HKIFF: Celebrities and Water Aplenty at the Asian Film Awards (AFA)

Asian Film Awards

The 8th Annual Asian Film Awards (AFA) took place in Macau at the City of Dreams’ House of Dancing Waters Theater. Wong Kar Wai’s Grandmaster took home seven of the fourteen nominations, including Best Film, Best Actress (Zhang Ziyi), Best Director, Best Cinematographer, Best Costume, Best Composer, and Best Production Designer. Other winners are listed at the end of the article.

This also marks the first year that the AFA is a combined effort between Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF), Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) and the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF), making it a truly international Asian event with 28 nominated films and stars from all over Asia. High profile committee members include: Jeon Do-yeon, South Korean actress, as Honorary Ambassador; Peter Chan, Director, as Jury President; Donnie Yen, Actor, as Jury Member; and Carina Lau, Actress, as Jury Member.

The star-studded presenters include Donnie Yen, Carina Lau, Peter Chan, Isabelle Huppert, Anthony Wong, Johnnie To, Jeon Do-yeon, Sandra Ng, Simon Yam, Eugene Domingo, Agnes B., Franco Dragone and a dozen more. Bibi Zhou, a popular Chinese singer, received loud cheers as she came onstage in what looked like a Dale Chihuly inspired large sitting object.

I thought I had the most coveted spot, the front row, to oogle and snap pictures of the stars. That is, until I found out the stage will let loose water from tens of gigantic sprouts and splatter all over the front few rows. Wong Kar Wai and Zhang Ziyi probably did not realize they had to spend time wiping water off their faces and clothes at an awards show. Nor would I, or even they, have thought the show would spend more time than necessary mocking the least favorite Oscar moment, passing out local Macau food to celebrities while the rest of the hungry audience watched and salivated.

Eugene Domingo, best actress nominee for Barber’s Tales, humorously ended the moment by taking the MC’s entire tray and mic. She also had a very funny banter about congratulating her and Yao Yann Yann on their nominations and films.

Other on-stage moments were not so great, with language barrier issues and awkward exchanges. Johnnie To and Jeon Do-yeon, before announcing the nominations for best director, both spoke their native languages without any translations. He commented in Chinese that she was one of the best actresses. She responded in Korean, and he said he had no idea how to respond to something he cannot understand. Some of the other presenters ad-lib random things about nothing, or went straight to the nominations.

Aside from the few wincing onstage moments and being lost without translation, the show had a great mixture of award presentations and House of Dancing Water spectacles to keep the audience entertained for a two hour show that was delayed an hour. Although, I am still left wondering, do teleprompters exist here, since the MC’s were all carrying notecards on stage at this event and at HKIFF?

Other Winners:

Best Newcomer: Jiang Shuying, “So Young” (Mainland China)
Best Actor: Irrfan Khan, “The Lunchbox” (India)
Best Supporting Actor: Huang Bo, “No Man’s Land” (Mainland China)
Best Supporting Actress: Yeo Yann Yann, “Ilo Ilo” (Singapore)
Best Editor: Shin Min-kyung, “Cold Eyes” (South Korea)
Best Screenwriter: Ritesh Batra, “The Lunchbox” (India)
Best Visual Effects: Jung Sung-jin, “Mr. Go” (South Korea/Mainland China)

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