Oscar watch: Mad World picked as Hong Kong entry for best foreign-language film race

Grim low-budget drama starring Eric Tsang and Shawn Yue, an unexpected hit with audiences and winner of a slew of awards, is chosen to vie for Academy Award shortlist over Hong Kong Film Awards best picture winner Trivisa

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 September, 2017, 1:31pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 September, 2017, 11:54am

The low-budget drama Mad World , which marked the feature directing debut of young filmmaker Wong Chun, has been chosen as Hong Kong’s candidate for best foreign-language film at the Academy Awards.

The selection was made by the Federation of Motion Film Producers of Hong Kong from a shortlist of four titles, which also include Chasing the Dragon, the Wong Kar-wai-produced romantic comedy See You Tomorrow , and the China-set friendship drama Soul Mate .

Film review: Mad World – Shawn Yue, Eric Tsang face mental and social ills in sombre family drama

Of the quartet, Chasing the Dragon – a Wong Jing-directed gangster epic starring Donnie Yen and Andy Lau – is the only one yet to have been released in cinemas (it is set to open in Hong Kong and various territories next week), although the film has been screened for selected critics subject to review embargoes. Early chatters appear to view the film as a long shot for any best picture consideration.

An austere family drama about mental illness that’s spiced with a heavy dose of social criticism, Mad World has proved an unexpected hit with audiences since its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2016.

The film won awards for best supporting actress (for Elaine Jin Yan-ling) and best new director at the 2016 Golden Horse Awards in Taipei; earned best director and screenwriter honours for Wong and screenwriter Florence Chan Chor-hang in the Hong Kong Film Critics Society’s year-end poll; and scooped the Grand Prix at the Osaka Asian Film Festival in March.

Eric Tsang, Shawn Yue on how they came to star in Mad World, indie gem that’s one of Hong Kong’s hottest new films

A beneficiary of the Hong Kong Film Development Council’s First Feature Film Initiative, it went on to win three prizes – for best supporting actor (Eric Tsang Chi-wai), best supporting actress (for Jin) and best new director – at the Hong Kong Film Awards in April.

The icing on the cake for Mad World came when it won the inaugural Audience Choice Award at the Hong Kong International Film Festival in the same month. It obtained the highest score from the audience at the festival, which introduced the award this year – the 41st year the festival has been held.

Made on a budget of just HK$2 million (US$256,000) – a shoestring figure in today’s business – Wong’s film also surpassed expectations at the Hong Kong box office, where it grossed more than HK$16.8 million in the two months following its March 30 release.

Why so sensitive? A closer look at Trivisa, the Hong Kong Film Awards best picture banned in China – just like Ten Years

By choosing Mad World for Oscars consideration, the Federation of Motion Film Producers ignored for the second year in a row the best picture winner at the Hong Kong Film Awards – Trivisa this year and Ten Years in 2016, when the Oscars contender chosen was Port of Call .

Ann Hui On-wah’s The Golden Era (2014) was the last Hong Kong Film Awards best picture winner to be made the Hong Kong pick for an Oscar, while Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster (2013) was the last to actually make the Oscars shortlist in January.

Want more articles like this? Follow SCMP Film on Facebook