Screenwriter-director Leon Dai's Taiwanese black-and-white social-cum-family drama No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti (above), Taiwan's submission for the 2010 best foreign language film Academy Award, was the top winner at the 2009 Golden Horse Awards ceremony held Saturday evening in Taipei.
The real-life inspired tale of a poor single father who fights Taiwanese bureaucracy so as to retain custody of his daughter, No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti bagged trophies for best picture, best director, best original screenplay (Dai and best actor nominee Chen Wen-pin), and outstanding Taiwanese film of the year. (Curiously, the Taiwanese filmmaker of the year wasn't Dai, but veteran lighting designer Lee Lung-Yue.)
"I especially want to thank this piece of land, Taiwan," Dai told reporters backstage. "It's this land that nurtured this movie. And we have been working hard to use the nutrition we received to develop this land." No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti was reportedly made for less than US$200,000. In addition to his roles as director and co-screenwriter, Dai also produced and edited the film.
The biggest surprise of the evening, however, happened elsewhere.
Nick Cheung (above, upper photo) and Huang Bo (above, lower photo) tied in the best actor race – a first in the Golden Horse Awards' 46-year history. Cheung plays a former boxer who resorts to kidnapping in The Beast Stalker, while Huang plays a peasant eager to protect his dairy cow from Japanese Imperial Army soldiers in Cow.
The best actress award was given to Li Bingbing (above) for the thriller The Message, about Japanese invaders in China who try to uncover a spy hidden among their local collaborators. Co-star Zhou Xun had also been in the running.
Li, who may one day be remembered as the Greer Garson of the Golden Horse Awards, could get neither the tears nor the words to stop flowing. "I didn't expect to be recognized and I didn't think about what I would say," she remarked, and proceeded to ramble on. Twice she was cued to get off the stage, but there she remained. (Greer Garson allegedly gave the longest Oscar speech ever, back at the 1943 awards ceremony.)
Veteran Hong Kong star Wai Ying-hung was chosen best supporting actress for her performance as a single mother whose son faces rape charges in At the End of Daybreak, while Wang Xueqi was the best supporting actor for his portrayal of an old opera performer in Chen Kaige's Forever Enthralled.
Cheung King-wai's documentary about 17-year-old Hong Kong musical prodigy Ka-jeng, KJ: Music and Life (above) won three awards: best documentary, best editing and best sound effects.
"The Golden Horse Awards jurors are sending us a message," Cheung remarked, "that documentaries can compete with feature films from a technical standpoint."
Less lucky was Clara Law's romantic drama Like a Dream, which failed to win any of its nine nominations.
Photos: Huayi Brothers (The Message); Golden Horse Awards (all other images).