'A Simple Life,' 'Flying Swords' Take Top Honors at Hong Kong Film Awards

Ann Hui's drama won five awards including best film and best director, while Tsui Hark’s innovative martial arts film garnered five nods in the technical categories.

HONG KONG – Director Ann Hui’s A Simple Life and Tsui Hark’s The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate split the 31st Hong Kong Film Awards with five nods each. Hui’s drama made a clean sweep in the major categories, winning best film, director for Hui, screenplay, actress for Deanie Ip and actor for Andy Lau; while Tsui’s innovation in his 3D martial arts extravaganza paid off in the technical categories.

This marked Hui’s fourth best director win at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Her 1995 film, Summer Snow, was the only other film in the awards’ history to have won in all five major categories. A Simple Life has blazed an award-winning trail since its Venice debut last September, garnering accolades in Venice, Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards, and the Asian Film Awards. A commercial as well as critical hit, the film has grossed over HK$26 million ($3.3 million) in Hong Kong, and 68 million yuan ($10.8 million) in China. The heavily favored Ip’s portrayal of a maid has won her first Hong Kong Film Awards statuette after two previous nominations, while Lau’s win marked his third time of being named best actor at the Hong Kong Film Awards.  Lau, who is one of the backers of the film through his Focus Films, along with China’s Bona Film Group, also has the distinction of nabbing best film for the second year in a row, after last year’s winner, Gallants.

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Tsui’s The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, a blockbuster in China with a 560 million yuan ($89 million) gross, took home awards in best action choreography, art direction, editing, visual effects and sound effects categories.  The ten awards garnered by the two films marked a triumph for China’s Bona Film Group, which also produced the best film nominee Overheard 2. The films has grossed over 1 billion yuan ($159 million) in the Greater China region, Bona chairman Yu Dong said when accepting the best film award.

While A Simple Life swept up the lead acting awards, two veteran television actors gained recognition for their work in the supporting roles in Johnnie To’s Life Without Principle. So Hang-Shuen, a character actress making her third big screen appearance after four decades of television work, was unable to personally receive the best supporting actress awards due to an illness that saw her hospitalized. Her counterpart, Lo Hoi-pang, the television character actor and comedian specializing in sketch comedies who has been popular since the 1970s, won the first film-acting award in his career.

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Unsurprisingly, the focus of the award ceremony was drawn to the state of the Hong Kong film industry, with hosts, presenters and winners urging Hong Kong filmmakers to return and revitalize the local industry. Best director winner Ann Hui pledged to “do more for Hong Kong,” the city where she grew up and was educated in, and has drawn inspiration throughout her career; while best actor and best film recipient Andy Lau wondered aloud in his acceptance speech whether his contribution to the Hong Kong film industry had anything to do with his third acting win. But the most telling was the reaction given by host Gordon Lam, who produced last year’s best film winner, Gallants, when asked during an onstage banter about the record-breaking success of Taiwan’s You Are the Apple of My Eye, which won the inaugural best film of Mainland and Taiwan award.  “Embarrassing,” Lam said, before pleading Hong Kong filmmakers to create more and better scripts for the local market.

So it was fitting for the Lifetime Achievement Award to go to novelist and screenwriter Ngai Hong (also known as Ni Kuang), arguably the most prolific Chinese-language writer in history, whose enormous productivity and discipline has seen him famously writing 20,000 words per day for decades. Ngai has written over the screenplay or the original novel of over 300 films since the 1960s, including the Bruce Lee starrers The Big Boss (1971) and Fist of Fury (1972), and Shaw Brothers classic One-Armed Swordsman (1967).

Complete list of winners:

Best Film: A Simple Life

Best Director: Ann Hui, A Simple Life

Best Actress: Deanie Ip, A Simple Life

Best Actor: Andy Lau, A Simple Life

Best Supporting Actress: So Hang-shuen, Life Without Principle

Best Supporting Actor: Lo Hoi-pang, Life Without Principle

Best Newcomer: Jam Hsiao, The Killer who Never Kills

Best New Director: Tsang Tsui-shan, Big Blue Lake

Best Action Choreography: The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Best Art Direction: The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Best Cinematography: Wu Xia

Best Costume Design: Let the Bullets Fly

Best Editing: The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Best Original Score: Wu Xia

Best Original Film Song: Hi, Fidelity

Best Visual Effects: The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Best Sound Effects: The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Best Screenplay: Susan Chan, A Simple Life

Best Film of Mainland and Taiwan: You Are the Apple of My Eye

Lifetime Achievement Award: Ngai Hong, novelist and screenwriter

Professional Achievement Award: Fong Ho-yuen, production still photographer