TAIPEI (Reuters) – The absence of China was a “loss” at this year’s Golden Horse Awards, the Chinese-speaking world’s version of the Oscars, director Ang Lee said on Saturday, after Beijing ordered a boycott following controversy last year.
China’s film regulator said in August it was blocking the country’s movie industry from participating in Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards without a giving a reason, in the latest sign of rising tensions between Beijing and the Chinese-claimed island.
The move came after the annual event caused uproar last year in China and amongst Chinese stars at the ceremony when Taiwanese director Fu Yue made comments in support of Taiwan’s formal independence.
“This is not easy to comment on, everyone knows that. Of course it is a loss, which can be seen on the red carpet or in the works participating in the film festival,” said Taiwan-born Oscar-winner Lee, who is the festival’s chairman.
“Of course, the best works, I personally think that they are just as good as in previous years, we still have very good works this year,” he added.
“We of course feel regret due to fewer (movies and participants) this year but our arms are opened forever, as long as you are a Chinese-speaking movie director we are welcoming you.”
Taiwanese director Chung Mong-hong’s family drama “A Sun” and fellow Taiwanese director John Hsu’s psychological horror “Detention” were the biggest winners on Saturday night, in a ceremony largely devoid of politics.
Hsu made brief mention of the months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, which are being closely followed in democratic Taiwan, saying that because of these events “we cannot forget how we achieved our freedom”.
This is the first time no Chinese films have been nominated since 1996, the year Jiang Wen’s “In The Heat Of The Sun” became the first film from China to participate in the event.
Beijing has been using the international stage to assert its sovereignty over the island amid rising Chinese pressure, which also includes military drills. Taipei has repeatedly denounced what it sees as Chinese moves aimed at manipulating the island’s presidential and legislative elections in January.
The Golden Horse Awards were founded in 1962 and is considered one of the most prestigious awards in the Chinese-speaking film industry, with submissions mainly coming from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
This year there was also submissions from Southeast Asia.
Last year, Chinese movie “Dying to Survive” won and was nominated in 7 award categories, while Chinese director Zhang Yimou won best director for his period film “Shadow”.
Reporting by Fabian Hamacher; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Sandra Maler