By Min Lee, AP
Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s film festival hopes to boost its profile with an inaugural pan-Asian awards ceremony Tuesday that features nominees from Bollywood, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Iran.
The problem is that many of the big stars are skipping the event.
Despite being a major movie production hub, Hong Kong’s film festival has paled in comparison to the better funded Pusan International Film Festival in South Korea, which hosts more world premieres.
Hong Kong organizers hope a star-studded awards event that draws big names from across the region will redirect the world’s focus to this bustling financial capital that has seen its once-powerhouse movie industry decline in productivity.
The 1st Asian Film Awards encompasses an unusually diverse mix of nominees that includes some of the biggest names in Asian cinema.
Among the movies competing for best film are famed Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s ancient Chinese epic Curse of the Golden Flower, the South Korean monster thriller The Host, and Still Life, directed by Zhang’s compatriot Jia Zhangke.
Jia won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival last year for Still Life, set against the imminent demolition of a small town to make way for the Three Gorges Dam project.
The other nominees for best film are Hong Kong director Johnnie To’s gangster movie Exiled, Japan’s Love and Honor, the story of a blind samurai, and the Austrian-Indonesian co-production Opera Jawa, which incorporates Javanese art and dance.
Up for the top acting awards are Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan (Don), Gong Li (Curse of the Golden Flower) and fellow Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi (The Banquet), Japan’s Ken Watanabe (Memories of Tomorrow), veteran Hong Kong actor Andy Lau (A Battle of Wits) and Taiwan’s Chang Chen (The Go Master).
South Korean pop star Rain was nominated for I Am a Cyborg, But That’s OK, about the relationship between two mentally ill patients.
Chinese director Jia and Hong Konger To are vying for best director against Iran’s Jafar Panahi (Offside), Malaysian-Chinese director Tsai Ming-liang, South Korean Hong Sang-soo (Woman on the Beach) and Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Syndromes and a Century).
Despite a topflight shortlist, the Hong Kong organizers haven’t been able to draw the star power they were aiming for.
The Hong Kong film festival’s director, Peter Tsi, said earlier that he expected most nominees to attend, but some of the most famous nominees have decided to skip the event.
No-shows on the final guest list include Zhang, Gong, Lau, Khan and Watanabe.
Rain and directors To and Jia will attend, as will French director Luc Besson.
Veteran movie star Josephine Siao, Hong Kong’s most prolific actor in history, and film scholar David Bordwell will receive lifetime achievement honors.
Crucindo Hung, a director at the Asian movie producers’ association, which organizes the rival Asia-Pacific Film Festival, complained earlier that the Asian Film Awards isn’t representative enough because it’s organized by a single region instead of a regional organization.
The 51-year-old Asia-Pacific Film Festival is held in a different country each year and its jury is drawn from member countries.
The Asian Film Awards jury also draws from different countries. This year’s jury includes officials from film festivals in Tokyo, Busan, Cannes and Berlin.