Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hong Kong Film Awards on Sunday

JOHN Woo's Chinese historical epic, a biopic of Bruce Lee's kung fu master and a documentary-like look at a working-class neighborhood are the top contenders at the Hong Kong Film Awards on Sunday.

The nominees reflect the past and present of Hong Kong's movie industry - once a major Asian filmmaking hub known for its local stories, but now increasingly geared toward the mainland Chinese market with historical and kung fu blockbusters.

Woo's US$80 million (S$120 million) two-part epic 'Red Cliff,' based on an ancient Chinese battle by the same name, is a prime example of the recent trend of films made with an eye toward mainland viewers.

Wilson Yip's action-filled biography of Bruce Lee's teacher Ip Man is another example, portraying the late martial arts master as a patriot who resists the Japanese occupation of his southern Chinese hometown.

The first installment of 'Red Cliff' is up for 15 prizes and 'Ip Man' is competing for 12 at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Both movies are nominated for best picture.

But another top contender harkens back to the locally flavored fare made in the former British colony known for its mix of Chinese and Western cultures.

Veteran filmmaker Ann Hui's 'The Way We Are,' which follows the life of a single mother in Hong Kong's Tin Shui Wai district, is a contender for best film, best director, best screenplay and best actress.

The other best picture nominees are Hong Kong comedian Stephen Chow's sci-fi movie 'CJ7' and Gordon Chan's ghost thriller 'Painted Skin.' Woo and Yip are also up for best director, competing against Benny Chan for 'Connected' and Johnnie To, who was nominated for 'Sparrow,' a playful look at a pickpocket gang.

Former Cannes winner Tony Leung Chiu-wai received a nod for best actor for playing a Chinese general in 'Red Cliff.'

He faces off with action star Donnie Yen, who played Ip Man; Simon Yam in 'Sparrow;' Nick Cheung from the police thriller 'The Beast Stalker;' and heartthrob Louis Koo, who portrayed a gangster who struggles to give up a life of crime in 'Run Papa Run.'

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