'The Assassin' leads nominees at Asian Film Awards

HONG KONG -- Hou Hsiao-hsien's cinematic kung fu masterpiece "The Assassin" may have missed out on an Oscar nod, but it tops nominees at the Asian Film Awards.

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The nine nominations include best film, best director, best cinematography, and best actress for Shu Qi. Hou won best director at Cannes last year for his painterly dramatic film.

Indian period drama, "Bajirao Mastani" earned five of the nominations announced Wednesday, as did Hong Kong cop thriller "Port of Call," which received 13 nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards last week.

"Port of Call" was absent from the best film category, where "The Assassin" competes with "Bajirao Mastani," "Mountains May Depart," "Three Stories Of Love," "Mr. Six" and "Veteran."

The Asian Film Awards marks its 10th anniversary this year. The Asian Film Awards Academy hands out the awards as part of an effort to promote budding filmmakers in the region and enhance collaboration among regional film industries.

The academy said it received 1,600 submissions from 32 countries, narrowed to 36 films from nine Asian countries competing for the top honours. Hong Kong director Jonnie To leads the jury.

Jury member Sean Lau Ching-wan said he's most looking forward to watching great performances. "I think I'll be mainly looking at actor's performances and watch who bring the characters to life," he said.

Donnie Yen's performance in "Ip Man 3" was nominated in the best actor category alongside Nagase Masatoshi, Feng Xiaogang, Lee Byung-hun and John Arcilla from the Philippines. For best actress, Shu Qi faces competition from Zhao Tao, Haruka Ayase, Kim Hye-soo and Karena Lam.

In the directing category, Hou faces off with Jia Zhangke, Koreeda Hirokazu, Guan Hu and Ryoo Seung-wan.

The awards will be handed out in Macau on March 17.



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