After a New Year period that saw Chinese cinema attendance top US figures for the first time in history, the Chinese film industry can claim to be on quite a roll having last night swept the 2015 Asian Film Awards, taking out ten of the fourteen categories. The lavish ceremony is overseen by an organizing committee comprising officials from the Busan, Hong Kong and Tokyo film festivals and was held in the vast Venetian Casino on the resort island of Macau.
Blind Massage (pictured, above), a Nanjing-set drama that follows the bittersweet lives of blind masseurs, took Best Picture honours ahead of Black Coal Thin Ice (China/Hong Kong), Haider (India), Hill of Freedom (South Korea), Ode to My Father (South Korea) and The Light Shines Only There (Japan). Already an awards season heavyweight boasting honours from the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, Taipei's Golden Horse Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival, the intimate ensemble piece also snared the Best Cinematography trophy for lensman Zeng Jian.
The film’s director, Le You, was again beaten for Best Director honours by Ann Hui, whose helming of the Xiao Hong biopic, The Golden Era, was favoured at the Golden Horse ceremony in November. Other nominees included Tsukamoto Shinya, (Fires on the Plain, Japan], Berlin honoree Lav Diaz (From What Is Before, The Philippines), Vishal Bhardwaj (Haider) and Hong Sang-soo (Hill of Freedom). The Golden Era’s Wang Zhiwen was named Best Supporting Actor, ahead of Jo Jin-ung (A Hard Day, South Korea), Eric Qin (Blind Massage), Chen Jianbin (Paradise in Service, Taiwan) and Ito Hideaki (Wood Job!, Japan).
Black Coal, Thin Ice took home the Best Actor award, with charismatic star Liao Fan topping a strong category that included Kase Ryo (Hill of Freedom), Lau Ching-wan (Overh3ard, Hong Kong/China), Ethan Ruan (Paradise in Service) and Choi Min-shik (Roaring Currents, South Korea) and Sato Takeru (Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends, Japan). Auteur Diao Yi’nan also earned the Best Screenplay honour for his dark procedural thriller.
Other territories represented on the podium were Japan (Best Supporting Actress Ikewaki Chizuru, pictured right, in The Light Shines Only There); India (composer Mikey McCleary for Margarita, With a Straw); and, South Korea, whose Best Actress winner Bae Du-na for A Girl at My Door led in a packed field that included Gong Li, (Coming Home, China), Vicki Zhao, (Dearest, Hong Kong/China), Kalki Koechlin, (Margarita, With a Straw), Miyazawa Rie (Pale Moon, Japan) and pre-event favourite, Tang Wei (The Golden Era). Jiang Wen’s Gone With the Bullets, a grandly-mounted satire of French colonial excess in 1920s Shanghai, topped the trophy tally with three, all for its below-the-line contributions in the fields of Production Design, Costuming and Visual Effects. Gareth Evans rounded out the tech categories with a Best Editing nod for his Indonesian action epic, The Raid 2: Berandal.