Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why bother so much about US owned Oscar, Chinese based film awards are well received within the Chinese speaking world

By China Watcher

The recently concluded Oscar ceremony has given an obscure film, Slumdog Millionaire, a overnight prominence when it successfully scooped the majority of the prizes in terms of quality and recognition values. The film was unmistakably made in India by a British movie director using lots of unknown Indian talents.

A few scheming reporters asked a famous Hong Kong actress, Michelle Yeoh at the ceremony when will China ever going to have a winner at the Oscar. Her reply as quoted "I believe very strongly in the Hong Kong and Chinese cinemas. I think ...... our day (to win the Oscar) will come very, very soon".

First, why is it so important for a Chinese film to win an Oscar? There were already an assortment of quality Chinese-made films in Mandarin (not in English) that have been successful at Venice and the Bears Film Festivals. Hollywood’s Oscars and Golden Globe are awards for the English-speaking community and is supported by the 300 million residents in the US.

The Oscar Awards is widely accepted as the international standards of recognition on filmmaking in the world because the US was the centre of movie production since the 1930s and its media and the distribution agencies were responsible to provide the maximum exposure possible in every parts of the world. And the US being an economic and political power has also helped to a certain extent to influence the purchasing requirements of the international society.

Second, most of the quality movies made in Hong Kong and China are scripted in Mandarin or Cantonese (a Chinese dialect) that would not appeal much to the English speaking American public. Hong Kong movie rights have been sold to US entrepreneurs who will produce movies that are tailored to the US audience. One such movie was “The Departed”, a remake of a Hong Kong crime thriller, the Infernal Affairs. Normally when re-make movies are produced and adapted to an exclusive audience who do not understand the original language and its cultural background, the end-movie tends to lose its originality and the cultural “flavor” relevant towards the storyline. It is not surprising such movies failed miserably at the box-office or win any awards.

Third, there was a Hollywood movie directed by an Italian which has won the Best Picture – The Last Emperor, although it was not made by a Chinese director. There was also a Chinese director – Ang Lee, who has won the Best Director for a gay movie not too long ago.

The Chinese do not need to demonstrate to Hollywood that it has quality movies mirroring the “Slumdog Millionaire” as its directors have already proven in other film international conventions in which English is not regarded as an important component in the recognition of films in the "Best Picture" or in other field of production and performance of its actors. Further this year winner at the Oscar is not even directed by an Asian.

Michelle Yeoh should just tell the reporters that the Chinese already had winners, why bother with Hollywood. Perhaps, the day will come when the US will look up to the Chinese awards for recognition.

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