Film of poverty alleviation wins top honor

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Dante Lam Chiu-yin (center) wins best director at the 17th Huabiao Film Awards for Operation Red Sea.

Most of the well-known faces in China's film industry were at the 17th Huabiao Film Awards in Beijing recently, ranging from directors like Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou and Wong Kar-wai to internationally recognized A-listers such as Zhang Ziyi, Li Bingbing, as well as pop idols like Kris Wu, Lu Han and the band TFBoys.

Nearly 300 stars and filmmakers were at the awards ceremony, which was held in the National Aquatics Center.

Live streaming of the gala attracted more than 6 million viewers on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, triggering numerous real-time comments. But it was Hold Your Hands - a film set in a remote village in Central China's Hunan province - which proved hottest on the chilly winter night.

The movie - which bagged awards for best feature, best actress and best scriptwriter - is about the villagers' efforts to alleviate poverty.

Miao Yue, the scriptwriter and director, says she is thrilled about the honor and expressed gratitude to the villagers.

She spent several months interviewing them before she was inspired to pen their story.

The film stars veteran actor Wang Xueqi and Chen Jin, who took home the best actress award.

In an earlier interview, Miao had said that she had managed to avoid stereotype depictions frequently seen in such films by making the characters as authentic as possible.

"I found a common weakness in such films, in which the lead roles are too perfect and noble in personality to convince viewers.

"In contrast, you can see that in most Hollywood blockbusters the stories may be fantastic but the characters relate to the audience," says Miao, explaining about how she learnt to tell a better story.

Giving an example, the director admitted that she once failed to hold back her tears while watching a scene featuring Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent, where he breaks up with his girlfriend Lois Lane in the 1978 Hollywood blockbuster Superman.

"To humanize a character is a must," she added.

Meanwhile, three films - Operation Red Sea, Wolf Warrior 2 and Xuanzang, the biographical drama about the titular Buddhist monk in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) - won two awards each.

Dante Lam Chiu-yin won best director for the Chinese navy-themed Operation Red Sea; while Wu Jing was best actor for Wolf Warrior 2, the country's highest-grossing film of all time.

The biennial awards, instituted in 1957, are as prestigious as the Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers when it comes to domestic films.

However, unlike its two counterparts, the Huabiao best feature awards are presented to multiple films under a category called the Outstanding Drama Award.

This year, the awards were given to 10 films, including the four which won more than one prize.

The other six are Operation Mekong; The Founding of an Army; The War of Loong; The Woman behind the Man; Our Time will Come and Bigfish & Begonia, the only animated film among the winners.

Separately, Chen Kaige's epic Legend of the Demon Cat won veteran Cao Yu the best cinematography award.

The best youth film award went to the romantic comedy How Long Will I Love U, while the best children's film award was bagged by Running Like Wind, based on the true story of a middle-school girls' football team in South China's Hainan province.

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