Animated film "Eternal Spring" is Canada's entry to the Academy Awards.

If nominated, this would be Canada's first animation, first documentary, and first Mandarin-language feature film in the category. Canada's decision to enter an animated documentary may have been encouraged by the nomination this year of the Danish film "Flee," which made all sorts of history at the Academy Awards.

"Spring" revisits the March 2002 hacking of Chinese television airwaves by Falun Gong, a spiritual group banned by the state, 20 years after the incident. The film centers on Daxion ("Justice League," "Star Wars"), a comic book illustrator who is a Falun Gong believer but was forced to flee China after the signal hacking triggered a police investigation.

Director, writer, and producer Jason Loftus (winner of the 2015 Peabody Award for his feature documentary "Human Harvest") met Daxion while working together on the video game "The Shuyan Saga." He composed the story using a combination of live-action eyewitness accounts and CG animated recreations inspired by Daxion's illustration style.

In a director's statement, Loftus spoke of the importance of telling this story now:

"'Eternal Spring' explores religious persecution at a time when similar abuses continue against millions of Uighur Muslims in northwest China. It is also a story about media censorship, misinformation, the need for transparency, and freedom of speech. These themes are crucial in the wake of the controversy surrounding transparency in the reporting of important public health information, which has now become a global pandemic.

The feature film was selected by Telefilm's selection committee from 16 submissions from across Canada. According to Krista Dickenson, executive director and CEO of Telefilm, it was chosen because it "has the best chance of placing itself in the most favorable position in the multi-stage Oscar race."

Loftus had this to say about being selected to represent Canada:

"It is an immense honor to be nominated to represent Canada for Best International Film at the 95th Academy Awards. Eternal Spring is a testament to Canada's creativity, diversity and tolerance. Through Daxion's story and art, and through the talents of our Quebec-based animation team, we hope this universal story of courage in the face of injustice and oppression will resonate around the world."

Since its debut at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in March, "Spring" has won awards at numerous festivals, including two Audience Awards at Toronto's Hot Docs in May. The film will be released in Canada on September 23 and in the U.S. on October 14.

The Spring team includes co-writers Masha Loftus (who also serves as executive producer) and the Pearman brothers, and producers Ivan Pinard and Kevin Koo. Loftus' Lofty Sky Entertainment will produce the film and Sideways Film will serve as international sales agent. The animation team was led by animation director David Saint-Amant.

Seven countries have now submitted the film to the Academy's International Film Competition. Eternal Spring is the only animated film so far, but the season has a long way to go: a shortlist of 15 films will be announced on December 21, 2022, and five nominees will be announced on January 24, 2023.