Eternal Spring, a documentary that follows Chinese activists’ takeover of a state television station, will be Canada’s submission for best international feature film, Telefilm Canada announced Wednesday.
Directed by Jason Loftus, the film will be the first animated, documentary and Mandarin-language submission from Canada for the Oscars’ best international feature film category.
“This is a game-changer with the recognition that Canada’s providing,” Loftus said of the importance of the nomination in a Telefilm press conference shortly after the announcement was made. “So obviously we look forward to putting it in front of as many people as possible.”
The film had its North American premiere at Toronto’s Hot Docs festival earlier this year, and uses the animation of Chinese illustrator Daxiong, who took part in the rebellion the film showcases. It tells the story of how outlawed spiritual group Falun Gong hacked a Chinese state broadcaster to expose government disinformation and repression levied against them.
Loftus said he made the film with his partner, Masha Loftus, who is from Changchun city, where the events of the film took place. Production took nearly six years, during which time Jason Loftus says the Chinese government — upon learning of the documentary — began exerting pressure on them.
WATCH | Eternal Spring trailer:
Loftus says he was making a video game in the country during the same time period, when the Chinese government told the publisher he was working with to cut ties with him. He also said his wife’s family received probing phone calls from China’s public security bureau.
“There’s definitely that moment where you think, is it worth it here?” he said. “And is there a potential risk, is there a potential blowback from doing this?”
“We felt it was important, despite that risk, to be able to still tell this story.”
Eternal Spring joins a long list of Canadian submissions to the Oscars, though only seven have made it to official nominations. Of those, only one has won — Denys Arcand’s The Barbarian Invasions in 2004.
Entries that made the final cut will be announced on Jan. 24, 2023, alongside the Oscars’ full nominations list.
The Oscars themselves will take place on March 12.
Eternal Spring will hit theatres in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal on Sept. 23 of this year, with wider theatrical releases in Australia, the Netherlands, the U.S. and the U.K. this fall.