Female filmmakers made a commanding showing at the Beijing International Film Festival’s closing awards ceremony Sunday night.
Georgian director Ana Urushadze’s critically acclaimed debut Scary Mother was named best picture, with its star Nata Murvanidze taking the best actress prize for her widely praised performance as the film’s fearsome lead.
Scary Mother tells the story of a middle-aged Estonian housewife who wars against the constraints of domesticity to fulfill her long-suppressed creative ambitions as a novelist. The film was Georgia’s official submission in the foreign-language Oscar race and previously won the Sarajevo Film Festival’s top prize and best first-feature honor at Locarno.
Fellow Georgian filmmaker Mariam Khatchvani, meanwhile, won best director for her melodrama Dede, which also claimed best cinematography for Konstantin Esadze. The film follows a young woman who is forced to choose between an arranged marriage and true love and a painful break from tradition.
The Beijing film festival’s honors, known locally as the Tiantan awards, were decided by an international jury chaired by Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai. Other jurists included Chinese actor Yihong Duan and Swedish director Ruben Ostlund, winner of the 2017 Palme d’Or in Cannes.
In a brief speech at the awards ceremony, Wong highlighted the strength of female storytelling in the festival’s official selection this year, noting that five of the 15 competition titles were directed by women, with two of them directorial debuts. “I hope more female film creators use movies to explore women’s stories,” he said.
Although it was a cold, rainy spring night in the Chinese capital, one of international art house cinema’s most celebrated female leads, French actress Isabelle Huppert, was on hand to walk the red carpet. Local film stars turned out in force, with Huang Bo, Shu Qi, Wang Baoqiang, Gu Changwei, Lin Chi-ling and Joan Chen making glamorous entrances.
U.K. filmmakers also had a strong night in Beijing. Rising British star Joe Cole won best actor for his performance as a lovesick drone operator in Kim Nguyen’s long-distance romance Eye on Juliet. And U.K. war drama Journey’s End received two honors: the best supporting actor award for Paul Bettany and best music for composer Hildur Gudnadottir.
The best supporting actress prize went to Mina Sadati from Iranian drama Searing Summer. Debut Israeli filmmaker Amichai Greenberg won the best screenplay award for The Testament, which he also directed.
The sole domestic honoree in Beijing Sunday was the Hong Kong-China military action flick Operation Red Sea, which received the best visual effects prize. Directed by Dante Lam, the patriotic spectacle has earned an astonishing $578 million at the Chinese box office and is still in cinemas.