A handful of Asian films in this year's Cannes festival took home a surprising number of awards. In fact nearly all of the films from Asian countries in competition were honored at Sunday's award ceremony.
Taiwan director, Edward Yang, took home the prestigious best director award for his film Yi Yi (A One and a Two). After news of his victory on Sunday, a government spokeswoman Chung Chin, dispatched an official message of congratulations to the 52-year-old director. Chung said the government takes pride in Yang's victory, which represents another step forward for the Taiwanese film industry.
Yang is a former computer scientist who shifted gears in the middle of his life. He earned a master's degree in cinematic arts from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and is now one of Taiwan's avant-garde film directors.
Yang was the first Taiwan-based director to receive a best director award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.
Upon receiving the award, Yang said that the honor felt as if he had just taken Taiwan's hotly-contested University Entrance Examination -- which local residents know is a major concern in the life of the island's young over the past three decades or so -- and somebody told him that he had passed.
Yang's previous works include A Brighter Summer Day (1991), an award winner at the Tokyo Film Festival, and A Confucian Confusion (1994), an award winner for best original screenplay at Taiwan's Golden Horse Film Festival.
Yi Yi was co-produced by his own studio -- Yang and his Gang Filmmakers -- and a separate Japanese film company. The nearly three-hour film is about lost love and regret among neighboring couples in Taipei, as well as a little boy and his 15-year-old sister.
Hong Kong's struggling film industry is hoping for a revival after a locally-produced film won two top awards at Cannes.
There was widespread jubilation in Hong Kong after local director Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love won two awards over the weekend. Tony Leung Chiu-wai won Best Actor and the film also picked up the Technical Grand Prix.
"Of course, the whole film industry in Hong Kong will be glad," said Woody Tsung, chief executive of the Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories Motion Picture Industry Association Ltd.
"The awards will further encourage creative people in Hong Kong to work harder to gain international recognition," said Tsung, noting that the territory's film industry has been in the doldrums, with some critics saying it was on its last legs.
"The awards show that Hong Kong is not just known for Kung Fu or action films, but also for good quality films in terms of technical and artistic skills," said Tsung.
Six years ago Hong Kong was the third largest producer of films behind the US and India, with some 300 feature-length films made, he said.
"But between 1997 and 1999, there were only 100 films a year," he said. The decline in quality films has not been helped by an exodus of filmmakers and stars.
And this year's Cannes success gives the industry a much needed boost.
Chinese director, Jiang Wen, co-wrote and directed Devil's on the Doorstep, the Grand Prize winner at this year's festival.
This film which takes place in a remote village unscathed by a China decimated by both civil war and the war against Japanese Aggression. A local peasant Ma Dasan is caught by surprise when soldiers from the Chinese Army deposit for a few days two gunnysacks in his home. Inside the gunnysacks are a Japanese prisoner of war (POW) and his Chinese interpreter (both of whom are still alive). Six months pass without any sign of Chinese soldiers' return. The villagers are forced to manage their fear as well as their conscience as a shortage of food and dwindling options compels them to kill the prisoner and his interpreter despite having formed a bond with them.
The Golden Palm for best short film went to Philippines director Raymond Red's film Anino.
This little film made big waves at this year's festival. A compelling story involves a poor church photographer who is taunted by an evil being into Manila for a dose of harsh realities -- such as an encounter with thieves who steal his camera -- before he finds redemption the hard way.
Taiwan's most famous director Ang Lee was also represented at this year's Cannes -- though out of competition. The screening of his latest film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, received rave reviews and will undoubtedly find a worldwide audience upon its release.
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