Awards season is here, Hollywood elites have voted, and this year’s Oscars nominations are in. Two China-themed films made the cut: American Factory for best documentary feature, and Sister for best animated short film. One Child Nation and The Farewell were not so lucky. One Child Nation failed to grab a nod for best documentary feature, while The Farewell received no nominations despite being a contender in multiple categories.
The Farewell may well go down as the snub of the season. The film received two Golden Globe nominations, one for best foreign language film, and one for best actress in a motion picture–musical or comedy. Awkwafina took home the latter, becoming the first Asian-American woman to win the award.
American Factory is an Obamas-backed Netflix documentary about a Chinese-owned car glass plant in Ohio that went into operation after acquiring the space of a shuttered General Motors factory. It documents the friction and friendships between Chinese and American workers at the plant, as well as the ruthless nature of its Chinese CEO. The film seems especially timely given US-China trade tensions and soul-searching in US politics over lost manufacturing jobs.
Sister is a low-budget animated short film from young director Siqi Song, a graduate from China Central Academy of Fine Arts now based in LA. Both charming and somber, it examines the personal ramifications of China’s former one-child policy through the story of a sister who never lived, told through the eyes of a grieving sibling.
The Academy Awards’ short film nominations are coveted calling cards for up-and-coming filmmakers, and perhaps the success of Sister bodes well for emerging Chinese artists trying to make their mark in Hollywood.
In addition to films with stories relating to China, this year’s Academy Awards also feature several films whose production was partly funded by Chinese film studios. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which garnered a best supporting actor nod for Tom Hanks, was backed by Tencent Pictures. Harriet, which saw involvement from Beijing-based Perfect World Pictures, received nominations for best original song and best actress in a leading role, for Cynthia Erivo.
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