I just finished re-watching the 2003 HK Film Awards Ceremony and I’ve got to say that it brings back a lot of memories.
To be honest, I didn’t purposefully re-watch this show – I just happened to come across it again when I was searching for something in Tudou, so I decided to go ahead and re-watch.
The 2003 ceremony was very different from the previous ones in many ways. First of all, that was the year that SARS hit Hong Kong and the entire population was suffering from the epidemic. It had gotten so bad that there were advisories put out by the government suggesting that non-HK citizens should not travel to HK and if they did, it would be at their own risk. The spirit and mood of the people were at an all-time low. Just when they thought things couldn’t get any worse, the HK entertainment industry is rocked by devastating news: music and film icon Leslie Cheung jumps from the 24th floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel – and within minutes, he was gone.
In less than 5 days from this tragic event, the 22nd annual HK Film Awards ceremony was scheduled to take place – given everything that happened, many wondered if they should move forward with the event as planned. In the end, they decided to proceed with the show as usual. The night of the ceremony, HKFA association chairman (and host of the event that night) Eric Tsang gave the opening speech (a very moving one) and in it, he reveals the reason why they decided to go on with the show. He said that after what happened, he didn’t want to do the show anymore – but then he saw something on TV that made him change his mind. There was a news report about how, at the peak of the SARS epidemic, a group of several dozen doctors were asked who amongst them would volunteer to ‘get in the trenches’ and go into the deepest hit areas to help out (and risk the possibility of losing their lives) – without any hesitation, every single of them raised their hands and volunteered to go. Eric was moved when he saw this and also felt motivated – he indicated that the entertainment industry should not let the events of the past several months beat them down…instead, they should show the same ‘fighting spirit’ as the doctors and do the jobs that they were meant to do – entertain the audiences, bring up people’s spirits, and help everyone – ordinary citizen and celebrity alike – temporarily forget their sorrow and pain for one night.
This particular awards ceremony was also unique and special because of 2 reasons:
Majority of the artists who were nominated in the various categories were not in attendance at the ceremony and even many of those who won did not attend. Now before we start blaming the artists, we have to understand the environment in HK during that time – as I said earlier, SARS was at its peak and so many people were sick that the entire region became a big hospital ward, it seemed. And as mentioned earlier, the government had issued advisories regarding travel to HK….also, the hosts Eric Tsang and John Shum did mention that most of the non-HK artists were advised not to come to HK, so it’s actually not too surprising that they did not attend. In fact, the only non-HK artist in attendance at the ceremony was Zhang Zhen, who presented one of the awards.
Second, despite the lack of non-HK artists and the ‘tense’ atmosphere, this was still one of the most memorable ceremonies in HKFA history because it showed how united the HK entertainment industry truly is. A few of HK’s biggest celebrities who had not attended the HK Film Awards in years were in attendance at this particular awards ceremony.…this may not seem like a big deal, but what makes this truly unique is that most of the ‘big name’ celebrities attended primarily to support HK and the industry – many of them were neither nominees nor presenters. And a few of them were actually out of the country, but purposefully flew back to HK just to support.
For example, film icon Chow Yun Fat and his wife Jasmine attended the ceremony to show their support, as did singer/actor Alan Tam (both had not attended the HKFA in years) – both Fat Gor and Alan were the special guests who gave a 4 minute monologue at the end of the ceremony -- a great speech that was filled with humor and jokes at each other’s expense, but was a great source of encouragement for everyone in HK. Stephen Chow also made a rare appearance prior to the presentation of the Best New Director award (which he was not the presenter for) to say a few words of encouragement to the people of HK. For me though, the biggest highlight of all was the extremely rare performance by of all 4 Cantopop Kings (Jacky, Andy, Leon, Aaron), who had not performed together since the late 90s – they did an acappella rendition of Leslie’s classic hit Dong Nin Ching (當年情) as a tribute to him. I definitely have to applaud Jacky for attending just to do the tribute, given his close relationship with Leslie and knowing that he was probably grieving during that time – plus he was not nominated for anything that year and wasn’t even a presenter (both Andy and Leon were nominated for Best Actor and Aaron was a presenter for the Best Actress award, so at least the other 3 had a reason to attend aside from the tribute).
Also, in the very last segment (after Fat Gor and Alan did their speech), the hosts invited everyone (all the presenters, nominees, and pretty much everyone else who wanted to go up there) on to the stage so that Hacken Lee (who was invited up after the speech) and Alan could lead the entire group in a song that represented HK’s fighting spirit. It was a pretty appropriate closing if you ask me.