2020 GOLDEN HORSE/'Classmates Minus' wins Golden Horse audience award

11/20/2020 10:16 PM
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Director Huang Hsin-yao. CNA photo Nov. 19, 2020
Director Huang Hsin-yao. CNA photo Nov. 19, 2020

Taipei, Nov. 20 (CNA) Taiwanese director Huang Hsin-yao's (黃信堯) comedy drama "Classmates Minus" won the non-competition Golden Horse Audience Choice Award at a ceremony in Taipei Friday night.

The ceremony was held at the Mandarin Oriental, Taipei a day ahead of the 57th Golden Horse Awards, which are widely considered the Oscars of Chinese language films.

The 122-minute color and black and white film is a drama set in Taiwan about four high school classmates who, through a series of events, ponder their life, aspirations and fate.

The film follows the four when they become a middle-aged director, white-collar worker, part-time office worker and paper offerings maker struggling through love, marriage and career, while also putting their friendship to the test, and examining society and human nature.

"I am very surprised. The win shows that the film resonates with audiences around northern, central, and southern (Taiwan)," Hsu said.

He expressed hopes that winning the award will help the film attract more audiences.

The film will compete Saturday night at the Golden Horse Awards, in the categories of best narrative feature, best director, best supporting actor (two nominations), best adapted screenplay, best cinematography, best art direction, best original film score, and best film editing.

Hsu is seeking his second best director win at the awards after also taking the best new director award for dark comedy "The Great Buddha+" at the 54th Golden Horse Awards.

Meanwhile, the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival's FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Prize was given to Malaysian director Chong Keat-aun's (張吉安) feature debut "The Story of Southern Islet."

Malaysian director Chong Keat-aun attends the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival. Photo courtesy of the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee
Malaysian director Chong Keat-aun attends the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival. Photo courtesy of the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee

The film is about a Chinese couple who lives near the Malaysia-Thailand border. After a quarrel with a neighbor, the husband faints and spits up blood and a rusty nail.

Desperate to find treatment for her husband, the wife begins to explore the diverse spiritual beliefs among the different ethnic groups in the region, hoping that one of them can help heal her husband.

Judges touted the film as a work that grasps the audience's attention.

"This is a fascinating debut, a well crafted cinematic journey filled with surreal images and enchanting atmosphere. The director slowly envelops the viewers with mesmerizing scenes full of mystery, strong visual sense and the portrait of a community, showing great conviction to tradition and to local culture," the jury citations said.

The FIPRESCI Prize aims to encourage outstanding Chinese-language filmmaking and young filmmakers. The Federation is an international non-governmental organization consisting of professional film critics and journalists. It has members in over 60 countries.

The film will compete Saturday night for the Golden Horse Awards for best new director and best original screenplay.

Commenting on his nomination, Chong said that he is already satisfied to be nominated.

"I think to be nominated, I have already won a prize," Chong said.

Commenting that this is his 23rd trip to Taiwan, Chong said he is happy to be here meeting new friends.

The 57th Golden Horse Awards ceremony will take place as a physical event Saturday at the National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei.

A total of 40 nominated films will compete for awards in 23 categories. A total of 465 entries were submitted to the Golden Horse Awards this year, down 123 from last year's 588, Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee CEO Wen Tien-hsiang (聞天祥) said at a press conference in Taipei to announce the nominations.

A stage design for this year
A stage design for this year's awards ceremony. Image courtesy of the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee

Wen said the drop in entries was because of the lower number of short films entered this year, but he didn't make clear whether that was due to China's boycott of the awards to express its dissatisfaction with an incident in the 2018 Golden Horse Awards ceremony when Taiwanese documentary director Fu Yu (傅榆) called for Taiwan to be treated as an "independent entity" in her acceptance speech after winning the best documentary award.

The 2019 entries were submitted before the ban had been imposed, Wen explained.

However, Wen disclosed that there were still around 100 entries from China this year.

"I cannot disclose what the films are," Wen added.

The event is able to take place mainly because Taiwan has been successful in containing COVID-19 with only 611 confirmed cases, mostly imported, and seven deaths.

Cinemas throughout the country have also remained open during the pandemic.

A group photo of 126 of the nominees this year. Photo courtesy of the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee
A group photo of 126 of the nominees this year. Photo courtesy of the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee

The annual awards, established in 1962, is considered one of the most prestigious and time-honored film awards in the world of Chinese language cinema.

(By William Yen and Chiang Yi-ching)

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