Taiwan’s Golden Horse is an uncensored Chinese film haven.
Taiwan’s biggest film festival may have lost some luster this year, with no mainstream Chinese films showing for the third year in a row, but directors and critics insist it remains a vital bastion against Beijing’s censors.
The Golden Horse Film Awards, dubbed the Chinese-language “Oscars,” will take place in Taipei on Saturday, without the slew of Chinese directors and stars who used to grace the red carpet.
When a Taiwanese director gave an award speech at the 2018 ceremony, he called for the island’s independence, prompting an official boycott the next year.
Taiwan, which is self-ruled, is claimed by China as part of its land, which will be retaken one day, if necessary by force.
After China’s national film authority instructed directors and actors to boycott the event, no mainland films were nominated in 2019.
Under pressure from Beijing, several Hong Kong filmmakers stopped out, and overseas sponsors discontinued connections with the awards that year.
While no plans for a boycott were made public over the next two years, commercial mainland cinema and some marketers continued to avoid the film.
Jun Li, a Hong Kong director whose social drama “Drifting” is a frontrunner for this year’s Oscars, said it was “clear” that tense relations between China and Taiwan had influenced the nominations.
“Anyone who tells you they don’t feel the stress is lying,” he told AFP.
With 12 nominations, including best film and best director, Li’s film tackles Hong Kong’s famed inequality through a story about homeless people bringing authorities to court.
Chinese films used to dominate Golden Horse nominations, but just two films from the mainland were nominated for best documentary and best animated short film last year and this year.
Over 200 Chinese and Hong Kong films were submitted for competition this year, according to organizers, however film industry sources claim they were primarily indie works unlikely to be released in theaters.
According to analysts, mainstream Chinese film shied away from the project for fear of ramifications.
“Submitting to the Golden Horse awards for mega-production Chinese commercial movies can be courting difficulties,” Wonder Weng of the Taiwan Film Critics Society told AFP.
The Golden Roosters, the mainland’s own premier film awards, were hosted on the same night as the Golden Horse party this year, according to Weng.
He explained, “This appears to give a message that there is a rivalry.”
Golden Horse continues to nominate films that would never pass censorship in China.
Two Hong Kong films have been released this year. The Washington Newsday Brief News is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.