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South Korea sweeps Asian Film Awards

South Korea's finest celebrated after they blitzed the annual Asian Film Awards on Monday, bolstering the country's growing reputation as the pre-eminent force in the region.

South Korean movie stars and filmmakers dominated the glitzy ceremony in Hong Kong, now in its fifth year, snapping up awards for best director, best screenplay, best actor, best supporting actress and best editing.

Lee Chang-Dong clinched best director for the feature film "Poetry", which also won best screenplay. The film portrays an elderly woman who falls in love with poetry after taking literature lessons but discovers some dark facts about her grandson along the way.

Lee, who previously won best director and best film for his movie "Secret Sunshine" in 2008, told reporters after the ceremony he did not expect to be crowned best director again.

"This is a complete surprise to me, I did not expect it at all," he said. "I am very happy and excited to receive it."

Thai film "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives", which grabbed the top Palme d'Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year, won best film. It portrays a dying man who reflects on his past days and the history of Thailand.

Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul told reporters afterwards: "I feel like I'm dreaming - it's wonderful."

"It's so special to win this award in Asia. For me, it is an accomplishment finishing this film on such a low budget," he added.

"A lot of films I make have an experimental slant. But I think that's exactly what we need - we need diversity and variety in the way that we tell stories. I'm happy that this film relates to people in the West and in Asia."

South Korea's Ha Jung-Woo took the best actor gong for starring in "The Yellow Sea", beating Hong Kong action movie star Chow Yun-fat and mainland Chinese actor Ge You.

China's Xu Fan beat Japan's Matsu Takako and South Korea's Jeon Do-Yeon to the best actress award.

She said: "I was very emotional. All I could think of when I was up there receiving the award was how difficult it was shooting this movie. It was a gruelling process. I am grateful my hard work paid off."

Veteran Hong Kong actor Sammo Hung was crowned best supporting actor for his role in the smash hit "Ip Man 2".

Best supporting actress went to Youn Yuh-Jung for her role in the South Korean movie "The Housemaid", while the award for best newcomer went to Mark Chao of the Taiwanese film "Monga".

Best cinematography went to Japan's "Norwegian Wood" while best production design went to "13 assassins".

Hong Kong veteran producer Raymond Chow, whose movie creations include "Enter the Dragon" and "The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", received this year's Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Asian Film Festival, held annually since 2007, is aimed at showcasing the region's movie talent.

Twenty-nine films from nine territories vied for 14 prizes this year.