TAIPEI - Chinese director Lou Ye's drama starring blind amateur actors as massage therapists scooped top honours at the Golden Horse Film Awards in Taiwan on Saturday, touted as the Chinese-language "Oscars".
"Blind Massage," a portrayal of the romance and dreams of visually impaired massage therapists, was the biggest winner, with six gongs out of seven nominations.
It scooped awards including the coveted best feature film, best adapted screenplay and best new performer for Zhang Lei, herself a visually impaired masseuse.
"It took a long time to shoot the film. I want to thank everyone for their contributions and I want to thank the blind actors who are not here," Lou said after receiving the best film award at a glitzy ceremony in Taipei's Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.
Lou was previously best known for his politically charged love story "Summer Palace", which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival without government approval in 2006 and led to him receiving a five-year ban on film-making in China.
Veteran Chinese actor Chen Jianbin walked away with most personal awards, setting a record at the Golden Horse awards for winning both best leading actor and best new director for playing a farmer in his directorial debut "A Fool".
He also bagged best supporting actor for his role as a homesick soldier in Taiwanese director Doze Niu's military drama "Paradise in Service".
"I want to thank the Golden Horse jury for giving me this encouragement ... I will continue to shoot more and better works with this encouragement," he said.
Taiwan's Chen Shiang-chyi beat the critics' favourites - Chinese stars Gong Li and Zhao Wei - to claim the best leading actress title for her role as a lonely middle-aged woman struggling with family and work problems in "Exit".
"I want to thank the director for choosing me to play this role or I won't be standing here today... I love Taiwanese films and as a member of Taiwan's film (industry) I am happy to win the 51st Golden Horse best leading actress award." Another surprise winner was Hong Kong's Ann Hui for directing "The Golden Era," which is based on the real-life story of a famed Chinese female writer in the early 20th century.
"I didn't expect to win ... I don't know what to say," Hui admitted her surprise after receiving her third best director statuette. She last won the award in 2011 for the family drama "A Simple Life".
However, Chinese director Diao Yinan's cop thriller "Black Coal, Thin Ice," which led the pack with eight nominations and was a favourite for best film, took only the best art direction award.
Taiwan's hit baseball movie "Kano", which had six nominations including best film and best actor for Japan's Masatoshi Nagase, walked away empty-handed.
China is traditionally a strong contender at the awards, but has faced increasing competition from Taiwan and Hong Kong in recent years. This year mainland films and actors dominated the nominations in major categories and fared well.
Nearly 40 films were nominated for the 51st edition of the Golden Horse Film Awards, which are styled on the US Academy Awards but are decided by a jury along the lines of the Cannes film festival. Chinese American actress and director Joan Chen chaired the jury this year.