Note: Asia in Cinema will hold its first Hong Kong Film Awards Live Blog starting at 8pm (Hong Kong Time) on Sunday, April 9th. For the second year in a row, the Hong Kong Film Awards will be streamed live to 21 countries.
This year’s Hong Kong Film Awards nomination list bears some familiar names – Johnnie To, Stephen Chow, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Francis Ng, Eric Tsang – but it also has an unusual number of young blood like Wong Chun, Stevefat, Derek Tsang, Jevons Au, Frank Hui and Vicky Wong.
The mentality of the Hong Kong film industry has always been that young people have to wait their turn and pay their dues before getting their chance at glory. Despite being the son of veteran Eric Tsang, Derek Tsang worked behind and in front of the camera for over a decade before getting his chance at a solo directorial effort last year with Soulmate (七月與安生).
(Under award rules – which count co-directorial effort as 0.5 film – Soulmate is actually Tsang’s second film as director and therefore eligible for a Best New Director nomination)
When Elanne Kong was a frontrunner for a Best Actress award for her turn in Love Lifting (高舉·愛) in 2013, one local award committee reportedly decided not to give it to her because she was too young and that giving her recognition would hurt her.
Hong Kong has always excelled at adapting to changes, and Hong Kong cinema has hit a turning point. With an older generation of veterans striking gold up north in China, a new generation of filmmakers and professionals (many of them educated locally) has flooded the industry – and their older peers are no longer hesitating to recognize their work.
Last year, the HKFA voting committee shocked the industry by handing the Best Film award to low-budget independent omnibus Ten Years (十年), all directed by filmmakers with only one or no feature film experience. The decision prompted some of the industry’s top figures to push for a revision of the award’s voting rules (the attempt was voted down). However, Ten Years’ award success was likely a political statement from the industry more than a pat on the back for its young directors.
However, things are a little different this year. Two of the Best New Director nominees – Derek Tsang and Wong Chun – are also nominated for Best Director. A third nominee – Stevefat – has a Best Film nomination with Weeds on Fire (點五步), making this year’s Best New Director race the most intense since the category was established in 2002. Such widespread recognition for films in this category is unprecedented.
With Soul Mate taking 12 nominations (more than any other film), Mad World (一念無明) and Weeds on Fire taking 8 nominations, and Trivisa (樹大招風) taking 7 nominations, one or more of these films is bound to take home a few awards on Sunday, especially after gaining so much traction over the past year at festivals and awards across the region. Does that mean that industry elders are ready to pass the torch to a new generation?
Or will the entire voting body decide that they miss Stephen Chow so much that all the awards will go to Mermaid (美人魚)? Or will Cold War 2 (寒戰2) come out as the night’s biggest winner because of its record-setting box office success?
The unpredictable nature of the Hong Kong Film Awards can only tell us one thing: Anything can happen.