Taiwan calls for film awards to be scrapped after poor haul

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 November, 2012, 3:46am

Taiwan's failure to win more awards at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival has triggered debate on the island, including among lawmakers, about whether the half-century-old regional gala should be stopped.

Hong Kong and mainland films dominated the 49th annual awards show - considered the Chinese-language Oscars - on Saturday. Of the 23 awards, four went to Taiwan, including best new director and best actress.

Among the non-Taiwanese winners, Hong Kong's Johnnie To Kei-fung won best director for Life Without Principle, and Sean Lau Ching-wan was named best actor for his role in the same movie. The mainland's Liang Jing won best supporting actress for Design of Death, and mainland production Beijing Blues was awarded best picture.

Local media described it as the island's worst setback at the event in 20 years, and frustrated Taiwanese film lovers have lashed out at the panel of judges, questioning their fairness.

Taiwan's showing was so poor that some opposition lawmakers from the Democratic Progressive Party have called for the event to be scrapped.

"The original purpose of the Golden Horse Awards was to encourage development of the local film industry, but now the local film industry is losing its uniqueness," DPP lawmaker Kuan Bi-ling told the legislature.

She said the festival should be terminated to give way to a new awards system to spur the development of the local film industry.

Some Democratic Progressive Party legislators also alleged that the Ministry of Culture - headed by Lung Ying-tai, who worked in Hong Kong for seven years - was not doing enough for the film industry.

However, some Taiwanese movie directors and producers defended the awards.

"Do they want to throw away a cash cow?" said acclaimed director Hou Hsiao-hsien, adding that the Golden Horse awards were the highest-rated and fairest in the Chinese-speaking world.

Lung called for critics to be open-minded, saying there were winners and losers in every competition. She pointed to the Venice festival, where Italians did not complain if awards went to foreigners. To encourage local movies, she said, the public should watch more domestic films.