Lau touched by Ilo Ilo

Hong Kong actress Carina Lau has seen Singapore film Ilo Ilo and says that its haul at the Golden Horse Awards was "well-deserved".

The domestic drama about a Filipina maid and a Singapore family was the surprise winner at the prestigious awards show in Taipei on Nov 23 when it walked away with four awards, including the biggest prize of the night for Best Feature Film.

In that category, Singaporean director Anthony Chen's film beat four major works by heavyweight directors: Jia Zhangke's A Touch Of Sin, Tsai Ming-liang's Stray Dogs, Johnnie To's Drug War, as well as Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster, in which Lau's husband Tony Leung Chiu Wai stars in.

Says the 47-year-old actress in Mandarin: "I had already heard very good things about Ilo Ilo before the Golden Horse, but I went to watch it after the awards. I was so surprised by how moving it was. It is such a small film and it's a simple story, but I was very touched by the end of it.

"It absolutely deserves all the recognition and encouragement that it has gotten so far."

Lau was in town for the store opening of fashion boutique Roger Vivier at Takashimaya Shopping Centre last Friday night.

She adds: "These days, film studios keep making big-budget, commercial films. It's getting harder and harder for smaller films like Ilo Ilo to stand out.

"So the fact that the director of Ilo Ilo managed to stick it out to the very end and deliver such a fantastic film - I think it's just great."

Asked if her husband was disappointed over his Golden Horse loss in the category for Best Actor, she quickly shakes her head.

Leung, 51, lost the award to Taiwanese actor Lee Kang-sheng, 45, for Stray Dogs.

She says: "No, no, no, of course he is not disappointed at all. Lee Kang-sheng is an excellent actor and he has been around for more than 20 years. It's just that he has had quite a bit of bad luck, I think, when it comes to recognition with awards, so it's nice that he's getting this one now. I didn't see Stray Dogs, but I'm sure he was very good in it.

"Of course, I've been rooting for Tony the whole time, but now that Lee Kang-sheng has won, I think Tony can handle that reality with no problem. After all, there is no one in the world today who doubts Tony is a great actor."

The actress sounds very supportive of her husband, but it is clear that she is also fiercely independent.

When talking about her role in her latest movie Bends, she says that "all women should have their own life, their own work".

In Flora Yau's Bends, Lau plays a wealthy Hong Kong housewife whose life falls apart when her breadwinner husband disappears one day.

Says the actress with a firm voice: "Women really need to be independent. If women leave their future to men, there is no sense of security. It's so important that women have their own lives and their own work."

The film, now showing in Hong Kong, also shows the tension among individuals along Hong Kong's border with China's Shenzhen. Lau's character, Anna, befriends her driver Fai (played by Chen Kun), who hopes to sneak his wife from Shenzhen into Hong Kong to give birth to her second child there. Bends has not gotten a release date in Singapore yet.

While the influx of mainland Chinese into Hong Kong is a hot- button issue in the territory, the actress believes that the film "has no political motivations".

She says: "The director, when writing and making this film, does not have any political agenda. She simply wants to use her film to reflect the current social situation of Hong Kong and Chinese society.

"Whatever the audience has to say about these issues, we leave it to them to watch and decide."

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