From left, actor Ha Jung-woo, the winner of Best Actor award, Youn Yuh-jung, the winner of Best Supporting Actress award, and director Lee Chang-dong, the winner of Best Director award, pose with their trophies at the Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong, Monday. / AP-Yonhap
By Lee Hyo-won
HONG KONG ― South Korean cineastes shone at the Asian Film Awards Monday, winning Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Editing.
The fifth edition of the awards, held in conjunction with the Hong Kong International Film Festival, featured a tough competition among some of the most renowned Asian cineastes and the red carpet event beamed brighter than ever with the attendance of top stars. Yet it was marked by many absences in the aftermath of the disastrous earthquakes in Japan, and ovations were respectful rather than enthusiastic.
Nevertheless the celebratory mood peaked with Korean cinema demonstrating its ever-growing prominence in the international film industry. Eight Korean films won 17 nominations in 14 categories, with sometimes more than one local work vying for the same award among five nominees. In addition to five awards, two more non-competitive titles went to Korean talent.
Lee Chang-dong won prizes for both Best Director and Screenplay. “My scenario seems to have some good things but it’s really the actors and actresses, especially my main actress Yoon Jung-hee, and the staff _ they blew the breath of life into my work,” said Lee, who won the Best Screenplay prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival for “Poetry.” Park Hoon-jung was also nominated for the Hong Kong event’s Best Screenplay prize for the crime drama “The Unjust.”
Ha Jung-woo won Best Actor for his role in the gritty Korean thriller, “Yellow Sea.” “I’d like to share this honor and happiness entirely with the ‘Yellow Sea’ team. Thank you,” Ha said about winning over prominent stars such as Chow Yun-fat, appearing sleek in a black tuxedo and bow tie. “Yellow Sea” was nominated for a total of four awards, including Best Director, Production Design and Music Score.
“Yellow Sea’s” Na Hong-jin ceded the directing prize to the veteran Lee Chang-dong. When Lee reappeared onstage to accept the award for Best Director, he thanked the jury and film festival, as well as his wife and “the people who love films but at the same time love poetry.”
“Poetry” was also nominated for Best Film, but it lost out to Thailand’s “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” just as at Cannes last year.
Youn Yuh-jung became one of the actresses as the hour for “The Housemaid.” “First of all, I’d like to thank the jury, who made the right decision,” said Youn, evoking much laughter from the crowd, after being named Best Supporting Actress. Looking chic in a beige constructed gown, she thanked not only director Im Sang-soo but also the late director Kim Ki-young, whose 1960 film of the same title marked her film debut and inspired the remake.
Youn’s co-star, Cannes winner Jeon Do-yeon, missed out on the best actress award to China’s Xu Fan (“Aftershock”) but “The Housemaid” star won the People’s Choice Award for best acting, alongside superstar Chow Yun-fat. The prizes were determined through an online vote. “The Housemaid” also received a nomination for Best Costume.
Kim Dong-ho, former director of the Busan International Film Festival (formerly PIFF), was honored with Outstanding Contribution to Asian Cinema. Three esteemed directors ― Lee, China’s Jia Zhangke and the Philippines’ Brillante Mendoza, who was named Best Director at Cannes in 2009 ― presented the golden trophy to Kim.
Before commenting on the award, Kim, along with many others, expressed heartfelt condolences to Japanese victims of the recent earthquakes as well as Japanese filmmaker friends who were unable to attend the ceremony.
“It’s my great, great honor to receive this prestigious award. I’d like to share this honor with all the staff and volunteers of the Busan Film Festival. I’d like to share this pleasure with cineastes and cinephiles from Asian and Korean film societies for continuously supporting us from the beginning. I’m not sure if I’m dreaming or awake, please don’t wake me up,” said Kim, who is now honorary director of the Busan Festival after heading it for 15 years.
Kim retook the stage later to present the Lifetime Achievement Award to Hong Kong’s Raymond Chow, who is renowned for producing Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee films.
Nam Na-young picked up the trophy for Best Editing in Kim Ji-woon’s “I Saw the Devil.” “This is completely unexpected. I would like to share this honor with director Kim and our crew members,” said Nam. The psychopath thriller was also nominated for Best Cinematography.
Other stellar nods included the Korean War action flick “71: Into the Fire” and the crime drama “The Man From Nowhere,” which both vied for the Best Visual Effects Award.
“71’s” star, K-pop singer and actor Choi Seung-hyun (a.k.a. Big Bang’s TOP), was also nominated for Best Newcomer. Choi’s fellow K-pop celebrity, Han Geng, a Chinese member of the boy band Super Junior, sang at the award ceremony and also presented an award. Han is set to appear in a China-United States co-production “My Kingdom,” alongside superstars such as Sammo Hung. Hung won the award for Best Supporting Actor that evening, beating Korean nominees Ryu Seung-bum (“The Unjust”) and Yu Hae-jin (“Moss”).
The glitzy event was attended by some of the biggest Asian stars, particularly those representing China. Actress Zhang Ziyi, appeared sexy in a lacy black-and-white corset dress to present the award to Lee Chang-dong for Best Director and actor Tony Leung appeared with his wife Carina Lau. Director Feng Xiaogang was also present with his wife, actress Fan Xu. His film “Aftershock” was recognized not only for Fan’s Best Actress Award but also for being the top grossing Asian film of 2010.