Asia In Cinema will be holding its Hong Kong Film Awards Live Blog on Sunday, July 17th, at 19:30 Hong Kong time.

See the full list of nominees here

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over three years since we’ve done a Hong Kong Film Awards Live Blog. More so than the rest of the world, Hong Kong has changed dramatically since the last time the Hong Kong film industry got together to celebrate its own. If you don’t know what’s happened in Hong Kong since April 2019, maybe you’re reading the wrong blog. 

Due to the pandemic, the Hong Kong film industry is in an incredibly tough place. Many unreleased films are being held back, afraid of facing another cinema shutdown by the COVID-zero chasing authorities. There are still some productions going on, but it’s hard to imagine lots of confidence when not a single Hong Kong film broke the HK$1 million mark (US$127,000) at the box office in the first half of 2022.

(For reference, TOP GUN MAVERICK just cracked HK$90 million here)

So it’s possible that this edition of the Hong Kong Film Awards is the most important one that’s ever been held. During its biggest crisis yet, it’s good for the industry to show some proof of life, to let its filmmakers get together and celebrate the miracle that films are still being made in this city, and some of them are actually good. 

So, after a three-month delay due to the 5th wave of the pandemic, the 40th Hong Kong Film Awards is finally happening this Sunday, July 17th. Despite the pandemic pretty much stalling much of the Hong Kong film industry, combining 2020 and 2021 Hong Kong film releases in the same award ceremony has created a pretty competitive pool of nominees. 

To recap, Soi Cheang’s LIMBO (智齒) leads the pack with 14 nominations, which is a nomination in nearly every category (It missed Best Supporting Actor, for one). However, aside from the some technical awards, it’s hard to imagine a majority of the industry showing support for this unrelentingly dark film. 

Instead, expect the voter base – especially the older ones – to show support for ZERO TO HERO (媽媽的神奇小子), the biopic about Paralympic gold medalist So Wa Wai. After all, the industry bigwigs chose the film to represent the city at the Oscars last year (it didn’t get shortlisted), Sandra Ng’s camp has done plenty to keep her in the spotlight (while promoting the delayed release of CHILI LAUGH STORY (闔家辣)), and it was a box office dark horse that even outgrossed RAGING FIRE (怒火) at the box office. 

On the other hand, I expect Benny Chan to pick up a posthumous Best Director prize for RAGING FIRE. Chan’s biggest opponent is expected to be Peter Chan Ho-sun, whose LEAP (奪冠) picked up a surprisingly low three nominations (without a Best Film nod!). 

Personally, I would like to see either Jun Li or Man Lim Chung win Best New Director for social drama DRIFTING (濁水漂流) or Ann Hui documentary KEEP ROLLING (好好拍電影), respectively. It’s the most competitive category of the night, and I think it’s the only category where either film has a chance of picking up an award. 

One category that is impossible to predict at this moment is Best New Performer. I know Sandra Ng is the frontrunner for Best Actress, but Louise Wong still deserves recognition for taking on one of the biggest pop stars in Hong Kong’s music history and make it out intact. However, the ANITA (梅艷芳) star is up against Leung Chung Hang and Fung Ho Yeung, who both played So Wa Wai (quite well, if I may add) in ZERO TO HERO. Add DRIFTING’s Will Or and Chung Suet Ying from TIME (殺出個黃昏) to the mix, and you have five nominees who could legitimately win this category. 

As for what we can expect from the show? I predict lots of riffing among presenters and hosts (I don’t even know who’s hosting the show, by the way). Since it’s being produced by local broadcaster Viu TV, we may see the network’s production/artiste management offshoot Makerville do something. Perhaps Chairman Derek Yee will give some time to let winners of the 39th Hong Kong Film Awards – whose results were quickly announced on YouTube without an acceptance speech back in April 2020 – take the stage for their time in the spotlight. 

(For what it’s worth, I know that one 39th HKFA winner who left Hong Kong has just returned to the city for a short visit. Coincidence?)

No matter what happens, we should all just breathe a sigh of relief that we finally get to do the Hong Kong Film Awards again.