Golden Horse sets milestone with award to ‘Ilo Ilo’


TAIPEI–Galloping into its 50th year, Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards, the oldest and most established in the Chinese-speaking world, set yet another milestone Saturday when it handed out its top award to the Singaporean film “Ilo Ilo.”

This marks the first time the Golden Horse Best Feature Film award has been given to a Singaporean film. “Ilo Ilo,” the debut feature of Singaporean director Anthony Chen, tells the story of the bond between a young Singaporean boy and his Filipino nanny.

Ang Lee, chairman of the jury, stressed that the recognition was not to encourage Singaporean cinema, but to give the award to “whoever deserves it.” But to many, especially Chen, the award does more than that.

“Thank you Ang Lee, thank you judges…You have turned a new page in the history of Singaporean films,” said Chen, 29, in his acceptance speech.

Even before the ceremony, Chen had remarked that he felt Singapore was finally “being seen,” after his film garnered six nominations for the Golden Horse Awards, including Best Supporting Actor and Actress and Best Original Screenplay.

Growing up while following the Golden Horse Awards, Chen said he was deeply influenced by Taiwan’s New Wave cinema that began in the 1980s, led by directors such as Hou Hsiao-hsien, Edward Yang and Ang Lee.

“The Golden Horse Award is the highest film honor in the Chinese-speaking world. For me, it is more important than the Oscars,” said Chen, who has been a student at the Golden Horse Film Academy.

He is hopeful that the success of “Ilo Ilo” will have a positive effect on filmmakers in Singapore and encourage more young Singaporean directors to follow their dreams and tell their stories.

Chen is not the only one who is proud.

Ang Lee said the decision made by the jurors to award “Ilo Ilo” the Best Feature Film prize signifies “another step forward” for the Golden Horse Awards. The fact that the film was a foreign film by a young director did not stop the jurors from giving it the award it deserved, Lee said.

“I’m very proud,” he added.

The film grabbed the Camera d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and was chosen as Singapore’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards.

Written and directed by Chen, the film was inspired by a Filipino maid that worked for Chen’s family when he was a child. It got the title from Iloilo, a province in the Philippines, where the maid is from.

This year, a record number of 265 films were submitted for competition at the awards.

Wen Tien-hsiang, executive director of the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee, noted changes taking place in the Chinese-language film industry.

He said Taiwan, China and Hong Kong are no longer the only places producing films in Chinese, as increasing numbers of entrants are being submitted from Southeast Asia.