Note: Asia in Cinema will hold its annual Golden Horse Awards Live Blog on Saturday, November 19th starting at 7pm Taiwan time (GMT+8).
The 59th Golden Horse Awards will be available for viewing worldwide on YouTube (except in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei)
Since the Hong Kong government confirmed that national security will be a consideration when approving films for release, people have been crying foul about the end of Hong Kong cinema as we know it and the death of unbridled creativity, supposedly the very thing that made Hong Kong cinema so great.
Yet, 2022 has been one of the most commercially successful years for Hong Kong cinema in recent memory, and yet, Taiwan, supposedly the freest place in the Chinese-speaking world, continues to see its film industry limp along as local audiences won’t show up to local films and top-tiered competition festivals won’t play its films. Sure, Netflix has been aggressively buying Taiwanese films, but they’re overshadowed by Korean content and these deals also means we can’t buy the films on physical media.
As China’s ban from the Golden Horse continues, the Golden Horse Awards remains the premier platform for the year’s best Taiwanese films and Chinese-language films from other places. Even as China and Hong Kong’s local pro-establishment film industry body try to dissuade Hong Kong filmmakers from participating, this year sees Hong Kong’s strongest showing at the Golden Horse in years. Hell, this year’s jury president is Ann Hui, who is now old enough to not give a hoot about any threat of a ban in the Mainland.
Perhaps the most shocking film to be among the Best Narrative Film nomination is Sci Cheang’s LIMBO (智齒) – not because the film isn’t good enough for its 14 nominations, but because it was originally a Hong Kong-Mainland co-production. The film was never released in the Mainland, and according to the nomination list, Sun Entertainment Culture is listed as its sole representative. Now we know who submitted the film, but it seems likely that nearly all of its nominees – with the exception of Taiwan-based Mason Lee – will not show up at the awards. At least Mainland-born Cya Liu, who did show up in Hong Kong to take her Hong Kong Film Award, has confirmed that she will not attend the Golden Horse.
Also representing Hong Kong in Best Narrative Film is drama THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET (白日青春), the directorial debut of Malaysian director Lau Kok-rui. Unlike LIMBO, the film will at least see its director (who appeared at a Q&A for the film’s screening earlier this week) as well its star and Best Actor nominee Anthony Wong appear at the ceremony.
Also representing Hong Kong in the major categories is THE NARROW ROAD (窄路微塵), which is nominated for Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Original Score (its Best Original Song nod was withdrawn after it was revealed that its song wasn’t written for the film). Director Lam Sum – who is now based in the UK – nominee Angela Yuen and composer Wong Hin-yan are already in Taipei and will likely be at the ceremony. Very noticeably absent for now is star and first-time nominee Louis Cheung. Also, Chan Tze-woon is definitely in town to represent his nominated documentary BLUE ISLAND (憂鬱之島), which cannot be screened in Hong Kong for reasons.
Rounding out the Best Narrative Film nominees are Taiwanese films – Horror blockbuster INCANTATION (咒), Taiwanese aborigine family drama GAGA (哈勇家) and family drama COO-COO 043 (一家子兒咕咕叫). INCANTATION is probably the best Taiwanese horror film since DETENTION, and GAGA is a major creative leap for director Laha Mebow, despite its flaws. While I personally do not see Ann Hui’s jury going for the former for the top prize, Golden Horse has thrown from curve balls before, and Hui is not allergic to genre films herself.
I had been looking forward to COO-COO 043 because of director Chan Ching-lin’s previous work and the insane 13 nominations, but the word-of-mouth was not particularly strong after its festival screenings, so its award prospect doesn’t seem strong at the moment.
Other things to notice about the nominees: I don’t expect Singaporean dramedy AJOOMMA (花路阿朱媽) to take home anything, but I’m glad it’s represented here; Chang Tso-chi will break his own record for having the most Best Director nomination without a win if he loses again this year (it’ll be his 6th loss); it’s worth noting that while LIMBO is currently the highest-ranked Best Narrative Film nominee in the festival’s audience vote, thriller THE POST-TRUTH WORLD (罪後真相) and period drama UNTOLD HERSTORY (流麻溝十五號) are actually ranking higher at the moment. The former has two acting nominations, and the latter only has a Best Original Song nod.
So, without any other heavyweight contender, LIMBO is expected to take home a few awards, and expect more criticisms about how the Golden Horse has lost its credibility without any major Mainland titles competing. But with the Mainland film industry seemingly isolating itself (likely against the filmmakers’ will, mind you) from the global film community and still facing uncertainty under the country’s strict zero-COVID policy, what else can the Golden Horse Awards do other than what they have done over the years – watch the submitted films, pick a professional jury that awards what they think are the best films, and screen the nominees for the paying public? Instead of picking at what aren’t there, maybe it’s time for everyone to take a more serious look at the Taiwanese film industry and give them the support they deserve, because I truly cannot imagine what would happen to Chinese cinema at large if we lose the Taiwanese film industry or the Golden Horse Awards.
On that note, see you all on Saturday night.