The prestigious Golden Horse Awards announced Wednesday that it will hold its annual ceremony in Taiwan on the same day this year as China’s Communist-backed Golden Rooster Awards – which virtually assures that no major mainland Chinese talent will attend the event known as Asia’s Oscars on November 23.
Hong Kong director Johnnie To will act as chairman of the Golden Horse jury, the festival said. He has been nominated eight times for the best director award and won it on three occasions: in 2000 for “The Mission,” 2004 for “Breaking News” and 2012 for “Life Without Principle.”
He thanked director Ang Lee, head of last year’s executive committee, for the invitation, saying: “The Golden Horse Awards are the most prestigious awards in the Chinese-language cinema and a very important recognition that my films have received. Before I’m awarded another prize, I feel honored to have this chance to offer my services.”
But the clout of the pan-Asian awards for the best works of Chinese-language cinema may diminish without China’s involvement.
The mainland’s participation in the awards was thrown into question last year after a winner set off a political firestorm by expressing strong pro-Taiwanese independence views in her acceptance speech. “I really hope that, one day, our country can be treated as a truly independent entity,” director Fu Yue said onstage as she picked up the prize for best documentary for her film about youth involved in pro-democracy and independence movements. “This is my greatest wish as a Taiwanese person.”
The remarks incited strong anger from the mainland, which considers the democratic, self-governed island as part of its territory. Veteran actress Gong Li subsequently refused to get up and present an award, in a move seen as a protest against Fu’s remarks. Chinese attendees were immediately ordered by mainland authorities to beat a hasty retreat from the proceedings, and left in droves without attending a planned reception just afterwards.
Typically, China has won big at the Taipei-based awards ceremony. Mainland directors accounted for all the nominees in last year’s best director category, with Zhang Yimou taking the prize for “Shadow,” which swept up 12 nominations and four wins. The hit film “Dying to Survive” won its director Wen Muye and male lead Xu Zheng top honors, while Chinese director Hu Bo’s “An Elephant Sitting Still” won for best film.
It remains to be seen whether the Golden Horse Awards will nominate mainland talent who may not attend the ceremony this year. The full list of nominees and the rest of the jury will be announced Oct. 1.
Earlier this month, the Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival announced that it had found a permanent home in the coastal city of Xiamen. It is set to take place November 19-23.