Mixed bag - and some surprises - as Asia gets ready for Cannes

Given the recent success of Asian productions at the Festival de Cannes, it came as little surprise to find that this year's edition of the world's most prestigious film gathering would offer a wide selection from the region. What did come as a surprise, though, is just who got an invitation - and who did not.

This year's Cannes Festival will run from May 11-22 and will feature two Asian directors vying for the top award - the Palme d'Or - which was taken home last year by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul for his Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

Japan's Naomi Kawase is in the running with Hanezu No Tsuki - lifted from the pages of the famous novel by Bando Masako - while long-time festival favorite Takashi Miike returns with the 3D epic Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai, which will take its place in the field of 19 films.

But there will be no appearance on the famed French waterfront by Cannes darling Wong Kar-wai, who was expected to have his latest production The Grandmasters - based on the life of Ip Man, the man who taught Bruce Lee kung fu - ready in time for the festival. No such luck for the notoriously slow-working Wong, as the Hong Kong director is still piecing his production together.

Despite the rising presence of the Chinese film industry there was no place found for any films from the country in Cannes's major competitions, with only the Hong Kong-based Peter Chan getting a nod with a special Midnight Screening being held for his martial arts epic Wu Xia.

Films from South Korea fared a lot better in the secondary Un Certain Regard section, filling three places. Despite once vowing to have left the film industry behind for a life of farming, Kim Ki-duk returns to Cannes with Arirang, joined by compatriots Hong Sang-soo ( The Day He Arrives) and Na Hong-jin ( Yellow Sea).

The surprise selection in Un Certain Regard was Singaporean director Eric Khoo's animated feature Tatsumi, based on the life and times of legendary Japanese comic artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi.

Asian films at Cannes 2011:

Official Competition: Hanezu no Tsuki (Japan, directed by Naomi Kawase); Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai (Japan, directed by Takashi Miike)

Un Certain Regard: The Day He Arrives (South Korea, directed by Hong Sang-soo); Tatsumi (Singapore, directed by Eric Khoo); Arirang (South Korea, directed by Kim Ki-duk); The Yellow Sea (South Korea, directed by Na Hong-jin)

Midnight Screening: Wu Xia (Hong Kong/China, directed by Peter Chan)

MS

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