Korean Western tops Asian Film Award noms

'The Good, the Bad' followed by films from China, Japan

HONG KONG -- South Korea's "The Good, the Bad, the Weird," an homage to the spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone, led the way with eight noms Wednesday as nominees were revealed for the third annual Asian Film Awards, an event organizers hope will grow to become the Oscars of Asia.

Films from Japan and China otherwise dominated the 13 categories, with 18 Japanese productions or co-productions and 17 Chinese entries earning nominations.

Actress Michelle Yeoh will lead the jury selecting the AFA winners, due to be announced in Hong Kong at a March 23 ceremony televised across Asia.

The awards gala, organized by the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society, kicks off the Entertainment Expo Hong Kong, which also includes the Hong Kong International Film Festival, the Hong Kong and Asia Film Financing Forum and the Hong Kong Filmart.

Director Kim Jee-woon's "Weird" drew nominations in four major categories, including best film and director, best actor (Song Kang-ho) and best supporting actor (Jung Woo-sung).

Drawing three noms each were China's "Red Cliff," by John Woo, and "Forever Enthralled," by Chen Kaige. Hayao Miyazaki's "Ponyo on the Cliff" joins "The Magic Hour" and "Paco and the Magical Book" as Japanese titles with three noms. Also picking up a trio of noms were festival favorites "The Chaser," from South Korea, and Filipino director Brillante Mendoza's "Service."

Despite its short history, the AFA already has weathered a few storms. Operational hiccups marred last year's ceremony and taught the organizers a few lessons.

This year, a best newcomer award was added, and the ceremony will be faster paced. By delaying the broadcast, organizers will be able to add simultaneous subtitles for presenters and award winners speaking different languages, rather than translating their words onstage.

"The new team is now running smoothly," Hong Kong International Film Festival Society chairman Wilfred Wong said. "The operation is more mature. We have learned from experience."

The society's new executive director, Soo-wei Shaw, has set high standards for the team to make the awards a regional event.

Improving the event is about "targeting new audiences," said Shaw, who comes from a media marketing background. "We are using many different platforms to promote this event, including online and digital platforms," she said.

Wong says the plan to mold the AFA into Asia's Oscars is ambitious, but notes that "history played a big part in making the Oscars what it is today. It wasn't built in one day."

Through its Arts Development Council, the Hong Kong government subsidizes the awards and its sister financing forum to the tune of HK$10 million ($1.29 million), Wong said.

"We have to persevere and the Hong Kong government has to continue its support," he said.

Despite the global economic crisis, the subsidy rose this year by more than HK$1 million -- a good thing considering that finding sponsorships proved more difficult, Wong said, noting that targets finally were met.

A complete list of AFA nominations follows:

Best film
"Forever Enthralled," China
"The Good, the Bad, the Weird," South Korea
"Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea," Japan
"The Rainbow Troops," Indonesia
"Red Cliff," China
"Tokyo Sonata," Japan/the Netherlands/Hong Kong

Feng Xiaogang, "If You Are the One," China
Kim Jee-woon, "The Good, the Bad, the Weird," South Korea
Koreeda Hirokazu, "Still Walking," Japan
Brillante Mendoza, "Service" the Philippines
Miyazaki Hayao/Frank Marshall, "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea," Japan
John Woo, "Red Cliff," China

Ge You, "If You Are the One," China
Ha Jung-woo, "The Chaser," South Korea
Akshay Kumar, "Singh Is Kinng, India
Matsuyama Kenich, "Detroit Metal City," Japan
Motoki Masahiro, "Departures," Japan
Song Kang-ho, "The Good, the Bad, the Weird," South Korea

Fukatsu Eri, "The Magic Hour," Japan
Jiang Wenli, "And the Spring Comes," China
Deepika Padukone, "Chandni Chowk To China," India
Yoshinaga Sayuri, "Kabei -- Our Mother," Japan
Zhou Wei, "Painted Skin," China/Hong Kong
Zhou Xun, "The Equation of Love and Death," China

Best newcomer
Matsuda Shota, "Boys Over Flowers: the Movie," Japan
Sandrine Pinna, "Miao Miao," Taiwan/Hong Kong
So Ji-sub, "Rough Cut," South Korea
Xu Jiao, "CJ7," Hong Kong
JeeJa Yanin, "Chocolate," Thailand
Yu Shaoqun, "Forever Enthralled," China

Supporting actor
Nick Cheung, "Beast Stalker," Hong Kong
Jung Woo-sung, "The Good, the Bad, the Weird," South Korea
Lee Byung-hun, "The Good, the Bad, the Weird," South Korea
Tsutsumi Shinichi, "Suspect X," Japan
Wang Xueqi, "Forever Enthralled," China

Supporting actress
Aoi Yu, "Sex Is No Laughing Matter," Japan
Jaclyn Jose, "Service," the Philippines
Kiki Kirin, "Still Walking," Japan
Kim Ji-yeong, "Forever the Moment," South Korea
Gina Pareno, "Service," the Philippines

Na Hong-jin, "The Chaser," South Korea
Li Qiang, "And the Spring Comes," China
Tom Lin/Henry Tsai, "Winds of September," Taiwan/Hong Kong
Kurosawa Kiyoshi/Max Mannix/Tanaka Sachiko, "Tokyo Sonata," Japan/the Netherlands/Hong Kong
Mitani Koki, "The Magic Hour," Japan

Ato Shoichi, "Paco and the Magical Book," Japan
Cheng Siu-keung (HKSC), "Sparrow," Hong Kong
Lee Mo-gae, "The Good, the Bad, the Weird," South Korea
Jola Dylewska, "Tulpan," Germany/Kazakhstan/Poland/Russia/Switzerland
Wang Yu/Nelson Lik-wai YU, "24 City," China

Production designer
Nitin Chandrakant DESAI, "Jodhaa Akbar," India
Kuwajima Towako, "Paco and the Magical Book," Japan
Daniel Yan-kong Lee, "Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon," Hong Kong/South Korea/China
Bill Lui, "Painted Skin," China/ Hong Kong
Taneda Yohei, "The Magic Hour," Japan

Dalpalan/Jang Young-gyu, "The Good, the Bad, the Weird," South Korea
Hanno Yoshihiro/ LIM Giong, "24 City," China
Hisaishi Joe, "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea," Japan
Henry Wan-man Lai, "Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon," Hong Kong/South Korea/China
A.R. Rahman, "Jodhaa Akbar," India

Chan Ki-hop, "Beast Stalker," Hong Kong
William Suk-ping Chang, "Miao Miao," Taiwan/Hong Kong
Darya Daniolva, "Native Dancer," Kazakhstan/Russia/France/Germany
Waluyo Ichwandiardono, "The Rainbow Troops," Indonesia
Kim Sun-min, "The Chaser," South Korea

Visual effects
Craig Hayes, "Red Cliff," China
Kim Wook, "The Good, the Bad, the Weird," South Korea
Yanagawase Masahide, "Paco and the Magical Book," Japan