Siu said Beijing’s action “doesn’t seem very shocking or surprising,” but she was disheartened by what it meant for artists at the Oscars. “It’s a very sad situation. All these talented directors who are outside China may not be seen,” she said.
A spokesman for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which oversees the Oscars, did not reply to a request for comment.
In the past, the Oscars have been aired live in the morning in Beijing on M1905, a state-run video site. It is not clear how and in what form it will be shown now. It remains improbable that the ceremony will be shown in Hong Kong at all.
Reports from Bloomberg and Radio Free Asia said that the Communist Party had told all media outlets to minimize the Oscars generally, and the Zhao and Do Not Split awards in particular.
The moves come as Derek Tsang’s Mandarin-language Better Days, an apolitical teen romance that was a huge hit on the mainland, has been nominated for international feature as the official Hong Kong submission. Such an event would normally be a reason for China to celebrate: No film submitted by either Hong Kong or the mainland has won the foreign prize in its 65-year history.
Hammer said he probably will not be able to travel from Europe, because of pandemic-related restrictions, and hopes to connect remotely. Siu, who fled Hong Kong six months ago, fearing for her safety, lives in Washington, and still has hopes of traveling to Los Angeles for the ceremony. Hammer said if the film wins, he planned on making Chinese-government crackdowns the focus of his speech.
For the academy this was supposed to be a time to celebrate a newfound internationality. Half of the group’s 819 new members this year hail from countries outside the US. And it’s coming off a year in which Parasite, a Korean-language movie, became the first non-English language film to win the Oscar best picture.
Zhao could be another source of those broadsides. The director, 39, was born in China, but spent much of her teenage years in the United Kingdom and her adulthood in the US. Nomadland won top honors at the Venice and the Toronto Film Festivals in September and was at first celebrated in China, with media awash in news of its April release.
Zhao’s stepmother is a popular actress, Song Dandan, and her father a successful businessman. When she won the Golden Globe for directing and best motion picture drama in February, people in China poured on to social-media sites to express their pride, and official media outlets congratulated Zhao Ting, as she is known there.
But shortly afterward, comments surfaced from a 2013 Filmmaker Magazine interview in which Zhao said the country was “a place where there are lies everywhere”. Many of China’s social media warriors quickly disavowed her and soon promotional materials for Nomandland disappeared online in China. The film probably will not be released in China. And the decision to delay the Oscars is seen as a way to ensure that any political comments she makes can be scrubbed out.
There is even a possibility that Better Days is perceived as problematic by Chinese regulators. The movie drew 11 nominations at the government-sanctioned Golden Rooster awards in November. But Tsang has since been cut out of a role on a popular reality show, possibly because netizens discovered an alleged picture of him at the Umbrella Revolution, a set of Hong Kong protests in 2014, and his standing in the country is unclear.
Experts on China-Hollywood relations say they see important consequences- particularly because Zhao directed upcoming Marvel movie Eternals. The November film would seem to be a slam dunk to nab a coveted distribution slot in China; Disney has a strong relationship with the Chinese government and Marvel films tend to perform extremely well there. But Zhao’s comments at or around the Oscars could change that.
The Washington Post