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Hong Kong films defy warnings with strong Golden Horse presence

Crime thriller “Limbo” leads the pack at the Golden Horse Film Awards in a strong showing for Hong Kong despite veiled warnings from Chinese authorities against joining the prestigious Taiwan-based event.

Dubbed the Chinese-language Oscars, this Saturday’s Golden Horse awards are now in the fourth straight year without any mainstream Chinese films due to political tensions between Beijing and Taipei.

Most Chinese and Hong Kong A-listers who used to fill the red carpet have shunned the event after a Taiwanese director voiced support for the island’s independence in an acceptance speech in 2018.

China claims the self-ruled democratic island as part of its territory and has long blacklisted Taiwanese entertainers for any perceived support for independence.

There were no mainland films in the 2019 nomination list and several Hong Kong movies dropped out that year, while big commercial productions were conspicuously absent at both the 2020 and 2021 awards.

This year marks something of a shift with seven Hong Kong films in the running, including five features and two documentaries, in what organisers described as “the best showing in five years” for the city.

Five indie works from China are also contending, although there is still no submission of a feature-length film or major commercial release.

– ‘Think twice’ –

Just days before the nominations were announced in September, the Hong Kong Motion Picture Industry Association urged members to “think twice” about getting involved in the Golden Horse awards, describing them as “gradually politicised”.

Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office echoed that disapproval, saying it supported cultural exchanges with Taiwan but “for activities that have political overtones, it’s a different matter”.

Black-and-white crime noir “Limbo”, which has the most nods at 14, is vying for best picture against another Hong Kong drama “The Sunny Side of the Street” and three Taiwanese films.

But it is unclear if many of the Hong Kong or Chinese nominees will travel to Taipei.

Cya Liu, nominated for best actress in “Limbo”, has confirmed via her Hong Kong agency that she will not attend the ceremony, without giving any reasons.

“I think they want to win but in the current political environment it’s probably inevitable that neither the director nor the cast will be present” except for Taiwanese-American actor Mason Lee, film critic Wonder Weng told AFP.

Mason Lee is the son of Oscar-winning Taiwanese director Ang Lee, who is a staunch Golden Horse supporter and regularly chairs its jury, a role that is taken up by veteran Hong Kong director Ann Hui this year.

“It would be really awkward… if a film that is recognised with 14 nominations does not appear to support, or even boycott” the event, said Weng of Taiwan’s Film Critics Society.

Soi Cheang, who is nominated for best director for “Limbo”, declined an AFP request for comment.

– ‘A door for independent films’ –

The Golden Horse awards have…

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