Probably no one was more surprised than its director and executive producer Peter Chan Ho-sun when his film Comrades, Almost A Love Story won in nine categories - including best film and best director - at the Hong Kong Film Awards (HKFA) on Sunday. It was a good show of giving credit where credit was due. No doubt, many of its contenders such as Hu-Du-Men and Big Bullet were noteworthy efforts as well, but as critics - and the HKFA voters - have agreed, Comrades was the best that Hong Kong had to offer. The film, which also took the awards for best actress, screenplay, supporting actor, cinematography, original film score, art direction and costume and design, tells the story of Lee Kiu (Maggie Cheung) and Siu-kwun (Leon Lai Ming), who are transplanted to Hong Kong in the mid-1980s and find that its streets are not paved with gold. Chan himself later said he had expected 'at most four or five' awards. After all, never before had any film won this many awards in the HKFA's 16-year history. Three films has previously won six awards. The first was Yim Ho's Homecoming which won for best film, director, screenplay, actress, newcomer and art direction, at the 4th Hong Kong Film Awards in 1985. The next was Derek Yee's tearjerker C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri in 1994 which took the statuettes for best film, director, screenplay, actress, supporting actor, and supporting actress. Last year, it was Ann Hui's Summer Snow which swept the board with all six major categories: film, director, screenplay, actor, actress, and supporting actor. All four films share a lot in common. Besides a strong storyline, there were some marvellous performances from the actors - in the case of Comrades, a startlingly good one from Canto-pop idol Lai, although he lost out in the best actor category. Perhaps more notable is that these films have neither the gratuitous violence nor sex that seems to have assailed the Hong Kong film industry. Yet they were not extraordinarily expensive to make, especially if one holds Jackie Chan's $200 million extravaganzas as a measuring stick, and they were all commercial successes. Most of Chan's films, which include the hit He's A Woman, She's A Man, have been successful commercial ventures. He makes no secret of this. 'Movie-making is a business. You can only be an artist in a commercially viable situation,' he said, in an earlier interview with the South China Morning Post. 'Sure, you have to take risks, but only if they're calculated ones . . . a lot of people think we give up our own values to make movies for the audience. But it's not the case.' The point might perhaps be that artistry and commercial success need not be two separate extremes, as not only these award winners but also a handful of other directors have proven. Films such as Young And Dangerous is making a killing (no pun intended) in places such as Japan and South Korea - where a lot of the film investors seem to be - which should have provided good capital for better follow-ups. But does the industry really need a fourth instalment on the misadventures of a group of young triad punks - even if they do have hearts of gold? Or even films such as Sexy And Dangerous that are written, filmed and produced in less than one month? The territory is the world's third largest producer of films in the world, behind India and Hollywood. Perhaps it is time the industry started taking its position seriously and took a good hard look at what it wants to achieve and whether it is willing to pay the price to get it.