BEIJING, April 20 -- A biopic of Bruce Lee's kung fu master won best picture at the 28th Hong Kong Film Awards yesterday, but a documentary-like film about a working-class neighborhood dominated the other top prizes.
"Ip Man," a profile of the martial arts teacher of the same name starring Donnie Yen, took top honors at the annual awards ceremony, but the low-budget "The Way We Are" took home prizes for best director Ann Hui, best actress Paw Hee Ching, and best supporting actress for Chan Lai-wun.
Best actor went to Nick Cheung, who portrayed a kidnapper who struggles to care for his wife in the action thriller "The Beast Stalker." Liu Kai-chi took home a best supporting actor award for his work in the same film.
The action-filled "Ip Man" describes how the kung fu master resisted Japanese rule in his southern Chinese hometown during the World War II era. Ip's most famous disciple was Lee, who studied with him for five years starting at age 13.
Producer Raymond Wong said he felt bad that Yen and director Wilson Yip lost in their categories but was pleased with the best film award because it "honors everyone involved in the movie."
But the sentimental favorite of the night was "The Way We Are," a rare, locally flavored film at a time when the Hong Kong industry is increasingly catering to the booming Chinese mainland market with historical and kung fu epics.
Its competitors were mainly expensive blockbusters, including John Woo's 80 million U.S. dollars "Red Cliff."
Paw - who in the film played a single mother raising a teenage son in Hong Kong's suburban Tin Shui Wai district - recalled how director Hui struggled to find funding.
"Such a great director faced so much pressure. She didn't have money or a big cast, but she used great passion and a serious attitude to make this movie," Paw said after collecting her best actress trophy.
She said expectations were low for the film, "we all just wanted to help Ann make a meaningful movie."
Picking up her best director award, Hui said: "When I was a student, I thought winning a prize at Cannes was the best thing. But I've matured. Now I realize that receiving an award from your own people makes me the happiest."
Woo's "Red Cliff," about an ancient Chinese battle, missed out on the major prizes but collected a slew of technical awards, including best visual effects and two art awards for art director Tim Yip.
Woo was seen chuckling after organizers showed a parody of his classic 1986 gangster film "A Better Tomorrow" that portrayed its iconic trench-coat wearing character using duck heads instead of guns to fire at his enemies. The parody was part of a lighthearted tribute to "Stealing a Roasted Duck," a short from 1909 that was the first Hong Kong-made film.
Director Wong Kar-wai presented a lifetime achievement award to veteran actress Josephine Siao, a best actress winner at the Berlin Film Festival for the 1995 film "Summer Snow."