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Stars Gather in HK for Inaugural Asian Film Awards
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Celebrities across Asia will bring glitz and glamour, as well as some healthy competition, to Hong Kong Tuesday for the first ever pan-Asian film awards ceremony.

The Asian Film Awards are launched this year by the Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF).

Among the stars to attend the glitzy event are renowned French director Luc Besson and South Korean director Park Chan-wook, whose film Old Boy was a Grand Prix winner at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

South Korean actor and singer Jung Ji-hoon, better known as Rain, Japanese idol Hirosue Ryoko, and actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai will tread the red carpet, along with local director Andrew Lau, whose Infernal Affairs was remade into the Oscar-winning gangster flick The Departed.

"With more than four billion people in Asia -- 60 percent of the global population -- a celebration of Asian cinema is long overdue," HKIFF chairman Wilfred Wong said.

More than 30 films across the region will be competing for 10 prizes in the Asian Film Awards: best film, director, actress, actor, screenwriter, cinematographer, production designer, composer, editor and visual effects.

South Korea's huge box office hit and monster flick, The Host, received five nominations, including best film, actor, cinematographer, editor and visual effects.

Veteran director Zhang Yimou's Curse of Golden Flower -- the most expensive Chinese film to date with a budget of US$45 million -- won three nods including best film, visual effects and best actress for Gong Li.

Hong Kong director Johnnie To's gang war epic, Exiled, earned nominations for best director and best film.

Chinese movie Still Life, winner of a top prize at the Venice Film Festival last year, garnered three nominations: best film, composer and director for Jia Zhangke.

Japanese smash drama, Love and Honor and Indonesia's Opera Jawa got the best film nods.

The award show and the film festival will be held in conjunction with the third Entertainment Expo, which combines eight events in film, digital entertainment and music.

The Expo, which runs from March 20 through April 15, includes a film and TV market, local film awards, a digital entertainment forum as well as a music fair and awards.

"We certainly welcome and support events like this because they bring the Hong Kong film industry more exposure in the region," said Woody Tsung, chief executive of Motion Picture Industry Association.

"I hope this will create more business opportunities for us," he said.

Apart from Gong Li, Chinese starlet Zhang Ziyi was nominated as best actress for The Banquet, along with Korean actresses Kim Hye-soo (Tazza: The High Rollers) and Lim Soo-jung (I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK) as well as Japan's Miyazawa Rie (Hana) and Nakatani Miki (Memories of Matsuka).

Korean idol Rain will be vying for the best actor prize for his role in romantic comedy I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK, alongside Hong Kong heart-throb Andy Lau of historical action drama A Battle of Wits and acclaimed Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan of Don.

Special honors will be given to movie theorist David Bordwell and Josephine Siao Fong-fong, legendary Hong Kong actress and winner of the 1995 Berlin Film festival for her role in Summer Snow, for their contribution in Asian cinema.

The movies were selected by a jury of 17 experts from across the world from more than 700 eligible films produced in the region in 2006, organizers said.

(China Daily March 19, 2007)

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