'Bodyguards' muscle in on Hong Kong Film Awards nominations

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The Independent Culture

A box office smash dominates nominations for this year's Hong Kong Film Awards but it's the presence of a tiny little production in the race for honors and the absence of another film that has tongues wagging.

The Teddy Chan-directed Bodyguards and Assassins - which follows the story of a gang of martial artists as they try to protect Chinese revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sun during a visit to Hong Kong - has picked up 19 nominations at this year's awards and it will be vying for, among others, best movie, best director and best leading actor.

The all-star production - set in the Qing Dynasty period of the early 1900s - features Donnie Yen Zi-dan, Leon Lai Ming and Tony Leung Ka-fai among its characters but it was the lesser known mainland Chinese actor Wang Xueqi who picked up the nod for best actor.

It has picked up an estimated US$50 million (36 million euros) from the Asian box office since being released on December 18 - and will now surely get an international release.

Bodyguards and Assassins is up against the John Woo-directed epic Red Cliff II, the cop thriller Overheard and the ultra-violent Jackie Chan vehicle Shinjuku Incident for best film.

But the surprise in the best film category is the inclusion of the documentary KJ: Music and Life - the first time a documentary has been nominated for the award.

KJ charts the course of six years in the life of piano-playing prodigy Wong Ka-jeng.

"The documentary caused a stir in the industry,'' Hong Kong Film Awards Association chairman Gordon Chan Ka-sheung said on announcing the nominations.

Oddly, though, there were no major nominations for the Yonfan-directed Prince of Tears, despite the film being put forward as Hong Kong's selection for Oscar consideration.

Woo's Red Cliff II picked up the second most nominations with 13 but the director may have to again play second fiddle - last year the first Red Cliff installment picked up 15 nominations, but left with just five technical awards.

The HKFA (http://www.hkfaa.com) will be announced on April 18.

And the nominees are:

Best Film: Bodyguards and Assassins, Red Cliff II, KJ, Shinjuku Incident, Overheard.

Best Director: Teddy Chen ( Bodyguards and Assassins), Ann Hui ( Night & Fog), John Woo ( Red Cliff II), Derek Yee ( Shinjuku Incident), Alan Mak and Felix Chong ( Overheard).

Best Actor: Wang Xueqi ( Bodyguards and Assassins), Simon Yam ( Night & Fog), Aaron Kwok ( Murderer), Simon Yam ( Echoes of the Rainbow), Lau Ching Wan ( Overheard).

Best Actress: Zhang Jingchu ( Night & Fog), Wai Yin Hung ( At the End of Daybreak), Vicki Zhao Wei ( Mulan), Shu Qi ( Look for a Star), Sandra Ng ( Echoes of the Rainbow).