China changes Oscars entry as 'Wolf Totem' fails eligibility

BEIJING: China has made a last-minute change to its submission for next year's Oscars because its Sino-French hopeful "Wolf Totem" failed to have enough Chinese among its creative staff to be eligible, state media reported Sunday.

China Film News, a newspaper managed by the state broadcasting administration, said late Saturday that the Film Bureau had received a notification on Oct. 5 from Oscars organizers saying the movie did not meet requirements.

A requirement for eligibility for the best foreign language film award states that the submitting country must certify "that creative control of the motion picture was largely in the hands of citizens or residents of that country." Oscars organizers did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Sunday.

While the main actors were Chinese, and the language was predominantly Mandarin with some Mongolian, the production team was largely foreign.

China had had high hopes for "Wolf Totem," one of an increasing number of co-productions with foreign countries that enable China's film industry to develop its technical know-how.

The movie's director, France's Jean-Jacques Annaud, told The Associated Press earlier this year that the film's Chinese backers had initially wanted an "English-speaking movie with famous Chinese-American actors" until he talked them out of it.

Based on a best-selling semi-autobiographical novel, "Wolf Totem" tells the story of a Chinese student who is sent to live in Mongolia among nomads during the Cultural Revolution and becomes fascinated with wolves. The crew spent three years training wolves for the movie.

China Film News said it has been replaced by "Go Away Mr. Tumor," a romantic comedy about an optimistic woman coping with cancer.

The last Chinese submission to be nominated for best foreign language film was Zhang Yimou's 2002 film "Hero."