The atmosphere on stage at the Golden Horse film awards ceremony in Taiwan on Saturday was politically-tinged. But the destination of the top prizes, at the event usually considered as the most prestigious for Chinese-language cinema, was largely predictable.
Powerful period drama, “Shadow” was the numerical winner, taking home four prizes, including best director for Zhang Yimou. “Shadow” had been the clear favorite, going in to the ceremony 12 nominations.
“An Elephant Sitting Still,” was named as best film and the audience award winner. The prize for best adapted screenplay was posthumously awarded to its mainland Chinese writer-director Hu Bo, who committed suicide in October last year, shortly after completing the movie. “Elephant” will now be entitled to a release in Taiwan, bypassing the island’s annual quota on mainland Chinese films.
Three other films won three prizes each: Taiwan’s “Dear Ex” won best actress (Hsieh Yin Xuan), best song and best film editing; mainland director Bi Gan’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” which is notable for an unbroken 40-minute 3D shot, won for cinematography, score and sound effects; while mainland China’s “Dying to Survive” picked up awards for best actor (Xu Zheng,) best new director (Wen Muye) and best screenplay. The only major prize for a film originating from Hong Kong, the Cantonese speaking territory which for decades was the leading center of Chinese commercial cinema, was Ben Yuen’s supporting actor award for “Tracey.”
While the “Dying to Survive” brand of politics – a comedy drama about a man on a crusade to import cheaper pharmaceuticals, it had an almost immediate impact on mainland Chinese government policy – is seen as just about politically correct, the more awkward kind was also on display during the five-hour ceremony.
The best documentary award went to “Our Youth in Taiwan,” a film about social activism and civil society. On stage, director Fu Yue used her platform not only to call for more theatrical releases for factual films, but also for Taiwan to be seen as an independent nation. That stance is vehemently opposed by China, which regards self-ruled Taiwan as a rebel province, with which it will inevitably be reunited, by force if necessary.
Political tensions between Mainland China and Taiwan have rarely been worse than at present. Fu’s call came at time when democratic Taiwan is in full campaigning mode only a few weeks ahead of election.
The same day as the awards show, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met with Taiwanese delegates on the sidelines of the APEC meeting in Papua New Guinea. The U.S. does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but is obliged by an act of Congress to come to the island’s defense.
Fu said she would continue her acceptance speech on Facebook, a social media platform which is banned in China. By the next morning, her comments had received nearly 10,000 likes and 8,500 comments.