×

Leading Filmmaker Johnnie To Quits Golden Horse Awards as China Increases Pressure

Leading Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To has dropped out of the Golden Horse Awards, where he was set to be president of the jury deciding the prize winners.

The awards, which take place in and are organized in Taiwan, have long been considered the most prestigious prizes in Chinese-language cinema. However, they are currently under sustained pressure from mainland Chinese authorities, who have ordered a boycott by mainland films and talent because of an award-winner’s speech last year that advocated Taiwanese independence. China considers self-governing, democratic Taiwan as part of its rightful territory.

The Golden Horse Awards announced To’s resignation on its website and its Facebook page. It blamed To’s other work commitments and said that Taiwanese director and designer Wang Toon would take his place as jury head.

Johnnie To has resigned as the jury president for the 56th Golden Horse Awards, due to previously signed film production contractual obligations. To expresses his regret and apology for the inconvenience, while the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival executive committee and the chair, Ang Lee, show their understanding and wish the best to him,” the awards organizers said.

Last year’s speech by documentary award winner Fu Yue in favor of Taiwanese independence was quickly condemned by mainland Chinese actors in attendance, including then-jury president Gong Li, and by China’s National Film Administration, which ordered Chinese talent to immediately skip the post-awards dinner. Last month, the National Film Administration ordered a ban on Chinese participation in this year’s Golden Horse Awards and announced that China’s own Golden Rooster Awards would take place on the same day, Nov. 23, in Xiamen, directly across the Taiwan Strait.

Since then, there have been unconfirmed reports that any films taking part in this year’s Golden Horse Awards will be barred from releasing in mainland China and that stars attending the Taipei awards ceremony will be placed on a mainland Chinese blacklist.

While Hong Kong is not directly a part of the tussle between the People’s Republic and Taiwan, its own political unrest of the past three months has made the Golden Horse Awards another source of friction. Numerous Hong Kong stars and films have withdrawn from the Golden Horse Awards.

The Facebook post on To’s pullout attracted hundreds of user comments encouraging the embattled festival. Many of them simply read “Go, Golden Horse!” (or, in a literal translation, “Golden Horse, add gas!”). That is a Cantonese phrase that has become a common slogan of the Hong Kong protesters.

Another comment read: “We cherish the present, when creators can all freely express their creativity, speak their minds and not be controlled. After we’re unified [with the mainland] there’ll be no end of opportunities to create what’s politically correct.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • They Shall Not Grow Old restoration

    Peter Jackson Documentary 'They Shall Not Grow Old' Nabs Limited China Release

    The Peter Jackson produced and directed World War I documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” will hit Chinese theaters on November 11. Though it will roll out nationwide, it will do so via the China’s National Arthouse Alliance, which has limited screens. The 2018 documentary puts together interviews with WWI veterans and more than 100-year-old [...]

  • Zombieland Double Tap

    'Zombieland: Double Tap' Hopes to Recapture Raunchy Zombie Magic, 10 Years Later

    Audiences may have a few questions about the sequel to 2009’s hit “Zombieland,” which opens Friday. Why did it take 10 years to make a second one, after the first grossed $102.4 million worldwide on a $23 million budget, making it the third-biggest zombie movie of all time (second-biggest if you don’t count “Hotel Transylvania,” [...]

  • AMC TheatresShop signs, Los Angeles, America

    AMC Theatres Accused of Firing VP Who Complained of Gender Pay Gap

    A former vice president at AMC Theatres filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday, accusing the company of firing her after she complained that she was paid far less than her male peers. Tonya Mangels, who was vice president of product marketing, said that in March 2018 her supervisor inadvertently sent her a spreadsheet that included [...]

  • Sir Elton John poses for photographers

    Elton John Calls 'Lion King' Remake a 'Huge Disappointment'

    Elton John isn’t feeling the love for Disney’s latest live-action remake. In an interview with GQ U.K., the legendary musician criticized Disney’s remake of “The Lion King,” citing the film’s music as a “huge disappointment.” “The new version of The Lion King was a huge disappointment to me, because I believe they messed the music [...]

  • Fiddlin'

    Film Review: 'Fiddlin''

    Not many forms of music have “old-” actually built into their name as a prefix. So it’s a given that the practitioners of the 200-year-old genre known as “old-time music” will wear their antiquity proudly in “Fiddlin’,” a documentary set in and around the 80th annual Old Fiddler’s Convention in Galax, Va. What may not [...]

  • Jonah Hill attends the press conference

    Jonah Hill Passes on Role in 'The Batman'

    After being offered a role in “The Batman,” Jonah Hill has moved on from the project. Why exactly Hill is passing is currently unknown, and insiders tell Variety that when the news was initially reported, it was very early in the negotiations and that a deal was far from closing. The news comes after Zoe [...]

  • Daniel Kaluuya Elizabeth Moss

    SCAD Savannah Film Festival Honorees Include Daniel Kaluuya, Elisabeth Moss

    Daniel Kaluuya, Elisabeth Moss, Danielle Macdonald, Aldis Hodge, Valerie Pachner, Samantha Morton, Sienna Miller, Alan Silvestri and Olivia Wilde are set to be honored at the 22nd Annual SCAD Savannah Film Festival. Breakout Award honorees include Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Jharrel Jerome, Mena Massoud and Camila Morrone. Macdonald, who appears on Netflix in “Unbelievable” and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content