Action film Bodyguards and Assassins (十月围城, pinyin: Shí Yuè Wéi Chéng), a Hong Kong-Chinese co-production, earned most nominations for the upcoming Asian Film Awards (AFA), announced this week. Along with a South Korean movie, Mother, it was nominated in six categories including Best Film. Bodyguards and Assassins has already proved a hit at the box office - it was the second highest grossing domestic film in China last year behind The Founding of a Republic - and is hoping to repeat that success with critics. Ironically, The Founding of a Republic was snubbed by the AFA, with not a single nomination in the fourteen categories up for grabs.
In the Best Film Category there were six nominations, three of them Chinese productions. Besides Bodyguards and Assassins, the Taiwanese arthouse favourite and Golden Horse winner No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti (不能沒有你), and the wartime drama from mainland China, City of Life and Death (南京! 南京!) are vying for the top prize. Oddly, neither Bodyguards and Assassins' director Teddy Chen (陈德森, pinyin: Chén Désēn) nor Leon Dai (戴立忍), the director of No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti, were nominated for the Best Director award. (Do awards judges think these films direct themselves?) Instead, up for an award is the director of the historical drama Prince of Tears (淚王子), Yonfan (杨凡, pinyin: Yáng Fán), probably best-known for his mainstream hit Lost Romance, and the not-so-mainstream drama about a homosexual playboy, Bishonen. City of Life and Death's director, Lu Chuan (陆川) is also nominated in the Best Director category.
Two Chinese actors were among the five nominees for Best Actor - veteran actor Wang Xueqi, enjoying a career revival of sorts in his sixties, for Bodyguards and Assassins, and Huang Bo (黄渤), already a winner at the Golden Horse Awards, for his comic role in Cow (斗牛). In the Best Actress category, another Golden Horse winner, Li Bingbing (李冰冰), will look to repeat her success with her role as a suspected undercover agent in the wartime spy thriller The Message.
Also nominated, for the second year in a row, is the 23 year old French-Taiwanese actress Sandrine Pinna (张榕容, pinyin: Zhāng Róngróng), regarded by many as a future star in the making. After her critical success last year in a little-seen film called Miao Miao, she was nominated again for Yang Yang (阳阳) in a role written specifically for her. She plays a talented Eurasian girl trying to navigate treacherous roads in both the entertainment industry and her personal life.
Three Chinese actors are competing for Best Supporting Actor: Bodyguards and Assassins' Nicholas Tse (谢霆锋, pinyin: Xiè Tíngfēng); Huang Xiaoming (黄晓明) for his eye-catching performance in The Message; and the Taiwanese actor-singer Tou Chung-Hua (庹宗华), best-known for his TV roles, for his performance as an Era of the Warring States general in The Warrior and the Wolf (狼灾记).
In the Best Supporting Actress category is versatile Chinese mainland actress Yan Ni (闫妮) in Cow, and Hong Kong's Kara Hui (惠英红, Wai Ying-hung), arguably one of the screen's greatest female kung fu exponents. Now approaching 50, Hui is revitalising her career as a dramatic actress, and earns a nomination for her performance as a doting mother who becomes blackmail victim while protecting her teenage son in the Malaysian-set drama At the End of Daybreak (心魔).
The AFAs also have a Best Newcomer category, and Super Girl winner from a few years back, Li Yuchun (李宇春) was nominated for her film debut role in Bodyguards and Assassins, a role in which she got to show off her martial arts skills. Other nominees in the Best Newcomer category include Malaysian actress Jane Ng Meng Hui (黄明慧) for At the End of Daybreak, and the Beijing-born beauty pageant graduate Oceane Zhu (朱璇, pinyin: Zhū Xuán) who starred in Prince of Tears.
The Asian Film Awards are organised by the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society, and winners will be announced on 22 March as part of the International Film Festival. The awards, held for just the fourth time, aim to recognise the best in Asian cinema. The full nomination list can be found at the AFA website - the link is a media release in PDF format.