Beijing-based NewPicture Film Co has announced that Zhang Yimou's Curse Of The GoldenFlower will be eligible to be the Chinese candidate for the bestforeign-language film category at next year's Oscars. The film will have anOscar-qualifying run in Shenyang city in Northern China for a week, starting Sept 23.

The film'sofficial release will be during Christmas week in both China and North America.

Chineseauthorities have not yet decided the official Chinese candidate for thecategory, with Feng Xiaogang'sThe Banquet another likelyfrontrunner.

Curse Of The GoldenFlower was co-producedwith award-winning Bill Kong and his Hong Kong-based EdkoFilms. The $45m period drama about a power struggle in a Tang dynasty palace starsChow Yun Fat, Gong Li and pop singer Jay Chou.

Focus Featureshandles international sales, with Sony Pictures Classics on board for NorthAmerican and Latin American rights.

Golden Flower will be Zhang Yimou's lastmartial arts period drama, according to New Picture producer Zhang Weiping.

In a TV interviewwith China's CCTV6 channel, Zhang Yimou and Steven Spielberg talked about the possibility of working on a sci-fi film together, and local press speculated about an adaptation of Chinese classic JourneyTo The West. However Spielberg's office has played down the rumours.

Zhang Yimou is spending the next twoyears working with the Beijing 2008 Olympics Committee as the chief director ofthe opening and closing ceremony, for which Spielberg has signed on as a consultant.