China, South Korea sweep Asian film awards

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The Independent Culture

China and South Korea blitzed the Asian Film Awards this year, dominating top honours including best picture, best actor and best actress at the ceremony in Hong Kong Monday.

"Mother", a South Korean mystery thriller about a woman's quest to prove the innocence of her mentally incapacitated son by taking it upon herself to investigate the murder of a teenage girl, grabbed the best film award.

Producer Moon Yang-kwon said after the ceremony that it was a very challenging film to shoot.

"It's very tough. But I decided to make the film because I felt very touched after reading the script," he told reporters.

"Every one of us has a mother. The film illustrates very well the way children feel towards their mothers and vice versa."

Kim Hye-ja, who played the mother, beat China's Li Bingbing and Japan's Matsu Takako to the best actress award.

Chinese director Lu Chuan won the best director award for his feature film "City of Life and Death", which tackles the Nanjing Massacre in 1937, where hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians were killed by Japanese soldiers.

Lu said the biggest challenge in making the film was to conquer his fear of death.

"I was really afraid of dying. But I had to learn to face death and tried to express it every day during the production period."

Wang Xueqi from mainland China won the best actor award for starring in "Bodyguards and Assassins" as a businessman who provided financial aid for the revolutionary movement led by Sun Yat-sen, Father of China, in the early 20th century.

"Raise the Red Lantern" director Zhang Yimou won the prize for outstanding contribution to Asian cinema.

Zhang, whose films catapulted mainland Chinese actresses Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi into internationally acclaimed star status, said his hopes were pinned on the new generation of Asian directors.

The prize for top-grossing film director for 2009 went to action supremo John Woo for Red Cliff, which is also reportedly the highest-grossing Chinese-language film in Chinese film history.

Woo, originally from Hong Kong, is best known for directing Hollywood blockbuster "Mission: Impossible II".

Veteran Indian film producer and actor Amitabh Bachchan, dubbed the "Godfather of Bollywood", was given the lifetime achievement award.

"In a world that is fast disintegrating, I believe cinema is one medium that brings all of us together in love, in friendship, and in cooperation," said Bachchan.

Hong Kong singer-cum-actor Nicholas Tse was crowned best supporting actor for his role in "Bodyguards and Assassins." Tse starred as a rickshaw puller who sacrificed himself to protect Sun Yat-sen from assassins.

Best supporting actress went to Hong Kong television veteran Wai Ying-hung, for playing an emotionally disturbed single mother in "At the End of Daybreak", a joint production between Hong Kong, South Korea, and Malaysia.

Ng Meng-hui was named best newcomer in the same film for playing an innocent teenage girl.

The Asian Film Festival, held annually since 2007, is aimed at showcasing the region's movie talent. The awards were dominated by South Korea in its first two years, but Japan stole the show last year.

Thirty-seven films vied for 14 prizes this year.