China won big at the recently concluded 51st Golden Horse Awards, with Chinese director Lou Ye’s drama Blind Massage scooping six wins out of seven nominations and Diao Yinan’s Black Coal, Thin Ice winning best art direction. Actor-director Chen Jianbin also became the first person to win the titles of best lead actor, best supporting actor and best new director all on the same night for his role in two different productions. But things were not to be for Gong Li, the doyenne of the Chinese film industry.
The 48-year-old actress was hot favorite for her role in Coming Home, but Taiwan’s Chen Shiang-Chyi eventually prevailed in the Best Leading Actress award for her role in Exit, becoming the only Taiwanese nominee to secure a major award this year. After the loss, an embarrassed Gong Li was conspicuously absent from the official post-awards party and her sponsor, Piaget, reportedly had to scratch a celebration planned in anticipation of her win.
Prior to her departure at the Taipei airport, Gong Li was all smiles for the cameras, ever her classy self, and congratulating Chen Jianbin on his major win. The next day, however, her manager Zeng Jingchao, relayed the following scathing indictment of the jury on her behalf. “I’d like to thank the Golden Horse Awards for giving me this opportunity to understand what it’s like to come to an unprofessional film festival. An unfair awards will not gain the respect of artists.”
Gong Li added that she enjoyed her stay in Taiwan and would come back again to the island in the future, “but I will not be coming back to the festival in the future, because there would be no point to that at all.”
“This will be my first time at the Golden Horse Awards, and my last,” she added through her manager.
In remarks to journalists, Zeng said Gong Li was a typical Shandong lady, just being her usual, straightforward self. Her remarks were not pointed at her loss in the Best Leading Actress award he said, but were meant for the organisers to reflect upon.
Gong Li and Joan Chen, back in happier days
Prior to the awards ceremony, rumors were rife that Gong Li would not stand a chance to win Best Leading Actress, because Joan Chen had been elected to head the jury. The two actresses have long been rumored to be at odds with each other.
The Best Actress category sparked the most intense debates among the jury which included director Stanley Kwan and Aaron Kwok, said Joan Chen. It was only in the third round of voting that Chen Shiang-Chyi emerged the winner.
In a post yesterday evening on her Weibo page, Joan Chen lambasted entertainment journalists for their coverage of the incident. “Do you guys have nothing better to do, creating rumors out of nothing?” she fumed. “I’m not obligated to explain anything, but I’d like to tell you the truth: I have always been an ardent admirer of Gong Li’s acting, and I think her role in Coming Home was both very difficult to play and executed extremely movingly. I cast all of my votes her way in the three rounds. Some of you out there need to do your homework and have a bit more respect for your profession and for the truth.”
In a previous controversy involving an actress from the mainland, the organizing committee of the Golden Horse Awards found itself having to break with tradition and un-invite Lü Liping, winner of the Best Actress Award in 2010, from the 2011 awards. Lü and her husband Sun Haiying had kicked up a maelstrom of debate on Sina Weibo for expressing support for the homophobic sentiments of a Chinese pastor in Rochester, New York decrying the legalisation of same-sex marriage by the New York State Senate. The saga ended with state broadcaster CCTV slamming Lü Liping’s attempts at stoking homophobia and giving a nod to China’s gay community.
By Lucy Liu
[Image via Tencent]