Tsui Hark's 'Flying Swords of Dragon Gate' Leads Asian Film Awards Nominations

2:18 AM PST 01/18/2012 by Karen Chu
Distribution Workshop

Wei Te-sheng's "Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale" and Zhang Yimou's "The Flowers of War" follow with six each.

HONG KONG – Director Tsui Hark’s 3D extravaganza The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate leads the Sixth Asian Film Awards nominations with seven nods, closely followed by Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale by Taiwan’s Wei Te-sheng, and The Flowers of War by China’s Zhang Yimou, with six nominations each.

Fresh off its Best Foreign Language film win at the Golden Globes, Iran’s A Separation received nominations in five categories, while Peter Chan’s Wu Xia shines in the technical categories, with four nominations. 

Organized by the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society, the awards will name winners in 14 competition categories and hand out three special awards on March 19, including the Edward Yang New Talent Award, the Award for 2011’s Top Grossing Asian Film, and the Lifetime Achievement Awards to director Ann Hui, whose leads, Deanie Ip and Andy Lau in her latest, A Simple Life, are nominated in the best actress and actor categories.

The nominees show a marked geographical diversity this year – 32 films from 11 countries and regions were nominated – and not any particular dominance from any one country. 

But box office clout rules – Flying Swords grossed over 500 million yuan ($79 million) in China, the two-parter Seediq Bale over TWD 880 million ($29 million) to become the second-highest grossing local film in Taiwan; and both leads, Michelle Chen and Ko Chen-tung, of the surprise monster hit from Taiwan, You Are the Apple of My Eye, are nominated in the best actress and best newcomer categories, respectively. 

“A good film would certainly find its audience,” HKIFFS chairman Wilfred Wong told The Hollywood Reporter.  “This year, the films proved that quality appeals to the audience.” 

Hundreds of films were screened by a seven-member steering committee to determine the nominations.  “2011 has been an excellent year for Asian films. The quality of work produced over the past year has made it an exceedingly difficult task to select he nominations that have made it to our final shortlists,” Wong said. “The films were too many and too good; it was very difficult to choose.”

“It’s an interesting list with a good mix – there are films big and small,” said Singaporean director Eric Khoo, who will lead a twelve-member jury as president to decide on the winners. “There are also surprising box office successes, such as You Are the Apple of My Eye, which became the second-highest grossing film in Singapore last year. The film shows that Taiwan is definitely a region coming out with a golden age period. The Taiwan government is pumping money into the film industry, which happened also in Korea. Government incentive to help local productions all over Asia is slowly progressing.”

Some might hope that the Asian film industry might rival Hollywood, but Wong believes that there remains much to be improved. “The ecosystem of Asian cinema needs improvement – in the distribution, exhibition, and production sides. We have to learn from the Hollywood experience to make AFA the Oscar of Asia.”

The full nominations list can be found here.

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