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Two controversial movies about poor peasants that won prizes abroad tied for best picture in the 1988 Golden Rooster competition, China's Academy Awards.

"The Old Well" and "Red Sorghum" also shared best picture honors with a third movie, "Prairie," in an annual public opinion contest called the Hundred Flowers Awards, the official Xinhua News Agency said.The Golden Rooster prizes are awarded by a panel of experts from the movie industry.

Controversy has become a staple of the Golden Rooster Awards in the past few years, as China's filmmakers become increasingly sophisticated in their styles and themes.

Critics said "The Old Well" and "Red Sorghum," both made by the relatively avant-garde Xian Film Studio, focused on the backwardness and poverty of China instead of seeking to inspire. Both depict poor villagers in arid northwestern China, and both treat sexuality with relative frankness.

"The Old Well" won top prize at the Tokyo Grand Prix last year and a special prize at the Hawaii International Film Festival. "Red Sorghum" was named top film at the West Berlin Film Festival in February.

In "The Old Well," a young couple, the best-educated in their poor village, devote all their energies to finding a water supply for the village, but are prevented from marrying by the young man's father.

"Red Sorghum" was directed by Zhang Yimou, who also starred in "The Old Well" and won best actor honors in both the Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers contests.

"Red Sorghum," set in the 1930s, shows the relatively uninhibited life style of a band of sorghum winemakers and ends with several being killed by the invading Japanese.