Taiwanese films “A Sun” and “Detention” were the big winners of Taipei’s Golden Horse Awards on Saturday. Wang Xiaoshuai’s “So Long, My Son” was the standout title at mainland China’s rival Golden Rooster Awards, held the same evening.
The two events collided because of a pro-Taiwanese independence acceptance speech at last year’s Golden Horse Awards, which are usually considered the most prestigious film prizes in Chinese-language film. That prompted Beijing to ban mainland industry players from attending this year’s ceremony in Taiwan, threaten to cut off access to China’s enormous movie market for any others who chose to participate, and schedule its Golden Rooster ceremony for the same evening.
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The rival events offered a revealing contrast both in their choice of winners and the comments by some of the winners, who at the Golden Horse ceremony felt free to make politically oriented statements that would not have flown at the Golden Roosters.
Taiwanese films “A Sun” and “Detention” tied for the most honors at the Golden Horse Awards, with five wins apiece. “A Sun” walked away with the best narrative feature prize, as well as a best director win for Chung Mong-hong — his second, out of four nominations — and best leading and supporting actor prizes for Chen Yi-wen and Liu Kuan-ting, respectively. It also won for film editing. “Detention” earned the best new director award for filmmaker John Hsu, as well as best VFX, art direction and adapted screenplay, a category that had only three nominees this year instead of five.
A cinematic take on the popular survival horror video game of the same name from Red Candle Games, “Detention” is this year’s highest-grossing Taiwanese film and the territory’s 10th top-performing title overall, with ticket sales of $8.5 million. Set during Taiwan’s White Terror period of political persecution, the film has been banned in mainland China, both for its political subject matter and because one of Red Candle’s earlier video games contained an in-game poster that appeared to make fun of Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Malaysia’s Yeo Yann-yann won best actress for her turn as a Chinese teacher stuck in a bad, childless marriage in the Singaporean film “Wet Season,” while Winnie Chang took best supporting actress for her role in “The Teacher.” Tsai Ming-liang’s “Your Face” won best documentary, and Yeo Siew-hua nabbed a best original screenplay win for mystery thriller “A Land Imagined.”
The Golden Rooster Awards, long maligned as a government-backed event of no international consequence, mirrored the Berlin Film Festival in honoring both leads from Wang Xiaoshuai’s “So Long, My Son,” Wang Jingchun and Yong Mei, with best actor and best actress prizes. The film, a scathing, tear-jerking critique of the country’s brutal one-child policy, which was reversed in 2015, also won best screenplay.
Other Rooster choices ran counter to international accolades, however. “Red Flowers and Green Leaves,” a look at an arranged marriage of an ethnically Hui Muslim couple took the prize for best low-budget feature, beating out two titles that made it to Cannes this past May, Critics’ Week closer “Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains” and Directors’ Fortnight entry “To Live to Sing.” And “The Wind Guardians” stole the best animation crown from the Oscar long-listed “White Snake.” Sci-fi blockbuster “The Wandering Earth,” which grossed a massive $691 million in China but just $8.7 million in the rest of the world, was crowned best film.
Hong Kong director Dante Lam won best director for “Operation Red Sea,” a patriotic actioner made to laud the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. It opened in Chinese theaters back in February 2018.
Wang Zhifei was named best supporting actor for “The Bugle from Gutian,” another military-themed film made for a recent Communist anniversary, and which premiered in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, one of the centers of government power.
Newcomer Wen Muye won best directorial debut for the summer 2018 hit “Dying to Survive.” Wu Yufang won best supporting actress for “Send Me to the Clouds.”
“Us and Them,” a romantic drama directed by Taiwan’s Rene Liu — one of just two artists from the island to earn a nod at the event — received five nominations, but took home no awards.
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