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Academy to Keep Chinese Film in Oscar Competition

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Despite attempts by the Chinese government to withdraw its entry “Ju Dou” as a nominee for best foreign-language film Oscar, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said this week that the movie will remain in competition.

The request by the China Film Bureau to withdraw “Ju Dou” was an about-face that most observers were at a loss to explain. Some attributed the move to confusion that remains in the China arts community following a wave of government repression that began with the Tian An Men Square confrontation in 1989.

Given the subject matter--a story of adultery and revenge involving a pair of rebellious lovers in a 1920s dye factory in northern China--some believe the Chinese government did not want the film honored with an Oscar.

Jun Tang, the manager of China Film Import & Export Los Angeles Inc., a subsidiary of Chinese government-run China Film Import & Export Beijing, said he has been waiting to get an explanation for two weeks. “I was very pleased that it had been nominated,” he said. But when he heard of the withdrawal, “The first I thought is (that) it wasn’t a very bright idea.”

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Tang said the official reason for the withdrawal is that the film had not played commercially within China. Academy rules stipulate that a film must have played a commercial run in the country of its origin.

But Tang said he could not confirm whether the film had played in China.

There was similar confusion at the film academy, according to Fay Kanin, who chairs the foreign-language film committee.

“We have stood by our nomination because the picture was submitted as eligible to us by the Chinese,” Kanin said. “It was only after we had already viewed the film, (that) they came back to us and said it was ineligible.” She said and the academy could find no evidence one way or the other to support the Chinese claim.

Kanin, as well as those involved with U.S. distributor Miramax Films, declined to speculate on why the Chinese government had a change of heart.

But a Chinese film specialist and researcher at the Honolulu-based East-West Center Institute of Culture and Communications, suggested, the “real reason is simply that the Chinese government didn’t like ‘Ju Dou’ ”

In an interview with The Times, Paul Clark said, “The film’s tone is very somber. They wanted something more upbeat and they objected to the eroticism.” Ever since the cultural crackdown, Clark said, there has been a division of opinion, “and this is a reflection of that.”

Clark, who has met “Ju Dou” director Zhang Yimou (“Red Sorghum,” “Yellow Earth”), called the Chinese government’s position “a love-hate relationship,” based on his understanding of the situation from Yimou. “Only last year the government sponsored it in competition at the Cannes Film Festival,” he said.

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“Ju Dou” is a co-production of the Chinese and the Tokyo-based Tokuma Group, which put up financing for the $2-million feature.

The film is scheduled to open Wednesday in Los Angeles at the Goldwyn Pavilion Theatres in the Westside Pavilion.

“Ju Dou” is in Oscar competition with “Cyrano de Bergerac” (France), “Journey of Hope” (Switzerland), “The Nasty Girl” (Germany) and “Open Doors” (Italy).


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