H.K. to host first Asian Film Awards

Titles from four countries will compete for best pic nod

HONG KONG -- The first ever Asian Film Awards, honoring the best of Asian cinema over the past year, will take place March 20 during the opening night of the 31st annual Hong Kong International Film Festival, organizers announced Monday.

China's "Curse of the Golden Flower" and "Still Life" are among the nominees in the best picture category. Hong Kong's "Exiled," South Korea's "The Host," Japan's "Love And Honor" and Indonesia's "Opera Jawa" round out the list.

The awards will recognize films and filmmakers from all over Asia, including projects from Iran and India. Awards in 10 categories will be presented. The films were nominated by a jury of 17 film professionals from Asia and Europe. The group selected the list after screening 700 films produced in the region last year.

"With more than four billion people in Asia and 60% of the global population, a celebration of Asian cinema is long overdue," said Wilfred Wong, chairman of the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society. "We aim to make the AFA the most prominent and definitive awards in the region by highlighting excellence in Asian filmmaking and by bringing broader attention to the rich and diverse stories and storytellers from all over Asia today."

Notable nominees in the best director category include China's Jia Zhenke ("Still Life") and Hong Kong's Johnnie To ("Exiled") in the best director category. Japan's Ken Watanabe ("Memories of Tomorrow"), Hong Kong's Andy Lau ("A Battle Of Wits") and India's Sharukh Khan ("Don") are among the best actor nominees. China's Gong Li ("Curse Of The Golden Flower"), Zhang ZiYi ("The Banquet") and Japan's Miyazawa Rie ("Hana") are three of the six nominees in the actress category.

The Asian Film Awards will be held in conjunction with Hong Kong's Entertainment Expo, which will showcase film, digital entertainment, music and TV in a series of events that run March 20-April 15. More details, including Asian broadcast rights, presenters and performing acts, are expected to be announced soon.