Hong Kong Film Awards: ‘Project Gutenberg’ Dominates With 17 Nominations

Project Gutenberg  Still 2 -Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy Panasia Films Limited

‘Infernal Affairs’ scribe Felix Chong’s counterfeiting thriller starring Chow Yun-fat and Aaron Kwok was the second-most-nominated film in the history of the Hong Kong Film Awards.

Project Gutenberg, the critically acclaimed crime thriller directed by Infernal Affairs scribe Felix Chong, became the second-most-nominated film in the history of the Hong Kong Film Awards with an impressive 17 nominations on Tuesday.

Project Gutenberg achieved a grand slam in the acting categories with five mentions as its stars Zhang Jingchu, Liu Kai Chi and Catherine Chau earned noms in the best actress, best supporting actor and best supporting actress races, respectively, and the thriller’s leads Chow Yun-fat and Aaron Kwok were pitted against each other in the best actor category.

Helmer and writer Chong, who spent over a decade crafting this throwback to 1980s and 1990s Hong Kong action cinema, has been nominated for best director and best screenplay. The drama, which centers on a band of master counterfeiters’ efforts to forge the 1996 U.S. Dollar banknotes, is also in the running for best film, cinematography, film editing, art direction, costume and makeup design, action choreography, original film score, original film song, sound design, sound effects and visual effects. The Hong Kong Film Awards have 19 categories overall.

The record-holder for most Hong Kong Film Award noms ever is director Teddy Chan’s period drama Bodyguards and Assassins, which notched 18 in 2009 and went on to take home eight honors.

Project Gutenberg was an event movie when it bowed in October, grossing $4.4 million during a rather difficult year for the Hong Kong film industry that saw only 53 homegrown films released locally and the majority didn’t even break the million-dollar threshold. Chow’s own homage in the film to his days headlining John Woo classics was a particular draw, which found him showing off his signature moves for an audience ripe for nostalgia. Kwok, whose character was actually the heart of the story, likewise got praise for his layered performance. The globe-trotting actioner also became a box office sensation in China through word-of-mouth and raked in 1.27 billion yuan ($187 million).

For a relatively quiet year for domestic productions, outstanding films have the tendency to sweep up nominations. The surprise hit of last summer, Men on the Dragon, directed by first-timer Sunny Chan, received 11 noms, a feat in any other year. The comedy, which revolved around a group of middle-aged men’s quest for glory in a dragon boat race, was lauded for its warmth and spirit and became the sole Hong Kong production to break the HK$10 million ($1.28 million) mark at the summer box office, which was crowded with Hollywood mega-blockbusters. Five members of the inspirational tale’s cast were nominated in the acting categories, including Francis Ng for best actor, Kenny Wong and Poon Chan Leung for best supporting actor, Nancy Wu for best new performer and a best supporting actress nod for Jennifer Yu, who is also a contender for best actress for her work in Distinction.

First-time helmers shine bright at this year’s Hong Kong Film Awards. In addition to Sunny Chan, who was nominated for both best director and new director, Oliver Chan is also competing in those two prestigious categories with her directorial debut Still Human, which garnered eight noms in total. Newcomer Jun Li’s transgender drama Tracey, on the other hand, went one better with nine mentions, with leading man Philip Keung’s affecting performance in the title role a front-runner in the best actor competition.

Politics have seeped into the Hong Kong Film Awards this year, too, but it is not about the eight nominations received by Chinese propaganda film Operation Red Sea. A Family Tour, co-written by exiled Chinese independent director Ying Liang, has been nominated for best screenplay. Ying has been displaced since 2012 when his docudrama When Night Falls, based on a criminal case in China about police harassment of a man who rode a bicycle without a license and his killing of six policemen as a consequence, prompted threats of Ying’s arrest from the Chinese authorities for the alleged offense of damaging China’s national image. Ying won best director honors at the Locarno Film Festival with the film and has been living in Hong Kong ever since.

The 38th Hong Kong Film Awards ceremony is set to take place April 14.

Nominations in the Major Categories:

Best Film

Three Husbands
Operation Red Sea
Still Human
Men on the Dragon
Project Gutenberg

Best Director

Fruit Chan, Three Husbands
Dante Lam, Operation Red Sea
Sunny Chan, Men on the Dragon
Oliver Chan, Still Human
Felix Chong, Project Gutenberg

Best Actor

Francis Ng, Men on the Dragon
Anthony Wong, Still Human
Chow Yun-fat, Project Gutenberg
Aaron Kwok, Project Gutenberg
Philip Keung, Tracey

Best Actress

Chloe Maayan, Three Husbands
Charlene Choi, The Lady Improper
Jennifer Yu, Distinction
Crisel Consunji, Still Human
Zhang Jingchu, Project Gutenberg