Raging Fire, starring and produced by Donnie Yen, was awarded best film and best director for late action maestro Benny Chan at the Hong Kong Film Awards (HKFA) on Sunday night. The ceremony took place at Kowloon Bay International Trade & Exhibition Centre, the first time it had been held as a fully-fledged, in-person event since 2019.
Produced by Emperor Motion Pictures, Raging Fire was a rare pandemic-era hit in Hong Kong and China last year, and lauded as a welcome throwback to old school Hong Kong-style action movies. The film took four awards in total, also including best editing (Curran Pang) and best action choreography (Donnie Yen, Ku Huen Chiu, Tanigaki Kenji, Li Chung Chi).
Benny Chan, one of Hong Kong’s most acclaimed action directors, was diagnosed with cancer while making the film, leading to Yen taking over during post-production. In a moving moment during the HKFA ceremony, Hong Kong star Andy Lau read out an acceptance speech from Chan’s widow.
While Raging Fire took two of the top awards, Anita, Edko Films’ biopic of Canto-pop diva Anita Mui, was the biggest winner overall, taking five awards including best new performer for model-turned-actress Louise Wong, who played Mui, and best supporting actress for Fish Liew, who played her sister.
The film, which recreated Hong Kong from the 1980s to Mui’s death in 2003, also won three technical awards, including best visual effects (Yee Kwok Leung, Garrett K Lam, Raymond Leung Wai Man, Hung Man Shi Candy), best costume & make-up design (Dora Ng, Karen Yip) and best sound design (Tu Duu-Chih, Wu Shu-Yao).
Best actress went to Cya Liu for her role in Soi Cheang’s Limbo, which scooped four awards in total, also including best screenplay (Au Kin Yee, Shum Kwan Sin), best cinematography (Cheng Siu Keung) and best art direction (Kenneth Mak, Renee Wong). The dark action drama, produced by Sun Entertainment Culture, premiered at Berlin film festival in 2021.
Best actor went Patrick Tse for his role as a retired assassin in Tsz Pun Ko’s Time. Best supporting actor went to 17-year-old Fung Ho Yeung for Zero To Hero, which was Hong Kong’s entry for best international feature at the Academy Awards this year.
Kin Long Chan took best new director for neo-noir crime drama Hand Rolled Cigarette, which was backed by the Hong Kong government’s First Feature Film Initiative.
Best original film song was presented to Origin Of Time, from the film One Second Champion, while Ryuichi Sakamoto won best original film score for Ann Hui’s Love After Love.
The best Asian Chinese-language Film Award went to Taiwanese production American Girl, with director Fiona Ruan Fengyi present to pick up the award after going through Hong Kong’s infamous one-week hotel quarantine.
Michael Hui, an actor, comedian, scriptwriter and director who along with his brothers dominated Hong Kong’s film industry in the 1970s and 1980s, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The Professional Achievement Award went to veteran editor Tony Chow, who ran the editing department of 1980s production powerhouse Cinema City, and has won a string of editing awards during his career.
This was an unusual edition of the awards as nominees were selected from two years worth of releases, mainly due to the pandemic, which drastically reduced the number of Hong Kong films that have made it to cinemas over the past few years. The awards are usually held in April but, along with this year’s Hong Kong International Film Festival, were forced to postpone.
Hong Kong theatres have suffered several waves of closures during the pandemic, the most recent of which lasted from January to April 2022, due to the most severe outbreak of the virus. The local industry has also been grappling with a new censorship regime, following Beijing’s imposition of the National Security Law, with some filmmakers opting to leave the city.
However, there are signs of revival for Hong Kong cinema with long-postponed comedy Chilli Laugh Story passing the $1.3m (HK$10m) mark at the local box office this week, and big-budget sci-fi film Warriors Of Future scheduled for release in August.