Zhang Yimou’s epic tale starring Christian Bale set against the backdrop of the Nanking Massacre in 1937 is China’s foreign language Oscar submission and may now compete for broader awards recognition.

Wrekin Hill has acquired North American rights in association with Row 1 Productions. The distributor plans a qualifying run in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco in late December before expanding in early 2012.

Zhang Weiping produced and fully financed the film through his New Pictures Film. FilmNation handles international sales and showcased a 20-minute excerpt in Toronto.

The Flowers Of War — formely known as Heroes Of Nanking — is set to open in China on Dec 16 following three premieres in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.  

Wrekin Hill president and CEO Chris Ball said the film “just blew me away”, while Weiping praised Wrekin Hill and Row 1 for their “impressive” passion.

Heng Liu adapted the screenplay from Geling Yan’s historical novel 13 Flowers Of Nanjing about an American trapped with a group of schoolgirls and 13 prostitutes in a Western cathedral surrounded by Japanese forces. The American orchestrates a heroic act of sacrifice by the prostitutes.

David Linde, Chaoying Deng and Bill Kong served as executive producers. Linde and Deng brokered the deal with Stephen Saltzman of Loeb & Loeb on behalf of Weiping with Ball and Rene Cogan for Wrekin Hill and Brandt Andersen for Row 1.