Hong Kong has presented the Academy Awards with an interesting test case, by submitting Peter Pau's The Touch as its official entry for the best foreign-language Oscar, despite the fact the film is predominantly English-language.
The body responsible for the nomination process - the Federation of Motion Film Producers of Hong Kong (FMFP) - has yet to hear if the Academy will accept its selection. However, FMFP chairman Crucindo Hung argued that the film is "the best showcase of talent available in Hong Kong" and that English is an official language of the territory alongside Cantonese.
The $18.6m action adventure, starring and produced by Michelle Yeoh, includes a few lines of Mandarin and Tibetan, but was filmed mostly in English. Set up as a co-production between Yeoh's Mythical Films, Hong Kong's Han Entertainment and China's Tianjin Film Studio, the film grossed $1.5m in Hong Kong and more than $3.7m in China when it was released day and date in the two territories this August.
"It seems unfair that foreign territories don't have a chance to compete in a specialist category just because they speak the same language as the US," said Han Entertainment's Thomas Chung, who produced alongside Yeoh.
The Touch is not the only film this year to challenge the Academy's language criteria. Lukas Moodysson's Lilja 4-Ever faced the threat of being ineligible as Sweden's official entry as its dialogue is almost entirely in Russian. The film has since been accepted by the Academy, however.
Meanwhile, Yeoh and Chung are currently preparing their second project together following The Touch - The Masked Crusader - about a female superhero who was the subject of a series of black-and-white films in the 1960s. Jingle Ma is set to direct following an agreement with Golden Harvest, the Hong Kong studio with which he is contracted. Yeoh will star as the female Robin Hood.
Han has also lined up Lo Chi-leung (Inner Senses) to direct its upcoming Chinese vampire tale, Jiang Shi, and is developing a $25m costume drama, Hua Mulan, set to start shooting mid-2003.