Late director Benny Chan feted as Hong Kong Film Awards return to full glory

Late director Benny Chan’s last film Raging Fire was honoured at the Hong Kong Film Awards on Sunday.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Movie stars and other celebrities brought glitz and glamour on Sunday to the first Hong Kong Film Awards held before a live audience since the coronavirus pandemic began more than two years ago.

Late director Benny Chan Muk Sing received the two biggest honours of the night, winning the awards for both best director and best film for his final feature Raging Fire.

The police thriller, which stars Donnie Yen Ji Dan as a righteous detective battling a former colleague turned criminal, also won the best action choreography and best film editing.

Veteran performer Patrick Tse Yin took home the award for best actor for his performance in the black comedy Time, while Cya Liu Ya Se won best actress for her role in Limbo as an ex-convict who finds herself on the trail of a serial killer.

Patrick Tse celebrates his win as best actor at the Hong Kong Film Awards.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Tse, 85, accepted his award to a standing ovation from the event’s audience.

“Thank you. I don’t know what to say,” he said.

Liu, meanwhile, thanked the film industry for offering her a chance to grow as an actress.

“I hope to be able to have more opportunities here in the future,” she said.

The crime thriller starring Liu also received four other awards throughout the night, including best art direction and best cinematography, with the latter going to Cheng Siu Keung.

Cya Liu wins best actress at the 40th Hong Kong Film Awards.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Actor Andy Lau Tak Wah helped pay tribute to the late Chan, reading an acceptance speech prepared by the director’s wife thanking everyone who was a part of Raging Fire.

“I believe the award has brought a perfect closure to my husband’s life,” Lau said on her behalf. “He must be smiling and feeling pleased … Everything is understood without the need to utter a word.”

Chan died on Aug 23, 2020, at the age of 58.

Director Benny Chan in 2007.
Photo: South China Morning Post

Another big winner of the night was Anita, a biopic about late superstar Anita Mui Yin Fong, which netted five awards out of the 12 categories it was nominated, including best costume design and make-up design, which went to Dora Ng Lei Lo and Karen Yip Ka Yan, respectively.

Starring in the titular role, Louise Wong Tan Ni won best new performer, while co-star Fish Liew was awarded best supporting actress.

Malaysian-born Liew also took a moment during the ceremony to express her gratitude to the city’s film industry.

“I am glad that my dream can come true in Hong Kong,” she said.

The 40th edition of the event comes at a turbulent time for the city’s film industry, with artists struggling to navigate red lines imposed by Beijing’s national security law two years ago.

Louise Wong shows her award for best new performer for her titular role in the biopic Anita.
Photo: South China Morning Post

In this year’s awards, 17 local productions competed across 18 categories, while three Taiwanese entries vied for the title of best Asian Chinese-language film.

American Girl, a Taiwanese drama that tells the story of a teen girl who returns to the island from the United States because of her mother’s illness, took home the honours in that category.

The production previously secured five titles at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards last year.

Michael Hui receives a lifetime achievement award at this year’s event.
Photo: South China Morning Post

The ceremony also presented Michael Hui Koon-man, 79, with a lifetime achievement award.

The renowned film director, actor, and screenwriter helped to re-define Hong Kong’s comedy genre in the 1970s, later receiving international acclaim in the 1980s.

“I feel lucky that I could grow up in Hong Kong, the most beautiful place in the world, that has made me what I am today,” Hui said as he accepted the award.

Veteran film editor Tony Chow Kwok Chung, known to movie fans and industry peers as Golden Scissors, was also honoured with a professional achievement award.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.