The awards ceremony was established during the peak of the Hong Kong New Wave, which was led by a crop of young, innovative directors including Tsui Hark, Ann Hui, and Allen Fong. The New Wave directors made artistic yet commercially successful films that deviated from the formulaic movies that had caused Hong Kong’s film industry to stagnate. As such, the introduction of the Hong Kong Film Awards further spurred the industry’s newfound fervor.
The first awards presentation, which honored films made in 1981, took place on March 9, 1982, at the Hong Kong Arts Centre in Wan Chai. Awards were given out across five categories: Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Actress, with Allen Fong’s Father and Son taking home the award for Best Film.
In 1993, the ceremony organizers established a non-profit organization, the Hong Kong Film Awards Association Limited. The non-profit is managed by a 13-member Board of Directors representing 13 professional film bodies in Hong Kong, including the Hong Kong Film Directors’ Guild, the Hong Kong Performing Artistes Guild, and the Hong Kong Screen Writers’ Guild.
As the Hong Kong Film Awards matured, garnering recognition at home and abroad, the ceremony began to attract actors, directors, and other industry professionals from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Today, the glitzy event is normally the most-watched Chinese-language film awards ceremony in the world. As a tribute to the Film Awards’ cultural significance, a 4.5-meter replica of the statuette awarded to winners greets visitors at Hong Kong’s Avenue of Stars, a harborside promenade located in Tsim Sha Tsui.
The Hong Kong Film Awards’ most controversial moment came in 2016 when the ceremony was censored by Chinese media due to the best picture nomination of Ten Years, a small-budget independent film depicting a bleak, dystopian future Hong Kong under Beijing’s authoritarian rule. While Ten Years was a huge hit in Hong Kong, going on to win Best Picture, Chinese media did not screen the awards ceremony (a first since 1991) and made no mention of the grand prize winner in its news coverage.