The prize-winners gather for group photos at the awards ceremony of the 32nd China Film Golden Rooster Awards in Xiamen, southeast China's Fujian province, Nov. 23, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]
"When a Chinese director wins a Golden Rooster Award, it should be equivalent to winning an Oscar. We will work hard to achieve that status for the Chinese film industry," director Xu Zheng said at a forum during the 28th China Golden Rooster & Hundred Flowers Film Festival.
But is it possible?
The Golden Rooster Awards, launched in 1981, which happened to be the year of the Rooster in the Chinese zodiac, are an awards ceremony that is sponsored by the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles and the China Film Association. They are also known as the "expert award," because the results are decided by filmmakers, critics, experts and film historians.
The Golden Roasters have long been associated with the Hundred Flowers Awards, which are voted by the public. The Hundred Flowers were founded by the China Film Association in 1962 and sponsored by Popular Cinema magazine. Since 1962 the public have cast their votes for these awards, originally via mail, and nowadays via text messages and internet.
Jackie Chan (R) presents the Best Feature Award to a representative of the producer (L) of "The Wandering Earth" at the awards ceremony of the 32nd China Film Golden Rooster Awards in Xiamen, southeast China's Fujian province, Nov. 23, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]
In 1992, the Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Awards were combined into a single national festival. The two awards have taken place on alternate years since 2005, while touring in different cities. However, the rules changed this year when the organizers announced that the Golden Rooster Awards would be held every year.
Xiamen, a coastal city eager to make its name on China's film map, also got the privilege to hold the Golden Rooster Awards ceremony for at least the next 10 years, providing a new home to the awards.
The changes signal that the Golden Rooster Awards are adapting to the realities of China in the new era. For example, China now has the most cinema screens in the world and is the second largest film market. With over 2,000 films released over the past two years, it is simply infeasible to have only one awards ceremony covering so many films.
This year's awards, which allowed any film released between May 16, 2017 - June 30, 2019 to compete, further demonstrated why the awards should be held annually. "Legend of the Demon Cat" from 2017 by Chen Kaige, managed to win the best cinematography, while heavyweight game-changers "The Wandering Earth" (2019) and "Dying to Survive" (2018) both had to compete for best film. "The Wandering Earth," China's Sci-Fi blockbuster, ultimately won the contest, but industry observers pointed out that if the awards were held annually, both could have won the top award.
Guests unveil a symbolic golden rooster sculpture to mark the opening of the 28th China Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival in Xiamen, southeast China's Fujian province, Nov. 19, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]
There were other new things happening at this year's Golden Rooster Awards. It received worldwide attention and unprecedented resources. More than 600 filmmakers and celebrities attended including Jackie Chan, Zhang Yimou, and pop sensation, Jackson Yee, generating huge publicity. The awards ceremony also attained international standards, and ended up being a blend of traditional Chinese gala and the Academy Awards, making it very local while international. The winners were a mix of high-quality commercial blockbusters and art-house films. For example, while "The Wandering Earth" and "Operation Red Sea" both got awards, the acclaimed art-house "So Long, My Son" was also one of the biggest winners with the best actor and best actress awards, as well as best screenplay.
Besides the awards ceremony, the 28th China Golden Rooster & Hundred Flowers Film Festival arranged many events including industry forums, programs to support young filmmakers, special screening of international films, and previews for future Chinese film releases. The festival also embraced the internet, inviting executives from internet giants Alibaba Group and Tencent Pictures to talk about how the internet is shaping the film industry. In addition to this, the 5G telecast and online live cast of the awards ceremony generated billions of clicks. It was clear that the film festival is determined to be young, high-tech and rejuvenated.
From now on, the Golden Rooster Awards will never be outdated again. Its success could also inspire the reform of next year's Hundred Flowers Awards and the accompanying film festival in Zhengzhou, Henan province. But all depends on how great China's film industry will evolve in the future. For now, everything seems promising.