The Hong Kong Film Awards took place on April 18th this year (2010), and Teddy Chen’s Bodyguards and Assassins (2009) walked off with the key awards for best picture, best director, and best cinematographer. However, it was films with more modest budgets that picked up accolades at both the Hong Kong Film Awards and key European film festivals this season. Alex Law’s Echoes of the Rainbow (2009), which had some financing from Hong Kong’s Film Development Fund, won for best screenplay, best actor (Simon Yam), best new performer (Aarif Lee) and best original song. The film was fresh from the Berlin International Film Festival where it won a very different sort of award, a Crystal Bear in the Generation Kplus category, an award given by a jury of young moviegoers.
Photo courtesy of Singtao.com. Kara Hui and Simon Yam pocketed awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards ceremony respectively for At the End of Daybreak and Echoes of the Rainbow.
Ho Yuhang’s At the End of Daybreak (2009) also proved lucky for Kara Hui (Ying-Hung), who won the Hong Kong Film Award for best actress on April 18th. Hui, of course, had won the award before for Liu Chia-Liang’s My Young Auntie (1981) at the ceremony in 1982, and it was a particularly poignant moment when she won again with Liu (Lau Kar Leung) in attendance to accept his own life achievement award. While Hui had won at the Asian Film Awards and the Golden Horse Awards for best supporting actress, she was elevated at the Hong Kong awards to simply “best actress,” in a role as an alcoholic single mother to a grown son that brought her far from her days as a young kung fu firebrand. This Malaysian film with Hong Kong talent won the NETPAC (Network for Promotion of Asian Cinema) award for best Asian film at the Locarno Film Festival in August. Again, as in the case of Echoes of the Rainbow, the film won a special competition outside the main awards. In Locarno, for example, another Chinese-language film Guo Xiaolu’s erotic adventure of a young woman who journeys from the PRC to the UK, She, A Chinese (2009), won the Golden Leopard, the festival’s top honor. Hong Kong films and talent garner special awards, but they are not in the spotlight in the major competitions.
At the End of Day Break, photo courtesy Golden Scene
Specialty festivals, such as the Udine Far East Film Festival in northern Italy, consistently feature Hong Kong productions. That festival opened with Edmond Pang Ho Cheung’s slasher Dream Home this spring; however, Udine’s commitment to Asian popular genre cinemas puts it in a very different category. In fact, it seems like a long time since Wong Kar Wai won the best director award at Cannes for Happy Together (1997) and Tony Leung won there as well for In the Mood for Love (2000) or Maggie Cheung won the Silver Bear at Berlin for her performance in Center Stage (1992). Even more recently, in 2006, Hong Kong films (Tsui Hark’s Seven Swords and Peter Chan’s Perhaps Love) opened and closed the Venice Film Festival. However, as interest in Chinese-language film continues to grow, the numbers of Hong Kong films lauded at major festivals shrinks. Certainly, this can be directly attributed to diminishing production figures—fewer films produced mean fewer films to consider. However, other, even more modest, film cultures manage to maintain a significant international presence, and, within the festival circuit, box-office returns, domestic reception, and production costs have little weight in programming decisions.