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Best Foreign Language Film Oscar contenders from Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan were among the winners at this weekend's Golden Horse Awards -- effectively the Oscars of the Chinese-speaking film industry. And while there were some heavy-hitting auteurs in the running for top honors (Wong Kar-wai, Jia Zhang-ke, Johnnie To and Tsai Ming-liang among them), it was ultimately a modest debut feature that won out, as young Singaporean director Anthony Chen's gentle family drama "Ilo Ilo" took four awards, including Best Picture.
It's not the first big win for Chen's charming film, which also upended higher-profile works to take the Camera d'Or at Cannes in May, and won the Sutherland Award at last month's London Film Festival. So its triumph this weekend isn't too surprising, especially when you take into consideration that this year's Golden Horse jury was headed by Ang Lee -- just the person you'd expect to respond to "Ilo Ilo"'s quiet, bittersweet humanism. I've been wondering if Academy voters might feel the same way; this very accessible film is a dark horse to watch in the foreign race.
In terms of numbers, the biggest victor was Wong Kar-wai's martial arts extravaganza "The Grandmaster" -- with four of its six prizes, inevitably, going to its dazzling below-the-line contributions. Zhang Ziyi took Best Actress for the local blockbuster, which also, somewhat obviously, landed the Audience Choice Award.
There were stray wins for China's Oscar submission "Back to 1942" and Taiwan's entry "Soul." Meanwhile, Best Director and Best Actor went a Taiwanese film that exists on a different planet entirely to the Oscar race: Tsai Ming-liang's despairing, almost non-narrative portrait of a destitute family, "Stray Dogs," won the Grand Prix at Venice (plus the adulation of critics) for its brazenly long takes and the heroic, tear-streaked cabbage-eating of leading man Lee Kang-sheng. I'm agnostic, but it sure is an imposing directorial feat.
The full list of winners:
Best Picture: "Ilo Ilo"
Best Director: Tsai Ming-liang, "Stray Dogs"
Best Actor: Lee Kang-sheng, "Stray Dogs"
Best Actress: Zhang Ziyi, "The Grandmaster"
Best Supporting Actor: Xuejian Li, "Back to 1942"
Best Supporting Actress: Yeo Yann-yann, "Ilo Ilo"
Best Original Screenplay: "Ilo Ilo"
Best Adapted Screenplay: "So Young"
Best New Director: Anthony Chen, "Ilo Ilo"
Best New Actor: Shu-yau Kuo, "Step Back to Glory"
Best Documentary: "Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above"
Best Short Film: "Butter Lamp"
Best Cinematography: "The Grandmaster"
Best Art Direction: "The Grandmaster"
Best Costume Design and Makeup: "The Grandmaster"
Best Film Editing: "A Touch of Sin"
Best Original Score: "A Touch of Sin"
Best Original Song: "I Love You" from "Rock Me to the Moon"
Best Sound Effects: "Soul"
Best Visual Effects: "The Grandmaster"
Best Action Choreography: "JC Stunt Team"
Audience Choice Award: "The Grandmaster"
FIPRESCI Prize: "Rigor Mortis"
Outstanding Taiwanese Filmmaker: Yeh-Ju Feng
Lifetime Achievement Award: Chen Chen