Dueling Awards: The Diverging Paths of Chinese Cinema

The Golden Horse and Golden Rooster Awards showcase the stark contrast between mainland Chinese and Taiwanese cinema

In November, two prestigious film awards ceremonies took place in China and Taiwan, highlighting the stark divergence in the Chinese cinema landscape. The Golden Rooster awards, held in Xiamen, China, celebrated mainland Chinese films that adhered to the strict guidelines set by the Communist Party. Meanwhile, the Golden Horse awards, held in Taipei, showcased films from various Chinese-speaking regions, including mainland China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan. These events represent the growing divide between state-controlled cinema and independent filmmaking, revealing the contrasting visions of Chinese cinema’s future.

The Party’s Vision for Chinese Cinema

The Golden Rooster awards, organized in Xiamen, showcased films that passed the scrutiny of Communist Party censors. These films, predominantly big-budget blockbusters, emphasized special effects, heroic narratives, and nationalistic themes. The Party seeks to use cinema as an ideological tool, demanding that films eulogize the party, the motherland, and the people. Movies are expected to uphold ethics, warmth, and present a positive image of China. The winning film, “Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms,” exemplifies the Party’s desire for culturally confident movies aligned with Xi Jinping Thought.

Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards: A Sanctuary for Independent Filmmakers

The Golden Horse awards, often referred to as the “Chinese Oscars,” took place in Taipei and celebrated cinema as a platform for free expression. Founded in 1962, the event attracted stars from both sides of the Taiwan Strait until tensions escalated in 2018. Director Fu Yue’s declaration of hope for Taiwan’s independence during her acceptance speech led to China’s film administration banning mainland movies from competing. Despite China’s efforts to promote the Golden Rooster as more prestigious, the Golden Horse awards continue to attract a larger number of submissions, including independent filmmakers who reject censorship.

Navigating Restrictions: Independent Filmmaking in China

Independent filmmakers in China face numerous challenges due to increased state control over the film industry. In 2016, China passed a law requiring all films, regardless of distribution plans, to obtain permits. Filmmakers without permits risk fines and industry bans. As a result, many filmmakers opt for self-censorship or aligning their work with the Party’s propaganda efforts to ensure nationwide releases. This choice is driven by the vast Chinese film market, which is over 20 times larger than Taiwan’s. However, independent filmmakers continue to persevere, finding creative ways to navigate restrictions and tell stories close to reality.

The Golden Horse Nominees: A Feast of Creative Freedom

The Golden Horse awards feature a diverse range of films that tackle social issues and explore unique perspectives. Nominees include “Time Still Turns the Pages,” a Hong Kong drama addressing student suicides, “Eye of the Storm,” a Taiwanese thriller set during the SARS outbreak, and “Snow in Midsummer,” a co-production exploring the Malaysian riots of 1969. These films offer thought-provoking narratives but are unlikely to receive wide releases in China due to their limited audience and potential profits. Nevertheless, the Golden Horse awards remain a symbol of creative freedom and a testament to the power of storytelling.

Conclusion:

The Golden Rooster and Golden Horse awards represent the contrasting paths of Chinese cinema. While the Communist Party seeks to control and shape the industry to promote its ideology, the Golden Horse awards in Taiwan provide a platform for independent filmmakers to express their creativity and challenge societal norms. The divide between state-controlled cinema and independent voices highlights the power of storytelling to transcend political boundaries. As the Chinese film industry continues to evolve, it remains to be seen how these differing visions for cinema will shape its future.


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