'Exile' comes out at H.K. Film nods


HONG KONG -- New Wave auteur Patrick Tam's comeback film "After This Our Exile" was the winner of the night at the 26th Hong Kong Film Awards, scooping five trophies, including best film, director and screenplay.

However, the film's lead actor, Aaron Kwok, lost to local favorite Lau Ching-Wan.

In his acceptance speech for best director, Tam thanked the film's investors for the creative freedom they had given him, a lack of which had led him to stop directing after 1989's "My Heart Is That Eternal Rose." He also thanked Law Kar, one of the first generation of Hong Kong film scholars, betraying his own roots as a critic.

"Exile's" young star Gouw Ian Iskandar won supporting actor and new performer. He received supporting actor honors in November at the Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan.

The other hot title of the night was Zhang Yimou's $45 million period epic "Curse of the Golden Flower." Gong Li, who made her career in Zhang's earliest films and who was working with the director for the eighth time, took best actress.

The film also won art direction and original film song, which was sung by Taiwanese pop sensation Jay Chou. Yee Chung-man, who lost an Oscar to "Marie Antoinette's" costume designer Milena Canonero at this year's Academy Awards, was awarded best costume makeup design for "Golden Flower."

Another big-budget period drama, "The Banquet," won supporting actress for Zhou Xun.

"Golden Flower" was not the only film Zhang had in competition, and he received best Asian film for his low-key drama "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles."

"Confession of Pain," from the same writing-directing team that created the "Infernal Affairs" trilogy, on which Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning "The Departed" was based, was nominated in seven categories, but these high hopes were dashed when it took only one award: cinematography.

"Re-Cycle," from the Pang brothers, who directed the recent U.S. boxoffice topper "The Messengers," was awarded best visual effects and sound design. The film had its world premiere in Un Certain Regard at last year's Festival de Cannes amid criticism for its heavy-handed anti-abortion message and praise for its highly attuned visual sense.

Legendary action choreographer Yuen Woo-ping, whose name spread to the West thanks to the likes of the Wachowski brothers and Quentin Tarantino, won best action choreographer for "Fearless."

Best original film score went to Peter Kam for "Isabella," for which he won the Silver Bear for best film music at last year's Berlin International Film Festival. Best new director went to Daniel Wu for his expose of Hong Kong showbiz, "The Heavenly Kings." Best editing went to "A Battle of Wits."

The Century Achievement Award went to Run Run Shaw, celebrating his 100th birthday as well as 80 years in the film industry and having made more than 1,000 films. Jack So, chairman of the newly established Film Development Council, presented the award, saying, "He not only created the Hong Kong film industry, he brought it to its peak and wrote a golden chapter for Hong Kong films."

Presenter Eric Tsang gave the ceremony a bittersweet note in his opening speech, citing the drop last year in the number of movie screens in Hong Kong but also noting that the rest of the world was still taking note of their films and that without "Infernal Affairs," there would be no "Departed" and no best director Oscar for Scorsese.