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China Unveils Golden Rooster Awards Nominees, to Surprising Jibes

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China has released the list of nominees for its upcoming Golden Rooster Awards, a set of government-approved film industry prizes that it wants to be seen as rivaling the Taipei-based Golden Horse Awards, historically considered as the “Chinese-language Oscars.”

The winning Roosters will be announced amidst a film festival running Dec. 28-30 in the port city of Xiamen in coastal Fujian province, just a short boat ride away from Taiwanese soil. Established in 1981, the event was previously held biannually until China’s rift with the Golden Horse prizes occurred in 2018 following a pro-Taiwanese independence acceptance speech and prompted the Roosters to become an annual occurrence.

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This year’s twenty different Rooster Awards will honor films screened theatrically between July 1, 2020 and July 15, 2021. As the event is backed by China’s propaganda department, only local and foreign titles that have received official censorship approvals will be considered.

“As we all know, the Golden Rooster Awards are not authoritative — it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call them the Golden Broomsticks. I’m still pining and clamoring for the Golden Horse Awards on the other side of the straits,” read one of the top comments on the Weibo post announcing this year’s Rooster nominees.

“At last, the mainland awards most able to reflect artistic value have also become ‘ideological propaganda awards’,” another lamented, as others jokingly referenced the country’s recently issued five-year plan for film, which states that awards at national film festivals should be balanced and impartial.

In an effort to boost its lackluster international profile, the Roosters have this year introduced a new best foreign language film category. The nominees for its first round are Anthony Hopkins-starring “The Father,” German-language Russian-Belarusian World War II drama “Persian Lessons,” animation “Wolfwalkers,” the Italian live-action film “Pinocchio,” and Thai drama “Happy Old Year.”

In other categories, propaganda fare reigns.

Up for best feature film are “main melody” propaganda titles “The Pioneer,” “Island Keeper,” “Chinese Doctors,” and “My People, My Homeland,” alongside family drama “My Sister” and Zhang Yimou’s snowy thriller “Cliff Walkers” (aka “Impasse”).

Director Jia Ling’s box office smash hit “Hi, Mom,” tear-jerking Inner Mongolia-set horse drama “Harhuu,” Tibetan drama “Wind,” and children’s film “Little Canned Men” are in the running for best first film.

Best actor nominees include TFboy idol of “Better Days” fame Jackson Yee (“A Little Red Flower”), Guo Xiaodong (“My Father”), Yu Hewei (“Impasse”), Zhang Yi (“Impasse”), and Liu Ye (“Island Keeper”).

"1921"

Best actress nominees include rising stars Liu Haocun (“A Little Red Flower”), Zhang Xiaofei (“Hi, Mom”), Zhang Zifeng (“My Sister”), Liu Mintao (“Let Life Be Beautiful”).

Zhang’s “Cliff Walkers” and “1921,” a film created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, lead the pack with nominations in six categories apiece.

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