×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Asian Film Awards Honor Best of the Region’s Filmmaking

Some film awards ceremonies seem entirely designed to be a component of the Oscar race. Other pageants reward national champions and are largely fashioned to drive ratings on local TV. But the Asian Film Awards, a pan-regional event — which falls too late to influence Oscar voters, and does not command gargantuan TV audiences — is a trickier concept. After stumbling for a couple of years, the AFAs this month celebrate their tenth edition March 17 on better footing than ever before.

“The idea of putting attention on Asian films, not just the ones from Korea, Japan and Hong Kong, is a good justification for this kind of award show,” says Roger Garcia, executive director of the Hong Kong Intl. Film Festival Society. The Asian Film Awards were conceived and launched in 2007 by the HKIFFS, the non-profit organization that operates the Hong Kong Intl. Film Festival.

While the main ambition was recognizing cinematic excellence in Asia, putting Hong Kong at the heart of that equation was a secondary goal. Hong Kong loves to proclaim itself as “Asia’s World City,” and even now has a legacy film industry vastly out of proportion to its 7.5 million population.

The awards were initially incorporated as part of Hong Kong’s Entertainment Expo, the annual jamboree in March that is built around FilMart, one of the year’s largest film rights markets after Cannes and the American Film Market. The expo also incorporates TV and music conventions and awards.

The launch also came as Hong Kong was once again pondering the future of its film industry, which for two or three decades of the last century had been East Asia’s most prolific and export-driven. The newly opened Chinese film industry was emerging as a co-producer of Hong Kong movies, but China was not operating at the scale of today.

In the AFAs’ early years, Korea, rather than China, was the most notable creative force in Asian cinema. Korean titles grabbed the AFAs’ best picture prize in three of the first four years, with commercial smash “The Host” taking top honors in 2007, followed by dramas “Secret Sunshine” in 2008 and “Mother” in 2010.
Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation” won the best film prize in 2012, taking the award further away from Hong Kong.

Later that year, the HK government’s audit department recommended withdrawing its support for the AFAs, a financial lifeline believed to have been worth around $1 million. In response, organizers toyed with making the awards a travelling show or selling the AFAs to a mainland Chinese city. That might have had the advantage of increasing TV audiences, but could have run into censorship and credibility problems.

The solution that emerged after a year of deliberation was to make the AFAs a joint venture between HKIFFS and the Busan and Tokyo festivals. The awards would also be relocated to Macau, Asia’s casino capital, which has hotels and venues in abundance and was in urgent need of diversification away from gambling and into entertainment.

The change-around also heralded a revamped awards voting procedure. The three festivals would form the backbone of an AFA Academy, which expands over time as each year’s nominees and winners are added. Academy members vote in their own discipline, and all vote for best picture.

That should be enough to burnish the AFAs’ credibility, though the rise of China as the world’s second biggest box office market now gives the AFAs their own diversity problem. In the past three years, the best film award has gone to two mainland Chinese films and to Wong Kar-wai’s “The Grandmaster,” a co-production from China and Hong Kong.

This year’s nominations list taps five films from India, including “Bajirao Mastani,” a costume drama that enjoyed critical and commercial triumphs at home, as best film contender. But it would still be hard to bet against another win for Greater China in the shape of “The Assassin,” a China-made stunner from Taiwan’s Hou Hsiao-hsien.

More Film

  • Bluebird review

    SXSW Film Review: ‘Bluebird’

    As affectionate as a love letter but as substantial as an infomercial, Brian Loschiavo’s “Bluebird” may be of most interest to casual and/or newly converted country music fans who have occasionally wondered about the songwriters behind the songs. There’s a better than even-money chance that anyone who’s a loyal and longtime aficionado of the musical [...]

  • ‘Wonder Park’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad

    ‘Wonder Park’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending for the Fourth Week in a Row

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv, Paramount Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the fourth week in row with “Wonder Park.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.18 million through Sunday for 1,718 national [...]

  • Michael B. Jordan Jordan Vogt-Roberts

    Film News Roundup: Michael B. Jordan, Jordan Vogt-Roberts Team for Monster Movie

    In today’s film news roundup, Michael B. Jordan is producing a creature feature, billiards champ Cisero Murphy is getting a movie, the sixth Terminator movie gets a title, and Graham King receives an honor. PROJECT UNVEILED New Regency and Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society are partnering on an untitled monster movie from “Kong: Skull Island” [...]

  • Nicolas Cage

    Nicolas Cage to Star in Martial Arts Actioner 'Jiu Jitsu'

    Nicolas Cage will star in the martial arts actioner “Jiu Jitsu,” based on the comic book of the same name. The cast will also include Alain Moussi, who stars in the “Kickboxer” franchise. Dimitri Logothetis is producing with Martin Barab and directing from a script he wrote with Jim McGrath. Highland Film Group is handling [...]

  • Chinese success of Thai film "Bad

    Chinese, Thai Shingles Pact for Co-Production Fund at FilMart

    A deal to establish a 100 million yuan ($14.9 million) co-production fund between China and Thailand was struck at FilMart on Tuesday to help launch TV and film projects that will appeal to Chinese and Southeast Asian audience. The deal that was struck by China’s Poly Film Investment Co., TW Capital from Thailand and Thai [...]

  • Kevin Tsujihara

    Kevin Tsujihara's Ouster Kicks Off a Week of Major Disruption in the Media Business

    The sudden ouster of Warner Bros. Entertainment chief Kevin Tsujihara kicked off what is likely to go down as one of the most extraordinary weeks in Hollywood history, spelling enormous turmoil and transition across the media landscape. In addition to the news about Tsujihara, which comes amid a wider shake-up of leadership at AT&T’s WarnerMedia, [...]

  • Buddha in Africa

    More Than Half of Films at Hot Docs Film Festival Are Directed by Women

    More than half of the films playing at Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival, are directed by women, the Canadian event said Tuesday. The festival’s 26th edition, which runs April 25-May 5, will screen 234 films, with 54% of the directors being women. In the competitive International Spectrum program, notable films receiving their world [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content