The International Film Festival and Awards Macao and Variety combined forces for the second year running to put a spotlight on Asia’s acting talent.
A well-attended meet-the-stars press event on Friday afternoon in Macau was addressed by leading local official, Maria Helena Senna de Fernandes. She turned the microphone over the five actors from different corners of the region, who dazzled with poise and wisdom beyond their years.
In 2017 the talent selection included Celina Jade, Ludi Lin, Rajkummar Rao, Shioli Kutsuna, Piolo Pascual, And Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, better known as the star of “Bad Genius.”
The five in this year’s crop — Xana Tang (New Zealand), Ann Curtis (The Philippines), Zheng Kai (China), Zaira Wasim (India) and Iqbaal Ramadhan (Indonesia) – will be presented with trophies on stage this evening at the closing ceremony of the IFFAM.
Xana Tang (New Zealand)
Best known in the role of an offbeat office assistant in two seasons of TV series “Filthy Rich,” Xana Tang has worked across film and TV in her native New Zealand since 2012, and latterly in Australia. Of Chinese and Vietnamese origin, she’s faced up to all the usual industry prejudices — where Asians are cast as diligent students or told that there is only a limited audience that wants to see Asians on screen – and says that is simply other people’s reality. Her big career boost is upcoming: she plays Xiu, the sister of Mulan, in Disney’s mega-budget live adaptation of the classic Chinese tale, alongside Gong Li, Jet Li and Donnie Yen.
Anne Curtis (Philippines)
Anne Curtis is considered a superstar in The Philippines, with all the press attention and social media obsession that comes with it. The clamor will only grow if she successfully crosses over to a bigger international career. With Filipino and Australian roots, and an Aussie upbringing, Curtis began a singing and acting career in The Philippines from age 12. Her big local break came in the 2005 TV series “Kampanerang Kuba,” a fairy tale that drew from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” story. Recent work has included blockbuster romance drama “Sid & Aya (Not A Love Story), and elevated horror film “Aurora” under acclaimed Filipino director, Yam Laranas. She recently headlined action movie “BuyBust,” by Erik Matti. The film had a gala at the New York Asian Film Festival, and enjoyed a strong local career before becoming the first Filipino feature acquired by Netflix. Her 32 million followers will be cheering her all the way.
Zheng Kai (China)
Zheng Kai (aka Ryan Zheng) is popular in China having built a repertoire of light TV roles, including reality show “Keep Running.” He also has a string of smaller film credits in comedies (“Ex Files” trilogy, “Let’s Get Married,”) fantasy (“The Golden Monk”) and drama (“Personal Tailor,” “Peace Breaker”). But as a movie star, Zheng is the creation of Zhang Yimou, the leading fifth generation director who has a track record of talent discovery. Zhang gave him a run out with a decent role in “The Great Wall” and latterly made him the joint lead of “Shadow.” Zheng’s turn as a king who is by turns pedantic, towering, cowardly and scheming, was exactly the expansion of his repertoire and revelation that Zhang hoped for. Zheng now has eyes on movie production and the right role in Hollywood.
Iqbaal Ramadhan (Indonesia)
Iqbaal Ramadhan was a child actor in “Rainbow Troops,” (aka “Laskar Pelangi”,) one of the biggest Indonesian films of all time. But for several years he was better known as a musician with the band Coboy Junior, later renamed CJR. The band was so popular that two movies were made about them. Having picked uo acting awards for his roles, Ramadhan is now focused on his acting career and further education (in the U.S. and Australia). This year he stars “Dilan 1990,” a dramatization of a popular novel. Next year he is set to star in “Bumi Manusia,” a film based on political prisoner Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s previously banned novel about society under Dutch colonial rule.
Zaira Wasim (India)
At just 18, Zaira Wasim is the youngest of the 2018 Stars Up Next lineup. But she is a major talent that everyone wants to work with. Her debut role was in the Aamir Khan-starring “Dangal” in which she played the younger version of Indian sportswoman Geeta Phogat. Her second was as the lead of musical underdog story, “Secret Superstar.” Both were story-driven hits in India, both broke records in China. And both earned Wasim major awards. Having bravely fought off depression, Wasim is up next as the motivational speaker star of “The Sky is Pink,” produced by and starring Priyanka Chopra.