Asian Film Awards to Relocate From Hong Kong to Busan

South Korea actress Kim Gyuri poses
Kin Cheung/AP/Shutterstock

The Asian Film Awards are to relocate from their current home in Hong Kong to Busan.

The glitzy red carpet event will also shift from March, when it usually coincides with the Hong Kong film festival and the FilMart rights market, to October, to align with the Busan International Film Festival. The next edition will be held in October 2020.

The change was announced Friday evening in Busan. Organizers were at pains to explain that the exit from Hong Kong was not connected to the current civilian unrest in the city.

The Asian Film Awards were initially founded under the wing of the HKIFF Society, with the first edition taking place in 2007 at the Hong Kong Convention Centre. Later, the awards became a three-way joint venture with the Busan and Tokyo festivals, while still retaining its legal base in Hong Kong, where it has charity status. The current general manager of the AFAs will remain based in Hong Kong, but will begin cooperation with the Busan festival on the 14th edition in October next year.

The three partners had previously discussed rotating the event to the other festival cities – the AFAs have been held in Macau twice – but plans hatched in 2013 to make the move to Busan foundered. The Busan festival encountered a period of severe political and financial problems following the 2014 screening of “Diving Bell” (aka “The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol”) and the exit of festival head Lee Yong-kwan. Normality in Busan has only recently been restored.

“This move was initiated by the Busan and Tokyo festivals, which have now said that they are finally ready to take on the responsibility of hosting the awards,” HKIFF Society chairman Wilfred Wong told Variety.

The move creates an 18-month gap between the March 2019 edition in Hong Kong and the October 2020 edition of the AFAs in Busan. Wong said that organizers aim to put on a small event in Hong Kong in March 2020, potentially a lifetime achievement award, to maintain the brand.

The shift in dates also potentially sets up a clash with the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, which are held in November and take place in Brisbane, Australia. Both AFAs and APSA have set up academies, which create the loyalty and ongoing involvement of leading talent and past prize winners.

The partners have also discussed a further, future rotation of the Asian Film Awards to Tokyo. But no decision has been taken as to when that might happen.