Crowd favorites lead China and Hong Kong's Oscars hopes

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Both China and Hong Kong have opted for crowd-pleasers for their Oscars offerings this year - one film that fuelled a major social debate and one that swept all box office records before it.

The small-budgeted Echoes of the Rainbow has been put forward for consideration by the Hong Kong film community, following its win of a minor award at this year's Berlin International Film Festival (the Crystal Bear, decided by a junior jury) and four awards at home, including Best Actor for its star Simon Yam.

The film is set around a 1960s tenement house in the back streets of Hong Kong and helped spur a successful push to save the buildings in which the film was shot, which had been earlier earmarked for demolition.

The film picked up a surprising US$3 million (2.2 million euros) on limited release in Hong Kong, after being made for just US$1.5 million (1.1 million euros).

There was nothing limited at all about the release of China's entry for the Oscars. The Feng Xiaogang-directed Aftershock - set in the wake of the 1976 Tangshan earthquake - was given mass release, helping it to collect a staggering 650 million yuan (71 million euro) from the box office, the most ever made by a Chinese production.

Meanwhile, in news from the region's box office for the weekend ending September 26, Hong Kong saw the rise of the Andrew Lau-directed actioner Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen - starring Donnie Yen as the legendary martial artist Chen Zhen - which topped the charts with takings of US$856,973 (629,623 euro).

The toast of Japan was Eiichiro Hasumi's Umizaru 3 ( The Last Message) - another installment in the series which follows the fortunes of a team of rescue divers - which collected US$8,184,164 (6,013,074 euros).
No data was available from China, which is currently in the middle of National Day public holidays.