Hong Kong blockbusters swept the major prizes of Taiwan's 42nd Golden Horse Film Awards, considered one of the top awards events of the Chinese-language film industry.
Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle) was the big winner, with best picture and best director awards, his first Golden Horses. But he was not present to claim his prizes.
Set in 1930s Shanghai, Chow's trademark slapstick comedy has broken through to overseas distribution, particularly the United States.
In what may have been the biggest surprise of this year's Golden Horse awards, Aaron Kwok (Divergence) edged out fellow Hong Konger Tony Leung for best actor.
Kwok said he had not starred in many movies and the award marked "another beginning" for his career.
Also vying with Leung in the best actor category were Taiwan's Chang Chen (Three Times), and Chen Kun (A West Lake Moment).
Taiwanese screen siren Hsu Chi, five-time Golden Horse nominee, walked away with the best actress award for her role in the three-segment romance Three Times.
Hsu's rivals were Chen Shiang-chyi (The Wayward Cloud), Miriam Yeung (Drink, Drank, Drunk) and Michelle Krusiec (Saving Face).
Taiwanese pop sensation Jay Chou, a singer-songwriter and one of the Chinese-language music industry's biggest names, won for best new performer with Initial D, signaling the appearance of a new Asian film presence.
"I'm not very confident about acting, unlike my music," Chou said in his acceptance speech. "But after winning this award, getting this recognition, I'm very happy."
Six out of 10 film critics surveyed by the Taipei-based Ming Sheng Daily had favored Leung to take home one of the 18 Golden Horses for his role in Election, the story of a bloody power struggle in a Hong Kong gang society.
Critics had expected Chow to win for best director following his sweep of the Hong Kong Film Awards earlier this year for Kung Fu Hustle, the most commercially successful movie in the competition.
An array of stars paraded along the blue carpet at the cultural center in northern Keelung city, where police tightened security after the first death threat in the history of the Golden Horse awards.
A man who demanded five million Taiwan dollars (US$148,809) from event organizers was arrested earlier in the week.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon director Ang Lee and heart-throb actor Takeshi Kaneshiro attended the gala but Hong Kong superstar Jackie Chan and Andy Lau, injured on location in Beijing, were not in the VIP crowd.
Hong Kong blockbusters eclipsed Taiwanese art house films at this year's event, with Hong Kong director Johnnie To's Election up for 11 Golden Horses including best director and best picture, and Kung Fu Hustle nominated in 10 categories.
Legendary Taiwanese auteur Hou Hsiao-hsien's Three Times lost to Chow despite nine nominations.
(Xinhua News Agency November 15, 2005)