Revolution of Our Times winning Golden Horse Awards 'betrays' original aspiration of awards
Published: Nov 28, 2021 06:58 PM
Golden Horse Awards Photo: VCG

Golden Horse Awards Photo: VCG

When some Western media spotlighted the controversial film Revolution of Our Times winning the prize for "best documentary" at the so-called Chinese-language "Oscars", a number of Chinese filmmakers and industry observers lamented that the Golden Horse Awards have become a pathetic tool kidnapped by politics, completely betraying the original aspiration of providing tasteful products for the public. 

The 58th Golden Horse Awards gave the prize on Saturday to a documentary featuring the anti-government movement in Hong Kong in 2019 that later turned into citywide social unrest, directed by local film director Kiwi Chow Kwun-wai, according to media reports. 

The documentary Revolution of Our Times, which runs for more than two hours, features a number of violent scenes during the social unrest in 2019, including vandalizing the Legislative Council on July 1, 2019, riots at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in November 2019, and a number of street protests that turned into black-clad mobs, putting the safety of ordinary people in Hong Kong into danger and significantly damaged the city's social stability. 

While Western media outlets like the Voice of America and Reuters described the Golden Horse Awards as the "Chinese language Oscars," they also highlighted some sensational details mentioned by the director, for example, the film is dedicated to those "who have a conscience, justice and have cried for Hong Kong." 

But some Chinese filmmakers and critics told the Global Times on Sunday that they "felt sorry" for this once-glorious awards becoming a political tool for secessionist forces in Hong Kong and in Taiwan, which also serves as a "sacrificial lamb" for some politicians in the island. 

Hong Kong director and producer Wong Jing compared those film producers in the island to rioters in Hong Kong back in 2019, who were stubbornly walking on a politically motivated path, seeking to gain more financial support from the secessionist Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authority in Taiwan. 

"If the Golden Horse Awards continues on this path, it has no future," Wong told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Some film observers told the Global Times that due to the absence of filmmakers from the Chinese mainland in the past three years, the influence of the Golden Horse Film Festival in the island has been reduced from one of the most influential and representative film awards in the Chinese film industry to a poor regional film award.

Chinese mainland film authorities banned mainland movies and artists from participating in 56th Golden Horse Film Festival on the island of Taiwan in November 2019.

At the 55th Golden Horse Film Festival in 2018, Taiwan filmmaker Fu Yu's award speech supporting "Taiwan independence" outraged the Chinese public, and mainland actress Gong Li, the jury chair, expressed her opposition to Yu by refusing to take the stage and present an award.

Before the 2018 incident, the festival kept its glorious time  for its role ofwinning the hearts of many Chinese filmmakers not only in China but also in some other countries where Chinese is spoken, like Singapore. However, it now has fallen to being an award solely in the Taiwan region, Shi Wenxue, a film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times on Sunday.

"It seems only a limited number of Taiwan filmmakers are taking turns to win the awards," he added.

For example, director Chung Mong-hong's film A Sun received 11 nominations at the 56th Golden Horse Awards in 2019, winning Best Feature Film and Best Director, and in the just finished 58th Golden Horse Awards in 2021, Chung's other film The Falls won four awards and was nominated for 11.

A jaw-dropping nomination at the 58th Golden Horse Awards was that Ko Chen-tung, a Taiwan actor who was arrested for drug abuse in 2014, was nominated as the Best Leading Actor. 

"Revolution of Our Times is such a biased political work. But it has won an award, how could they care about an artist with a criminal background?" a film critic based in Shanghai, Xiao Fuqiu, said mockingly.

Veteran film and theater director Clifton Ko Chi-sum also lamented the rapidly declining reputation of the Golden Horse Awards. "They were successful in the past as they used to be an occasion of exploring artistic taste and arousing public reflection, echoing the public's entertainment need," Ko told the Global Times on Sunday. 

"Apparently, they have become increasingly biased in recent years, serving a political purpose, which completely betrayed the original intention of those awards," he said. 

Besides, the well-known Hollywood director Ang Lee will leave the position of the festival's chairman, according to media reports. Many film observers believed that Lee has become a "sacrificial lamb" for some Taiwan politicians, especially in 2018.

Such political leaning of a movie festival also reflected that society in the island has become more narrow-minded, with less inclusiveness, Ko noted. "It's like what happened in Hong Kong, which turned the artistic platform into a political platform, which is pathetic," he said. 

Different from the poor performance of Golden Horse Film Festival, the Golden Rooster Awards in the Chinese mainland are flourishing.

In 2020, the Golden Rooster Awards announced plans to add a new category - Best Foreign Language Film - to celebrate film productions worldwide.

The policies announced by the China Film Administration show that the Golden Rooster Awards have drawn intense attention by the authority, and the festival aims to expand its influence by embracing films' international nature.

"It's also worth noting how many filmmakers and producers are willing to be kidnapped by politics," Ko said.