Golden Rooster fest opens in central China

155 films compete for 18 awards at Nanchang event

BEIJING -- The biennial Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers film festival got underway in central China on Wednesday, featuring 155 films competing for 18 awards, including entries from Iran and cultural representatives from Myanmar.

Leading the nominations at the six-day festival in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, with nine nods -- including those for best feature film, best director and best actor -- is Chinese director Feng Xiaogang's 2008 war epic "Assembly" about a soldier's fight for the dignity of his dead comrades.

Countryman Chen Kaige's film "Forever Enthralled," is a close second favorite. The biopic of Peking Opera master Mei Lanfang, garnered eight nominations, including those for best feature film and best director.

Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, who plays Mei's lover and a Peking opera star, is up for the best supporting actress award.

Among the other films screening are "Token," an orphan story by Iranian director Fereydoun Hassanpour and the crime thriller "Face to Face" by his countryman Ali Jekan.

Recent past winners of the Golden Rooster Best Picture award were "On the Mountain of Tai Hang,"  by Wei Lian, Shen Dong and Chen Jian who shared the prize in 2005 with director Lu Chuan for his Hollywood-financed "Kekexili Mountain Patrol," a movie about saving the Tibetan antelope from ruthless poachers. The 2007 winner was Yin Li for his film "The Knot."

The festival also awards prizes for Best TV Film, Best Documentary, Best Animation, Best Director, Best Directorial Début, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenwriter, Best Cinematographer, Best Sound, Best Art Director and Best Score.

Also participating in the 2009 event set to end Oct. 18 are representatives from the Myanmar Motion Picture Enterprise, hoping to showcase the cinema of the state-run industry in China's southwestern neighbor, also known as Burma.