Ten Years, the indie film that needled Beijing with an ominous depiction of what Hong Kong might be like in a decade, has been named Best Film at the Hong Kong Film Awards (HKFA), the city's equivalent of the Oscars.
Its win was a thumbing of the nose by Hong Kong's film industry at Beijing, which had excoriated Ten Years via state media.
The HKFA itself became embroiled in the controversy: After the nomination list was released, state broadcaster CCTV said it would not screen the ceremony, a mainstay on its schedule since 1991. Internet giant Tencent also announced it would not stream the event live online despite having signed a contract to do so.
The HKFA nominees and winners are selected through voting by its association members comprising industry professionals.
Last night, HKFA chairman Derek Yee himself presented the top award to Ten Years, which bested powerhouse contenders such as Ip Man 3.
Addressing a galaxy of celebrities, the film's co-producer Andrew Choi said: "Thank you for having the guts to give this award to us."
The stage at Tsim Sha Tsui's Cultural Centre was a long way from the negativity the film's directors faced when putting together an anthology that depicts Hong Kong in 2025.
With a budget of HK$600,000, it comprises five vignettes, portraying a Hong Kong whose identity and values are under the attack of communist China. The material is provocative and, some say, deliberately incendiary, including a story of a pro-independence supporter who self-immolates.
The five directors told The Straits Times in an earlier interview that they faced naysayers including those who told them they would no longer be able to work in the lucrative Chinese market.
The long-term fallout for the HKFA is also unclear: this year, it will lose HK$4 million to HK$5 million in licensing fees due to the mainland's boycott. Films with mainland financing may also opt not to take part in the awards in future.
But Ten Years clearly struck a chord with the city, rattled by recent events including the disappearance of five booksellers whom many believed to have been abducted by Chinese agents.
Mr Choi told The Straits Times yesterday its box office totalled HK$6 million after eight weeks of screening. It will open in Taiwan in July or August. Singaporeans can view it at two screenings at the Singapore Chinese Film Festival at the end of this month.
Other big winners were Tsui Hark, Best Director (The Taking of Tiger Mountain), Aaron Kwok for Best Actor, and Jessie Li for Best Actress (both for Port of Call).