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‘Assassin’ grabs 2 most coveted prizes – Hou wins top honors at Golden Horse

Taiwanese film director Hou Hsiao-hsien (fourth right), poses with the cast of his film ‘The Assassin’ after winning the Best Feature Film during the 52nd Golden Horse Film Awards in Taipei on Nov 21. (AFP)
Taiwanese film director Hou Hsiao-hsien (fourth right), poses with the cast of his film ‘The Assassin’ after winning the Best Feature Film during the 52nd Golden Horse Film Awards in Taipei on Nov 21. (AFP)

TAIPEI, Nov 22, (AFP): Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien scooped top honours at this year’s Golden Horse film awards in Taipei Saturday, with his “Assassin” winning five gongs, building on his success at Cannes earlier this year.

As expected, “The Assassin” grabbed the two most coveted prizes — best feature and best director awards — in a tense contest between 39 film nominations at the 52nd edition of the Golden Horse, touted as the Chinese-language equivalent to the Oscars.

Accepting the award for best director, 68-year-old Hou termed shooting films as his “life-time work and dream” and pledged to keep making them for the rest of his life.

“I want to thank my team for their hard work and want to thank the jury for awarding this honour,” he told stars and guests at the ceremony at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei.

“I hope I can shoot more films with the Tang Dynasty as a backdrop. I read lots of stuff about this when I was a student,” he added.

“The Assassin”, which led the field with 11 nominations, also snaffled up awards in the categories of best cinematography, best makeup/costume design, and best sound effects.


Hou was also awarded Outstanding Taiwanese Film-maker of the Year, for what organisers describe as his “achievement and uncompromised perseverance”.

Set in ninth-century China, “The Assassin” is a slow-burning minimalist movie with Taiwanese megastar Shu Qi playing a highly trained female assassin sent back to her home province to kill its governor, who is also the man she loves.

Hou won the best director category for “Assassin” at Cannes in May and has since said he is hoping the movie will garner an Oscar.

Also up for best film were “Thanatos, Drunk” from Taiwanese director Chang Tso-chi, a drama about two sons of an alcoholic mother and their dysfunctional lives; Hong Kong director Philip Yung’s crime thriller “Port of Call”; black-and-white movie “Tharlo”, the tale of a shepherd by Tibetan director Pema Tseden; and “Mountains May Depart”, a family saga from Chinese director Jia Zhang-ke.

Film critics had praised the strong field, but Hou was favourite to win.

“I’m not saying the other films are not good — they are all good, but not good enough to take on ‘The Assassin’,” Kelly Yang, a Taipei-based cinema critic, told AFP.


Hou’s foray into ancient China tapped “fundamental human nature, which is universal”, said Yang.

Shu Qi of “The Assassin” surprisingly lost to Hong Kong star Karena Lam in the contest for the best leading actress title.

Lam plays a woman struggling to cope after her fiance is killed in a car accident in “Zinnia Flower”.

“I want to thank my father in heaven. I felt he was with me while we were shooting the film,” Lam said accepting her award in tears.

Feng Xiaogang, better known as a commercial film director in China, beat Taiwan’s Lee Hong-chi to claim the best leading actor title for his role in “Mr. Six”, which tells of an old 50-something-year-old neighbourhood kingpin.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of fans arrived at the venue defying rain and screaming upon seeing their idols walking down the red carpet.

Among the stars were Taiwanese film-maker Ang Lee, Japanese actor Satoshi Tsumabuki and Korean actress Ha Ji-won.

This year’s awards list was dominated by Taiwan, which had around 40 percent of nominations, one of the best homegrown showings in recent years, when Hong Kong and China have outshone Taiwanese competitors.

Ninety-one-year-old Hong Kong actress Li Lihua, who has been twice crowned as best leading actress in the Golden Horse awards, was honoured with a lifetime achievement award.


* Best Feature Film: “The Assassin”

* Best Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien “The Assassin”

* Best Leading Actor: Feng Xiaogang “Mr. Six”

* Best Leading Actress: Karena Lam “Zinnia Flower”

* Best Supporting Actor: Michael Ning “Port of Call”

* Best Supporting Actress: Lu Xue-feng “Thanatos, Drunk”

* Best New Director: Bi Gan “Kaili Blues”

* Best New Performer: Lee Hong-chi “Thanatos, Drunk”

* Best Original Screenplay: Jia Zhang-ke “Mountains May Depart”

* Best Screenplay Adaptation: Pema Tseden “Tharlo”

* Best Cinematography: Mark Lee Ping-bing “The Assassin”

* Best Visual Effects: Wook Kim “The Taking of Tiger Mountain 3D”

* Best Animation Feature: “McDull: Me & My Mum”

* Best Art Direction: William Chang, Alfred Yau “Office”

* Best Makeup/Costume Design: Hwarng Wern-ying “The Assassin”

* Best Action Choreography: Xu Haofeng “The Master”

* Best Film Editing: Chang Tso-chi “Thanatos, Drunk”

* Best Original Film Music: Lin Shangde, Tseng Yun-fang “Thanatos, Drunk”

* Best Original Film Song: Aka Pisawad “Wawa No Cidal”

* Best Sound Effects: Tu Duu-chih, Chu Shih-yi, Wu Shu-yao “The Assassin”

* Best Documentary: “The Chinese Mayor”

* Best Short Film: Cheng Wei-hao “The Death of A Security Guard”

* Outstanding Taiwanese Filmmaker of the Year: Hou Hsiao-hsien

* Lifetime Achievement Award: Li Lihua

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