HONG KONG – An epic drama about a group of volunteers who risked their lives to protect modern China's founding father Sun Yat-sen from imperial assassins blitzed the Hong Kong Film Awards on Sunday.
"Bodyguards and Assassins" scooped seven gongs, including best film, best director, best supporting actor, best cinematography, and best action choreography.
"Lots of films have been made about Chinese revolutions, but in this film we wanted to touch the audience's heart by zeroing in on the relationships between the revolutionaries," director Teddy Chen told reporters after grabbing the award.
Singer-cum-actor Nicholas Tse, who starred as a rickshaw puller and one of Sun's "bodyguards" during his visit to Hong Kong to discuss plans with his fellow revolutionaries to overthrow the Qing Dynasty in the 1900s, was crowned best supporting actor.
"Echoes of the Rainbow", a low-budget drama on Hong Kong in the 1960s, emerged as the second biggest winner at the annual awards, after receiving the Crystal Bear prize at the Berlin International Film Festival.
The film snatched four awards, including best screen play and best actor.
Director Alex Law said he was grateful for the many unexpected surprises the film had brought him.
"My starting point was to make a film to remember my elder brother," he said.
"Never would I imagine that it could be such a box-office success. It even helped protect a street from demolition," he said.
Law was referring to the Hong Kong government's decision to halt a plan to bulldoze the historic Wing Lee Street -- where his film was set -- following the publicity generated by the Berlin award.
Simon Yam, who played the father of a struggling shoemaking family in "Echoes", won the best actor honor.
Aarif Lee, who played Yam's son in the film, grabbed the best newcomer award.
Films such as "Echoes" and "The Way We are", a gritty, low-budget docudrama set in one of the city's most poverty-stricken districts, marked audiences' growing appetite for films with a distinctive local flavour in recent years.
The trend was a big departure from moviemakers' traditional attempts to tap into the large mainland Chinese market by focusing on producing big-budget historical epics and imperial dramas.
The best actress award went to Wai Yin-hung, who admitted suffering from depression and trying to kill herself when her career went downhill.
"I fell from heaven to hell. And finally I have this award. I promise you I will do my very best in every movie I work on," she said in tears.
Michelle Ye bagged the best supporting actress award for her role in "Accident", a film about a professional hitman who trapped his victims in well-crafted "accidents".
"Departures", a Japanese drama about an unemployed cellist who was forced to take a job in the funeral business, was crowned the best Asian film. The drama also won the best foreign language film in last year's Oscars.