by Gregg Kilday , Kim Masters
The film, about the wolves that roam the steppes of Mongolia, will be released stateside Sept. 11.
Although it’s not yet been officially announced, Jean-Jacques Annaud’s new film Wolf Totem is expected to be China’s submission for this year’s foreign language Academy Award.
Based on the semi-autobiographical, best-selling novel by Lu Jiamin, writing under the pseudonym Jiang Rong, the film tells of a Chinese student who travels to Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution to live among the nomadic herdsman and there becomes fascinated with the wolves that roam the steppes.
A Chinese-French coproduction that employs both the Mandarin and Mongolian languages, the film bowed in China on Feb. 19, during the Chinese New Year, and went on to become the tenth highest-grossing film of the year in China, where it’s collected $110.5 million.
Wolf Totem is being released stateside through Sony’s Columbia Pictures and will open Sept. 11 on more than 125 screens, including about 100 Imax auditoriums.
Annaud, the French filmmaker, brought to the film his experience working with animals in previous projects like 1998’s The Bear and 2004’s Two Brothers, which focused on two tigers. The project, seven years in the making, required two packs of wolves that were trained over a period of years by Andrew Simpson specifically for use in the film, which was shot in 3D.
Speaking to THR, Annaud said of China’s decision to submit Wolf Totem, “I’m very pleased for my crew and cast. They worked with so much dedication and I feel it’s very important for each of them. I had such a warm welcome over there. I feel grateful to everyone involved with this project.”
The Film Bureau, part of the all-powerful regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), decides which film to submit, and its formal announcement usually comes closer to the Oct. 1 deadline for submissions. While a number of other titles have been said to be in contention, there have been few projects of the caliber of Wolf Totem this year.
Working from a screenplay is by Alain Godard, Annaud, Lu Wei and John Collee, Annaud also produced the film along with Xavier Castano. China Film Co., Reperage, and Beijing Forbidden City Film Co. are presenting the film in association with China Movie Channel and Beijing Phoenix Entertainment Co., Ltd., supervised by China Film Co-Production Corporation.