The Divorce Takes Top Prize


The 26th Shanghai International Film Festival came to a glitzy conclusion Saturday as Kazakh film The Divorce, directed by Daniyar Salamat, took home the top Golden Goblet award for best feature at a star-studded closing ceremony in the Chinese commercial capital.

A period drama set in the 1920s during the establishment of Soviet authority on the Kazakh steppe, the film explores the convergence of marriage, religion and women’s rights through the story of a typical couple wrestling with the prospect of divorce.

Salamat was presented onstage with his trophy by the Oscar-nominated Vietnamese-French director Tran Anh Hung (Scent of Green PapayaThe Taste of Things), who served as Shanghai’s competition jury president this year. Hung and his fellow jurors praised the “sophisticated form” of The Divorce‘s story, “which mixes comedy, farce and tragedy,” and they hailed Salamat’s “ability to create the feeling of innocence, which radiates through his film and its characters.” 

The Divorce‘s female lead, Omaroa Nira, brought home additional glory for Kazakhstan by winning Shanghai’s best actress prize. The jury said Nira’s performance allowed them “to see the perseverance and resilience of women and hear their powerful voices to fight back and defend themselves on the cold and barren land.”

Best actor honors went to local favorite Huang Xiaoming for his transformative performance in Wei Shujun’s family drama Mostly Sunny (previously known as Don’t Worry Be Happy). Huang plays a mentally challenged man coping with his mother’s cancer diagnosis. Typically, a heartthrob and leading man, Huang gained a considerable amount of weight for the part. “With a character that is easily labeled and stereotyped, the actor’s performance renders the role a unique charm through presenting his clumsy and heavy body and innocent eyes,” the jury said, adding, “By looking at his eyes, the jury sees precious belief and strength, and the warmest humanity.”

As he accepted the prize, Huang said the message of Don’t Worry Be Happy is that “life is ups and downs — but you are not alone.” Noting that the film is also about the Chinese value of filial piety, the actor went on to thank his parents, saying he wouldn’t be standing onstage without them.

China’s longest-running and most internationally respected major cinema event, the Shanghai festival hosted an estimated 1,600 screenings of 461 films across its 10-day duration this year. Joining Hung on the event’s jury were Australian filmmaker Rolf de Heer, German director Matthias Glasner, Hong Kong star Tony Leung Ka-fai, Argentinian director Santiago Mitre, Chinese actress Zhou Xun and Tibetan director Sonthar Gyal.

Shanghai’s second-place film honor, the Jury Grand Prix, was awarded to the Argentinian drama Adult, directed by Mariano Gonzalez. The film tells the story of a teenage boy who is forced to fend for himself when his father goes mysteriously absent.

“A remarkable film that reveals with urgency, tension and truth, the social degradation of a country, from the eyes of a teenager who must understand how to deal with adults,” the jury said as Gonzalez received his trophy. 

Chinese cinema had a strong night overall. The best screenplay prize went to Zheng Zhi, Guo Fangfang and director Gu Changwei — co-writers of The Hedgehog — while the best documentary trophy was awarded to Pan Ziqi for Ms Hu’s Garden (in a rousing moment, The Hedgehog‘s star, popular actor Ge You, joined the screenwriters onstage and proceeded to kiss their Golden Goblet statue). Zhang Ying, director of photography for Huang Bo’s well-received pandemic drama A Man and A Woman, won for best cinematography.

The Shanghai International Film Festival wraps up Sunday with re-screenings of the festival’s winners. This year’s edition ran from June 14 to 23.

See the full winners list below.

Best Feature Film
The Divorce, directed by Daniyar Salamat (Kazakhstan) 

Jury Grand Prix 
Adult, directed by Mariano Gonzalez (Argentina)

Best Director
Bakur Bakurazde for Snowflakes in My Yard (Georgia, Russia)

Best Actor
Huang Xiaoming for Mostly Sunny (China)

Best Actress
Omaroa Nira for The Divorce (Kazakhstan)

Best Screenplay
Zheng Zhi for The Hedgehog (China)

Best Cinematography 
Zhang Ying for A Man and A Woman (China)

Outstanding Artistic Achievement
The Wasteman, directed by Ahmad Bahrami (Iran)

Best Documentary Film
Ms Hu’s Garden, directed by Pan Ziqi (China)

Best Animation Film 
The Colours Within, directed by Naoko Yamada (Japan)



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