Golden Horse Awards: Singapore's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar submission wins Best Picture
Surprisingly, the 2013 Golden Horse Award for Best Picture was given to 29-year-old Singaporean director Anthony Chen's feature film debut Ilo Ilo at a ceremony held Saturday night, Nov. 23, in Taipei. Four rounds of voting were needed for jury members to reach their decision.
“Singapore is a very little country and we made this film with a small budget,” said the London-based Chen in his acceptance speech, “so we never dreamed of winning a Best Picture prize. The other nominees are the masters I learned from when I was in film school, so I'm very honored and thankful to them too.”
The directors of Ilo Ilo's fellow Best Picture contenders – and Anthony Chen's “masters” – were Johnnie To, for Drug War; Wong Kar-Wai, for The Grandmaster; Tsai Ming-liang, for Stray Dogs; and absentee Jia Zhangke, for A Touch of Sin – which has yet to open in China, apparently due to government foot-dragging.
Besides its Best Picture win, Ilo Ilo also took home Golden Horse Awards for Best Debut Director Chen, Best Original Screenplay (also Anthony Chen), and Best Supporting Actress (Yeo Yann Yann).
Set in Singapore during Asia's 1997 financial crisis, Ilo Ilo portrays the deepening bond between a 10-year-old Singaporean boy (Koh Jia Ler) and his Filipino caretaker (Angeli Bayani). Meanwhile, the boy's parents (Chen Tianwen and Yeo Yann Yann) attempt to save both their marriage and their finances. Chen's screenplay was inspired by his own experiences as a little boy.
A mere two years ago, flat broke and with no career prospects, Anthony Chen considered abandoning his dream of becoming a filmmaker to take up either a teaching position or a government job. His wife came to the rescue. “She used to say that Ang Lee's wife supported him for seven years,” he told China's Central News Agency, “but we have only been married for four. That means you still have three years.”
The Camera d'Or winner at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival – in fact, the first Singaporean film to win any award at Cannes – Ilo Ilo is also Singapore's entry for the 2014 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.
More Golden Horse Awards 2013 winners
Among the other 2013 Golden Horse Award winners were Best Actor Lee Kang-sheng and Best Director Tsai Ming-liang for the drama Stray Dogs, the deliberately paced story of an alcoholic man and his two children in the streets of Taipei. A few months ago, Stray Dogs received the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. Also: Li Xuejian was the Best Supporting Actor for Back to 1942, Kuo Shu-yau was the Best New Performer for Step Back to Glory, and Jackie Chan walked away with the Golden Horse for Best Action Choreography for the blockbuster CZ12.
The Golden Horse for Best Adapted Screenplay was handed to Li Qiang for So Young, Chi Po-lin's popular Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above was the Best Documentary, while the Lifetime Achievement Award went to Taiwanese actress Chen Chen (a.k.a. Zhen Zhen), who was featured in more than 60 films – including Everlasting Glory, Love in Hawaii, and Women in Love – between 1966 and her retirement from films in 1984.
Ziyi Zhang: Golden Horse Awards Best Actress
Although Anthony Chen's Ilo Ilo took home the top award at the 50th Golden Horse Awards, Wong Kar-Wai's Berlin Film Festival opening gala film The Grandmaster was this year's big winner: six awards, including the Best Actress trophy for Ziyi Zhang. That marked Zhang's first victory, after three previous nominations: Best Actress for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon in 2000 and for 2046 in 2004; Best Supporting Actress for Forever Enthralled in 2009.
“It was a very long and suffering journey making The Grandmaster, but now I'm very happy,” Zhang said in her acceptance speech. In Wong's Hong Kong-Chinese martial arts drama she plays the daughter of a fighting master, who, so as to restore her family's honor, challenges grandmaster Ip Man (Tony Leung) to a “duel.” The Grandmaster is Hong Kong's submission for the 2014 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
Ang Lee, Best Director Academy Award winner for Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi and Ziyi Zhang's director in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, was this year's jury Chair. No less than 265 films with at least partial Chinese-language dialogue were submitted.
Via Fox International's Star Chinese Movies channel, the Golden Horse Awards ceremony was broadcast live for the first time in the U.S. and six other English-speaking territories.
Golden Horse Awards (partial list)
Drug War (China / Hong Kong)
The Grandmaster (Hong Kong / China)
* Ilo Ilo (Singapore)
Stray Dogs (Taiwan)
A Touch of Sin (China / Japan)
Chung Mong-hong, Soul
Jia Zhangke, Touch of Sin
Johnnie To, Drug War
* Tsai Ming-liang, Stray Dogs
Wong Kar-Wai, The Grandmaster
Best Debut Director
* Anthony Chen, Ilo Ilo
Hsu Chao-jen, Together
Longman Leung and Sunny Luk, Cold War
Juno Mak, Rigor Mortis
Zhao Wei, So Young
Nick Cheung, Unbeatable
* Lee Kang-sheng, Stray Dogs
Tony Leung Chiu-wai, The Grandmaster
Tony Leung Ka-fai, Cold War
Jimmy Wang, Soul
Sammi Cheng, Blind Detective
Gwei Lun-mei, Christmas Rose
Cherry Ngan, The Way We Dance
Shu Qi, Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
* Zhang Ziyi, The Grandmaster
Best Supporting Actor
Chen Tian Wen, Ilo Ilo
Huang Bo, Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
* LI Xuejian, Back to 1942
Eddie Peng, Unbeatable
Tong Dawei, American Dreams in China
Best Supporting Actress
Crystal Lee, Unbeatable
Lin Mei-hsiu, To My Dear Granny
Susan Shaw, Tales from the Dark Part 1
Xue Hong, Longing for the Rain
* Yeo Yann Yann, Ilo Ilo
Best New Performer
Dong Zijian, Young Style
Huang Shao-yang, Together
Koh Jia Ler, Ilo Ilo
* Kuo Shu-yau, Step Back to Glory
Yang Liang-yu, A Time in Quchi
Best Original Screenplay
* Anthony Chen, Ilo Ilo
Robert Chou, Zhang Ji, and Aubrey Lam, American Dreams in China
Arthur Chu, To My Dear Granny
Jia Zhangke, A Touch of Sin
Wai Ka-fai, Yau Nai-hoi, Ryker Chan, and Yu Xi, Drug War
Best Adapted Screenplay
Stephen Chow and Derek Kwok, Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
* Li Qiang, So Young
Liu Zhenyun, Back to 1942
Nagao Nakashima, Soul
Lu Yue, Back to 1942
Yu Like Wai, A Touch of Sin
* Philippe Le Sourd, The Grandmaster
Liao Pen Jung, Shong Won Chong, and Lu Qing Xin, Stray Dogs
Bridge Over Troubled Water
* Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above
Audience Choice Award
The Grand Master
Outstanding Taiwanese Filmmaker of the Year
* Yeh Ju-Feng
Lifetime Achievement Award
Partial list of Golden Horse Award winners and nominees + Anthony Chen and Ziyi Zhang 2013 Golden Horse Awards quotes via The Hollywood Reporter.
Ziyi Zhang The Grandmaster image: Bona Film Group.
Angeli Bayani and Koh Jia Ler Ilo Ilo image: Memento Films International.