Oscar: Obscure Best Picture Nominee?

Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness, a silent feature with a running time of 64 minutes, may be the most obscure film ever nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.

This tale of a poor farmer in Northeastern Thailand as he struggles for survival in the jungle, was directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernsest B. Schoedsack, and released by Famous Players-Lasky, a division of Paramount.

The directors have described Chang as a “melodrama about man, the jungle, and wild animals as its cast.” In the course of the story, Kru, the tale’s heroic farmer, battles leopards, tigers, and a herd of elephants, which threaten his livelihood.

Cooper and Schoedsack attempted to capture with their cameras real life, but they also restaged several events.  By standards of the time, the film’s climax, showing Kru’s house demolished by a stampeding elephant, was impressive.

Politically incorrect: The tigers, leopards, and bears are slaughtered on camera.

Chang was nominated for the Unique Artistic Quality at the first year of the Academy Awards, in 1929, honoring achievements made in 1927-28.

Oscar Context:

There were only three nominees in this category, which prevailed for only one year: King Vidor’s The Crowd and Murnau’s Sunrise, which won.