual Golden Horse Awards race. The awards, operated from Taiwan, celebrate the best films in Chinese-language variants.

“Shadow,” which premiered in prestigious slots in the Venice and Toronto film festivals last month, collected 12 nominations. These included nominations for best film and for best director.

Taiwanese drama “Dear Ex,” about the manipulations revealed by a man’s altered will, collected the second-most nominations, with eight. The film premiered at the Udine festival in April and won several prizes at the Taipei festival in June. It is next set for festival play in Busan, and heads for commercial release next month. “Dying to Survive” collected seven nominations.

The five contenders for the best film prize are “Shadow,” “Dear Ex,” mainland Chinese hit “Dying to Survive,” “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” and “An Elephant Sitting Still,” which premiered in Berlin after the suicide of its director, Hu Bo.

The best director nominees – all mainlanders – are Zhang (“Shadow”), Bi Gan (“Long Day’s Journey Into Night”), Jiang Wen (“Hidden Man”), Pema Tseden (“Jinpa”), and Lou Ye (“The Shadow Play”).

Films with six nominations each included “The Looming Storm,” “Hidden Man,” and “Elephant Sitting Still.”

Debate will inevitably rage about high-profile titles that received less recognition. Jia Zhangke’s Cannes competition film, “Ash Is Purest White,” received only one (for best actress). Chen Kaige’s “The Legend of the Demon Cat” earned three, all in technical categories. “Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings” earned only one, for best visual effects. Neither of the year’s two top-grossing Chinese films, “Operation Red Sea” and “Detective Chinatown 2,” received any nominations.