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‘Shoplifters’ Wins Best Picture at Asian Film Awards

Zhang Yimou’s highly stylized period epic “Shadow” was the numerical winner at Sunday’s Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong. It bagged four technical awards. But the major prizes went to Japanese and Korean filmmakers.

Kore-eda Hirokazu’s “Shoplifters,” a Japanese drama about a family surviving on shoplifting, was named best picture. The film had been the surprise Palme d’Or winner at the Cannes festival last year, but has since won wide acclaim and achieved record scores at the Japanese and Chinese box office.“Shoplifters” also won best original music with Japanese music pioneer Hosono Haruomi’s score.

South Korean director Lee Chang-dong (“Secret Sunshine,” “Peppermint Candy”) won the best director prize for the psychological drama “Burning”, which Lee also co-wrote as an adaptation of a Murakami Haruki short story. Going into the ceremony, “Burning” was the favorite, having been nominated in eight categories. Lee was also presented with a lifetime achievement award, to which Lee responded that he did not deserve the title, and that he was still very young.

Japanese actor Yakusho Koji (“Babel,” “Memoirs of a Geisha”) was the media’s darling at the event held at the TVB studios. Yakusho was mobbed by the media the backstage after winning best actor for his role in crime thriller “The Blood of Wolves” and a special prize for excellence in Asian Cinema. He said he was surprised by the big win and jokingly said he would use the two awards as dumbbells to train his arm muscles.

Tsukamoto Shinya won best editing for his drama “Killing”. The Japanese actor-director paid tribute to his long-time creative partner, musician Ishikawa Chu, who passed away during the production of “Killing”.

The best actress prize went to Samal Yeslyamova for her role in drama “Ayka,” a film co-produced by five countries. Yeslyamova said shooting began just five days after giving birth to her child.

Hong Kong actress Kara Wai claimed the AFA’s best supporting actress for the second time — also her third AFA award — for her role in the transgender drama “Tracey.” Wai plays the wife of a transgender woman.

Hong Kong’s Ma Kwong-wing won best production design for his breathtaking aesthetics in “Shadow.” These drew their inspiration from classical Chinese ink paintings. The film’s costume designer Chen Minzheng was also a prize winner on Sunday. The best cinematography award went to Zhang’s long-time collaborator Zhao Xiaoding, who makes his debut as a feature director later this year. Yang Jiang and Zhao Nan together won the best sound award.

Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke won best screenplay for “Ash is Purest White.” Zhang Yu, who plays a leukaemia patient in Chinese comedy “Dying to Survive,” won best supporting actor after losing the title at Golden Horse in Taiwan.

Hong Kong writer-director Oliver Chan Siu-kuen won the hearts of the jury with “Still Human,” a dramedy about a relationship between a Filipina maid and her disabled employer, played by Anthony Wong Chau-sang. Chan went home with the best new director award. The nine member jury was led by actress-director Joan Chen and Japanese star Ken Watanabe.

Chinese actor Johnny Huang Jingyu, who plays a young sniper in Dante Lam’s propaganda action blockbuster “Operation Red Sea,” was named best newcomer. The film also won the award for 2018’s highest grossing Asian film.

Celebrating the centenary of Korean cinema was one of the highlights at last night’s AFA. But instead of just looking back, the event also had high expectations for the future of Korean cinema. South Korean actor Park Seo-jun (“Midnight Runners,” “The Chronicles of Evil”) was presented the AFA Rising Star award. Singer-songwriter, Kim Jae-joong collected the AFA Next Generation award.

The prize for best visual effects went to Alex Lim Hung-fung in Hong Kong-mainland action film “Project Gutenberg.”

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