Founded in 1962, the Golden Horse Film Festival -- often called the Oscars of Asia -- is an annual fixture on Taipei’s cultural calendar.
For directors, producers, actors and fans of Chinese-language cinema, the festival -- scheduled this year for Nov. 24 -- gets better every year. And if you're wondering why it's called the Golden Horse Film Festival and why the award handed out to winners is in the shape and color of a golden horse, there's a good story here.
And this year it's one with a share of controversy.
Turns out that when the festival got its start , Taiwan and China were mortal enemies, and the tiny "frontline islands" of Jinmen and Matsu along China's coast were part of Taiwan's territory. They served as a military defense halfway between Japan and communist China.
The first character of the word ''Jinmen'' in Mandarin characters means "gold," and the first character of the word "Matsu" means "horse." So the Taiwan government, which funds the annual film awards, decided to call the event the Jin-Ma Awards Show, or Golden Horse, to send a message to China that those two islands were defending Taiwan's sovereignty.
Now, with China and Taiwan making nice and trying to be friends across the Taiwan Strait -- despite the continued existence of 1800 potent missiles aimed directly at Taiwan -- China's movies are invited to be showcased at the festival. And this year, for the first time ever, the hosts of the telecast are from China itself. It's sort of like having Brit Ricky Gervais host the Oscars. Taiwan wants to show that it too can be an international, borderless country.
One of the hosts is Mainland China actor Huang Bo That makes the host of the awards a citizen of the nation that has 1,800 missiles aimed right at Taiwan. The second co-host, a woman, is also a non-Taiwanese citizen, holding a Chinese passport from the communist China-administered region of Hong Kong.
Huang Bo is not from Taiwan, but he did Best Actor at the Golden Horse Awards in 2009 and later served on the festival's film jury. In addition, he was one of the stars in a Taiwanese police movie titled ''Black and White.” So he's got face, and he's got fans.
But still...Oops! No Taiwanese hosts?
Already there's been more than a little ire being aired online and in the local newspapers.
But some angry bloggers have been asking: “Have all Taiwanese male celebrities suddenly died? Why can't there be at least one local host from the host country? Why put two people from China in charge of the telecast?"
Hosts aside, Mainland Chinese films have done well at the festival. Says Huang Bo in a PR statement: "It’s a great honor for me to be a host at Chinese-language cinema’s big party. The 'Golden Horse Awards' are an event full of suspense, and I am excited to see what we can do to make it even more appealing through our efforts."
Just as long as China's "peaceful rising" military puts those 1,800 missiles at the democratic nation hosting the awards show away. And yes, "peaceful rising" in caveat quotes, of course.
Come Nov. 24, let the Golden Horse ceremonies begin! That is, if China and Japan have not already gone to war over those tiny, rocky islands in the middle of nowhere. It should be an interesting show this year.