Golden Horses: Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong Films Dominate Taiwanese Festival

Johnnie To
Michael Buckner/Getty Images

Johnnie To's foreign language Oscar hopeful 'Life Without Principle' triumphs as local filmmakers meet a resounding defeat on their home turf.

HONG KONG -- They came, and they conquered again: mainland Chinese and Hong Kong filmmakers swept Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards on Nov. 24, with the island’s own contingent nearly completely brushed aside in all categories.

Gwei Lun-mei’s coronation as best actress (for romance drama Gf*Bf) and Chang Jung-chi’s best new director win (for Touch of the Light, Taiwan’s entry in the best foreign language Oscar race), in addition to composer Lo Tayu’s contribution to the best original film song (for the Hong Kong film Romancing in Thin Air), provided the few moments of cheer for local audiences eager to see their own making a mark at the 49th edition of the awards, held in the town of Yilan this year.

STORY: Outmatched Taiwanese Filmmakers Prepare for Tough Battle at Golden Horses Awards 

There was certainly no repeat of the Taiwanese triumph as in last year, when Wei Te-sheng’s historical epic Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale held off the challenge of Hong Kong film A Simple Life to take home the best feature film prize. It’s particularly ironic that most Taiwanese nominees did not make the cut, given how the awards were evenly spread among the many entries competing this year.

Gao Qunshu’s Beijing Blues and Johnnie To’s Life Without Principle ended the night with three gongs apiece, with the mainland Chinese policier nabbing best feature film as well as editing and cinematography titles, and the Hong Kong suspense thriller (and the city’s representative at the Oscars) winning best director, best actor (for Lau Ching-wan) and best original screenplay.

Design of Death and Mystery, both from the mainland, won two prizes each -- the former for supporting actress (Liang Jing) and art direction (Lin Mu), and the latter in best new performer (Qi Xi) and best musical score (Peyman Yazdanian and Johann Johannsson). Theoretically, both Gf*Bf and Touch of the Light secured a brace too, but the two films added to their main-category wins only with the more festival-specific titles of audience choice awards (for Gf*Bf) and the Fipresci prize (for Touch of the Light).

STORY: 'Life Without Principle' Chosen as Hong Kong's Foreign Oscar Entry 

In other leading categories, Hong Kong’s Ronald Cheng won the best supporting actor title for his turn in comedy Vulgaria. The best adapted screenplay prize went to Bao Jingjing (for mainland Chinese romantic comedy Love Is Not Blind), and best visual effects to the team behind Tsui Hark’s 3-D martial arts spectacle Flying Swords of Dragon Gate. The best documentary title went to Yung Chang’s China Heavyweight, a piece about the lives of aspiring young boxers on the mainland.

Huang Yu-siang won the outstanding Taiwanese filmmaker of the year, with veteran actor and King Hu collaborator Shih Chun receiving the lifetime achievement prize.