HK War Epic Shines in Chinese-Language ‘Oscars’

TAICHUNG ~ Hong Kong director Peter Chan Ho-sun’s 19th century war epic The Warlords won top honors at Saturday’s Golden Horse Film Awards in Taiwan, seen as the Chinese-language “Oscars.”

The Warlords, which centers around a general in imperial China who turns against his sworn brother, was named the best film while Chan was awarded best director.

But the film, nominated for 12 gongs, surprisingly missed out on most of the technical awards except of for best visual effects.

“It’s not an easy-won award,” Chan said when he got on the stage for the best director prize.

“I want to thank the audiences who went to the theatres to watch not only my film but others such as Cape No. 7. They are the hopes for Chinese-language films.”

Chan was referring to Taiwanese director Wei Te-sheng’s hit romantic drama Cape No. 7, which was pitted against The Warlords in several major categories.

Wei didn’t go home empty-handed, as the film collected best supporting actor, best original film score and best original film song prizes.

Wei also picked up a special Taiwanese filmmaker of the year award for his second feature, which was crowned outstanding Taiwanese film of the year.

“I want to thank the audiences in Taiwan who helped promote the movie by word of mouth,” said Wei, after receiving the statuettes from Oscar-winning Taiwanese director Ang Lee.

Cape No. 7, the highest-grossing Chinese-language film of all time in Taiwan, tells of a modern-day romance between an aspiring Taiwanese singer and a Japanese publicist on the island.

The film has become mired in controversy after its release in mainland China was held up over its Japanese themes, prompting an appeal from Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou.

This year saw smaller Taiwanese productions outshine their mega-budget rivals in the awards, which have long been dominated by Hong Kong and mainland Chinese films.

“The local industry had been in a long slowdown but a wave of new directors have revived it and given us hopes for Taiwanese cinema with fresh, vital films,” said Ang Lee.

Taiwanese social drama Parking and Candy Rain defeated acclaimed director John Woo’s war epic Red Cliff to collect best art direction and best makeup and costume design respectively.

The night’s biggest surprises were in the acting categories.

China’s Zhang Hanyu beat best actor favorite kung fu star Jet Li from The Warlords, for his intense performance as a soldier in the Chinese civil war drama Assembly.

US-based Hong Kong singer-turned-actress Prudence Liew was crowned best actress for playing a drug-addicted prostitute in True Women for Sale.

The Golden Horse Awards are styled on the US Academy Awards but are decided by a jury along the lines of the Cannes film festival.

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