Surprising few, the China Film Bureau announced that Zhang Yimou's "The Flowers of War" will represent China in this year's foreign language film Oscar race.  The picture is notable not just because it's from the director of "Hero" and "Raise the Red Lantern," but because it stars last year's best supporting actor winner, Christian Bale.

The epic finds "The Fighter" and "Dark Knight" star playing an American missionary trapped in the middle of the Japanese invasion of Nanking, China in 1937.  He tries to weather the military action holed up in his church with a group of innocent schoolgirls and thirteen courtesans.  The picture is inspired by Geling Yan’s historical novel "13 Flowers of Nanjing."

"Flowers" has no domestic distributor yet, although a promo reel was shown during last week's Toronto International Film Festival to try to entice sales agents.  The $90 million feature was funded by the Chinese government and set to debut in China on Dec. 16.  There has been some controversy over whether the film is a propaganda tool regarding to fuel those always dicey Chinese-Japanese relations, but it's unclear whether those concerns will affect a U.S. buyer.

Yimou has never won an Academy Award, but "Ju Dou," "Raise the Red Lantern" and "Hero" were each nominated in this category.

Other intriguing players in this category so far are the beloved "A Separation" (Iran), "Miss Bala" (Mexico), Toronto winning "Where do we go now?" (Lebanon), "In Darkness" (Poland), "Le Havre" (Finland) and "Monsieur Lazhar" (Canada.)

For a complete list of all the foreign language submissions by country so far, click here.