A Chinese political satire and a Japanese psychological thriller are the top contenders at the fifth Asian Film Awards as organizers announced the nominations on Thursday.
Jiang Wen’s "Let the Bullets Fly" and Tetsuya Nakashima’s "Confessions" each received six nominations, including best picture and best director.
"Let the Bullets Fly" follows a battle of wits between a bandit posing as a mayor and the local tycoon, while "Confessions" is about a middle-school teacher who terrorizes two students she believes are guilty of her daughter’s murder.
Jiang’s picture, a huge hit in China, has also received attention for its subtle criticism of Chinese corruption. "Confessions" just made the shortlist of nine finalists for the Oscar best foreign film competition. The list will be narrowed down to five nominees later this month.
The two movies will be competing for best picture honors against Chinese director Feng Xiaogang’s earthquake epic "Aftershock," a massive Chinese hit last year; the Indian drama "Peepli Live"; South Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s "Poetry"; and Thailand’s "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives," which clinched the top Palme d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year.
Feng, Jiang and Lee are also up for best director, along with Japan’s Takashi Miike, who made the samurai movie "13 Assassins," and South Korea’s Na Hong-jin, who was nominated for the thriller "The Yellow Sea."
In the best actor category, Hong Kong veteran Chow Yun-fat, who played the tycoon in "Let the Bullets Fly," will face off against China’s Ge You, star of Chen Kaige’s historical drama "Sacrifice"; "The Yellow Sea" star Ha Jung-woo; Koji Yakusho from "13 Assassins"; and Ethan Ruan, the leading man in the Taiwanese gangster film "Monga."
Cannes winner Jeon Do-yeon, former Bond girl Michelle Yeoh and "Babel" star Rinko Kikuchi are among the best actress nominees. Jeon played a domestic servant who has an affair with her employer in "The Housemaid." Yeoh portrayed a retired assassin in the John Woo-produced kung fu thriller "Reign of Assassins," and Kikuchi a mentally troubled woman in "Norwegian Wood," Tran Anh Hung’s adaptation of the best-selling Haruki Murakami novel by the same name.
The other nominees are Xu Fan, who plays a widow in "Aftershock," and "Confessions" star Takako Matsu.
This year’s winners will be announced on March 21 in Hong Kong.
The 13-member jury is chaired by Hong Kong-based director Yonfan and also draws from filmmakers and critics across Asia, as well as officials from the Berlin and Cannes film festivals.