The film tells the fact-based story of the Chinese women’s national volleyball team and their travails over the course of decades, from their world championship win in 1981 to their triumph at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Gong Li stars in the biographical drama as the legendary coach Lang Ping, who at nearly 60 remains the team’s current head coach, opposite Huang Bo (“The Island,” “Crazy Alien”).
Notably, it was produced by Hong Kong’s Jojo Hui, who also produced the youth drama “Better Days,” which was announced as Hong Kong’s Oscar contender last Friday — giving her a rare double chance at the nominee short list.
“Leap” won the mainland’s government-backed Golden Rooster Award for best feature film last weekend weekend, signaling the ruling Communist Party’s approval of the title. It was originally scheduled to release during the competitive Chinese New Year holiday last January, but had its debut pushed back by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. It ended up debuting just ahead of the busy National Day holiday on Sept. 25, and went on to gross $127 million (RMB835 million).
Its garlands made Hong Kong-born Chan, who turned 58 on Saturday, one of the few directors to win the top film prizes of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. He has won both best feature film and best director at China’s Golden Roosters (for “Leap” in 2020 and “American Dreams in China” in 2013, respectively), at the Hong Kong Film Awards (nabbing both for “Comrades: Almost a Love Story” in 1999 and ‘The Warlords” in 2008), and at the Taipei-based Golden Horse Awards (winning best picture for “Comrades” in 1997 and best director for “Perhaps Love” in 2006 and “The Warlords” in 2008).
It remains to be seen whether his efforts on behalf of China will now garner Oscar acclaim.
The news followed previous rumors that China might select the previously-censored patriotic war epic “The Eight Hundred” as its Oscar submission. That title, backed by Huayi Brothers and directed by Guan Hu, has become the highest grossing film in the world this year, but initially irked Chinese authorities with its depictions of a rival party, delaying its debut for over a year.
Taiwan selected Chung Mong-hong’s dark family drama “A Sun” as its Oscar contender for this year back in late September.