Feng Xiaogang's 'Youth' Nabs Top Prizes at Marianas Film Festival

Youth Still 1 - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Huayi Brothers Pictures

The tiny U.S. protectorate of Saipan played host to its first international film event with a keen focus on Asian, and particularly, Chinese talent.

Feng Xiaogang's Youth, which has had a troubled time domestically after being pulled by China's censors days before release, was the big winner at the first Marianas International Film Festival. 

The inaugural festival, held in the tiny U.S. protectorate of Saipan in the South Pacific, had a decidedly Asian, and particularly Chinese, flavor to both its program and the winners of its first awards that closed the event. 

Feng, dubbed by many as "China's Spielberg," was the star turn at the festival and was on hand to pick up two of the biggest awards for best director and best film. Youth's Oraphan Saithong won best-supporting actress and Elaine Zhong best new artist. 

Youth, the 17th film from Feng, had been billed as a possible commercial and critical return to form and was set to be released Sept. 29 in China. Government censors took exception to the film and pulled it with no official reason given, causing great consternation among Chinese moviegoers. The movie is set to open this Friday. 

The major acting prizes went to Ma Yue for Country Far Away, with Relocate's Yan Ni picking up best actress. Tibet-based drama Sunshine That Can Move Mountains won best cinematography and best screenplay

Zhang Han won best-supporting actor for his performance in the $850 million and counting domestic smash hit Wolf Warrior 2. 

Elsewhere at Marianas, South Korea's Na Hyun won best new director for crime film The Prison. 

Despite its newness, Marianas was able to attract heavy hitters from the Chinese film industry, including Bona boss Dong Yu as well Feng and the stars of Youth

"The focus [of the festival] is mainly to build a win-win cooperation platform. China will soon become the world's largest film market, Saipan has the opportunity to become a hub for the world's filmmakers entering the Chinese market," Ken Zhang, one of the founders of the Marianas festival, told The Hollywood Reporter

Zhang added that they hoped to add more films from Europe and North America for next year's edition.