The Way We Are, an unglamorous but moving portrait of a working-class town best known for its poverty and violence, on Sunday swept the top honors at the Hong Kong Film Awards.
The docu-drama, produced with a low budget and a little-known cast, took the best director, best actress, best supporting actress and best screenplay gongs at Hong Kong s biggest annual film event, which also marked the 100th anniversary of the city s film industry this year.
The movie gives voices to the ordinary residents of Tin Shui Wai, a Hong Kong town near the border with China which has in recent years suffered a string of tragedies involving suicide and domestic violence.
When I was young, I always thought I could only prove myself a great (director) if I got awards in the Cannes (Film Festival), veteran director Ann Hui told the audience after receiving the award at the glittering ceremony held in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.
But now that I am old, I think getting the award from my own people is my greatest honor.
Paw Hee-ching, 59, who grabbed the best actress award for playing a single mother in the drama, praised director Hui.
There was no money, no all-star cast. There was only a director with great enthusiasm and excellent work attitude, who managed to turn a film like this into a spectacular achievement, she said.
Paw beat Prudence Liew, winner of the best leading actress gong in the 2008 Golden Horse Awards, Taiwan s equivalent of the Oscars. She also beat China s Zhou Xun, another best actress hopeful, who was nominated for her role as a fox spirit in the love-horror film Painted Skin.
But the best film award went to Ip Man, a biopic of Ip Man, the kung fu master of martial arts legend Bruce Lee.
Hong Kong action supremo John Woo s historical war epic Red Cliff grabbed five gongs, including best visual effects, art direction, costume and makeup, but lost out to other contenders in the more important award categories. Woo, who is best known for directing Hollywood blockbuster Mission: Impossible II, portrayed in the movie the Battle of Red Cliffs in the final days of the Han Dynasty in 208 AD. The film was said to be the most expensive Asian-financed film to date with its estimated budget of $80 million.
Rising star Nick Cheung bagged the best actor award for playing a kidnapper in action-packed thriller The Beast Stalker.
The best new performer award went to the youngest nominee this year, Xu Jiao, for her lively performance in Stephen Chow s sci-fi movie CJ 7.
I am very touched. Father, I got full marks this time! the 11-year old said after grabbing the award.
Veteran actress Josephine Siao took the lifetime achievement award.
Hong Kong enjoys a rich film heritage and became an international movie powerhouse in the 1970s, but it has fallen on tough times in recent years with dwindling box office receipts.
However, its stars still enjoy huge popularity across Asia. There have been increasing collaborations between Hong Kong and mainland filmmakers in recent years targeting the large market of cinema-goers in China.