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12th Asian Film Awards Preview: The Nominated Films

Written by YumCha! Editorial Team Tell a Friend

It's that time of the year again. Since 2007, Asian filmmakers have come together every March for the Asian Film Awards, a ceremony dedicated to celebrating the region's best films. This year, we're already up to the 12th edition, which will be held in Macau on March 17, 2018, at The Venetian Macao.

Here's a breakdown of this year's nominated films!

Angels Wear White (China)
Nominations: Best Film, Best New Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Newcomer, Best Original Music

At a seaside hotel, a young staffer (Vicky Chen) witnesses a man forcibly enter the room of two girls, but she keeps silent to the police and tries to make some money with her knowledge. Meanwhile, the victims' parents and the authorities prove ineffectual or callously negligent as the investigation stalls. Vivian Qu's sophomore directorial effort, which garnered her Best Director at the 54th Golden Horse Film Awards, subtly tells a devastating story of child sexual abuse and the failures of society to protect young women. Child star Zhou Meijun makes her acting debut as the victim, while Best Supporting Actor nominee Geng Le plays her aggrieved father.

The Day After (Korea)
Nominations: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress

Since the inaugural AFA, Hong Sang Soo has regularly made the award shortlist, and this year, he garnered his third Best Director and second Best Film nominations. Selected for competition at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, the indie auteur's latest B&W relationship drama of errors bears his unmistakable hallmarks: a philandering protagonist (Kwon Hae Hyo), a lot of drinking and talking, and the presence of muse Kim Min Hee as a new publishing company employee who gets mistaken for her boss's mistress.

Newton (India)
Nominations: Best Film, Best Actor, Best Screenplay

Both a critical and commercial success, Amit V. Masurkar's sophomore feature premiered in the Forum sidebar of the 67th Berlin Film Festival. Touching on a thorny local topic with humor and insight, Newton went on to be selected the Critics' Award Best Film at the 63rd Filmfare Awards and India's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Rajkummar Rao stars as the eponymous Newton, a junior government clerk who gets sent out on election duty to a conflict-ridden town occupied by Maoist insurgent groups. He tries his best to supervise the polling stations while faced with constant threats of attack, frustrated security officials and a clueless constituency with no idea what they're voting for.

The Third Murder (Japan)
Nominations: Best Film, Best Supporting Actress, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design

A perennial favorite of critics and film festivals, Kore-eda Hirokazu previously won Best Director at the 3rd AFA for Still Walking, and was nominated two other times in the same category. Though he did not get a directing nod this time, the auteur's suspense drama, which swept six awards at the 41st Japan Academy Prize, is a strong contender for Best Film. The psychological courtroom drama departs from Kore-eda's recent family dramas with a complex and gripping murder mystery that affords no easy answers. Teen phenom Hirose Suzu, who had her breakthrough in 2015's Our Little Sister, has already won Best Supporting Actress at the Japan Academy Prize for her performance as the murder victim's daughter.

Youth (China)
Nominations: Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Newcomer, Best Editing

Feng Xiaogang's I Am Not Madame Bovary was the big winner of last year's Asian Film Awards. He's back again this year with Youth, based on writer Yan Geling's novel about the lives and fates of a group of young performers in the People's Liberation Army military art troupe. Spanning from the 70s to the 80s, the film highlights the protagonists' growth and changes amid the Cultural Revolution, the Sino-Vietnamese War and the social transformation of the eighties. Both Feng and Yan spent years in the military art troupe in their youth, and the nostalgic glow is strong as the camera lovingly brings out the beauty and exuberance of Youth, even while misfortune and tragedy abound.

Legend of the Demon Cat (China)
Nominations: Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Visual Effects

Chen Kaige's enchanting adaptation of Japanese writer Yumemakura Baku's novel Shamon Kukai To no Kuni nite Oni to Utagesu is a dazzling feast for the eyes, so it's no surprise that it has picked up many technical nominations. The period fantasy mystery follows a Japanese monk (Sometani Shota) and a Tang Dynasty poet (Huang Xuan) as they run around the capital and investigate a series of strange deaths and incidents orchestrated by a black cat demon. Among the deep cast of Chinese and Japanese stars, Kitty Zhang earns a Best Supporting Actress nod for her ravishing turn as a woman who gets possessed by the cat demon.

Love Education (China/Taiwan)
Nominations: Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Screenplay

Besides being the recipient of this year's Lifetime Achievement Award, Sylvia Chang is also a leading contender for Best Director, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. The legendary actress's perceptive relationship drama tells a multi-generation story of love and discord through the emotional turmoil of three women in one family. Chang represents the middle-aged generation as a teacher who decides to bury her recently departed mother with her father at their ancestral grave. When she arrives at the village, she finds that her father's first arranged wife (Estelle Wu) has been tending the grave all these years. 5th Generation filmmaker Tian Zhuangzhuang, who plays Chang's husband, is nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue (Japan)
Nominations: Best Director

Ishii Yuya garners his first AFA Best Director nomination for The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue, a mature and moody rumination on love and loneliness in the big city. Based on a poetry collection by Saihate Tahi, the drama, which premiered in the Forum sidebar of the 67th Berlin Film Festival, is closer to the director's indie roots in comparison to his last few more commercially friendly efforts. However, considering the film wasn't nominated in any other categories, Ishii is likely a long shot to win.

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (Indonesia)
Nominations: Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Sound

Marsha Timothy delivers a strong and controlled performance as the eponymous heroine of Mouly Surya's revenge film. When an aggressive male intruder enters her home, the newly widowed Marlina takes his head, and then sets out on a journey across stark dusty landscapes, head and weapon in hand, to turn herself in. Screened at the Directors' Fortnight sidebar of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts subverts and reinvents the western genre with a female lead fighting against misogynistic men and patriarchal culture.

This is Not What I Expected (China/Hong Kong)
Nominations: Best Actress, Best New Director, Best Production Design

Film editor Derek Hui, a regular on Peter Chan films, makes his directorial debut with a visually appealing culinary romantic comedy that succeeds mainly on pure charm. Takeshi Kaneshiro does that quirky romantic hero thing he does so well, but the highlight is the waify, winsome, refreshing ball of bumbling energy that is Zhou Dongyu. The young actress, who did not get a Best Actress nomination last year for Soul Mate, gets nominated this year, though she is not expected to win against the more experienced nominees in more serious roles.

Birds Without Names (Japan)
Nominations: Best Actress

Aoi Yu is fresh off a Best Actress win at the Japan Academy Prize for her tour de force performance in Shirashi Kazuya's excellent film about terrible people in terrible romances. She invites both repulsion and sympathy as a selfish and resentful woman who enables her poisonous relationships with three men: her current boyfriend (Abe Sadao) whom she heaps abuse on, a married man (Matsuzaka Tori) with whom she is having an affair, and the abusive ex (Takenouchi Yutaka) that she can't forget.

Malila: The Farewell Flower (Thailand)
Nominations: Best Actor, Best New Director

After making a splash with debut feature The Blue Hour, writer-director Anucha Boonyawatana patiently weaves an ethereal queer love story and a lyrical meditation on life and death in her sophomore feature. Former lovers Shane and Pich reunite, but the latter is stricken with terminal illness and dedicates his remaining days to making flower-and-leaf ornaments used for Bai Sri Su Khwan blessing ceremonies. Best Actor nominee Sukollawat "Weir" Kanarot, a frequent star of CH7 soap operas, plays Shane, who commits to the path of monkhood to face mortality with spirituality.

Paradox (Hong Kong)
Nominations: Best Actor, Best Action Film

Louis Koo gives one of the best performances of his career as a desperate Hong Kong cop who goes rogue in Thailand to find his abducted daughter. Despite its Taken-like premise, Wilson Yip's punishing crime thriller goes to far darker places than the Taken series ever has. Paradox earns its place in the SPL franchise and a nod in the newly minted Best Action Film category with wincingly brutal and bloody fight scenes choreographed by action director Sammo Hung.

The Looming Storm (China)
Nominations: Best Actor, Best New Director

Writer-director Dong Yue unravels a moody crime noir in a rain-drenched industrial town in his assured debut feature, which premiered in competition at the Tokyo Film Festival. Duan Yihong fits right in with the gray and gloomy atmosphere as a factory security chief who takes it upon himself to investigate the murders of several young women in his town in 1997. His dangerous plan to catch the serial killer, however, will lead him down a dark path of no return.

1987: When the Day Comes (Korea)
Nominations: Best Actor

The death of a student activist in police custody sparks a revolution in Jang Joon Hwan's stirring thriller about the Korean democracy movement that mobilized the nation and toppled the dictatorship in 1987. The film's sweeping canvas interweaves the many different people whose individual actions successively propel and escalate a larger movement that would bring their country to a moment of reckoning. In a star- and talent-stacked ensemble, Kim Yoon Seok stands out as the steely antagonist, the director of the government's anti-communism division.

Anarchist from Colony (Korea)
Nominations: Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, Best Costume Design

After chronicling the life of resistance poet Yoon Dong Ju, Lee Joon Ik follows with a biographical drama about independence activist and anarchist Park Yeol, portrayed by Lee Je Hoon. Set in 1920s Tokyo, the period biopic revolves around the efforts of his anarchist group to expose the massacre of Koreans and fight against the Japanese government's charges. Choi Hee Seo, who has already picked up numerous awards in Korea including Best Actress at the Daejong Film Awards, is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Park Cheol's strong-hearted Japanese wife.

Bad Genius (Thailand)
Nominations: Best Screenplay, Best Newcomer

Writer-director Nattawut Poonpiriya turns high school cheating into high-octane heist thriller material in a smartly edited and scripted blockbuster that set box office records for Thai films in multiple regions in Asia. Model Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying makes her film debut as the cynical honors student who masterminds complex cheating schemes to profiteer from school tests and, eventually, an international standardized university entrance exam.

The Great Buddha+ (Taiwan)
Nominations: Best New Director, Best Cinematography, Best Original Music, Best Sound

Winning five awards at the Golden Horse Film Awards, documentarian Huang Hsin Yao's first feature-length narrative film drolly injects colorful happenings into a mostly black-and-white black comedy. Produced and lensed by Chung Mong Hong, the small-town drama crisps and crackles with satirical scenarios and the unexpected misadventures of two voyeuristic buddies who find much more than they bargained for when they secretly watch their sleazy boss's dash-cam footage.

Wilderness (Japan)
Nominations: Best New Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Newcomer, Best Original Music

Set in a near future Tokyo, Kishi Yoshiyuki's ambitious five-hour adaptation of Terayama Shuji's 1966 novel Aa, Koya draws a brutal yet hopeful portrait of two miserable men who grow and bond through boxing. While lead Suda Masaki's juvenile offender is cocksure and angry, Korean actor Yang Ik Joon strikes a contrast as a hesitant stuttering hairdresser who cowers before his abusive father. Best Newcomer nominee Kinoshita Akari co-stars as the girlfriend of Suda Masaki's character.

Our Time Will Come (China/Hong Kong)
Nominations: Best Supporting Actor, Best Editing, Best Original Music

Ann Hui, who won Best Director in 2015 for The Golden Era, returns with a prestige WWII-era drama that was somewhat surprisingly locked out of the top categories. Eddie Peng picks up the film's sole acting nod for his turn as a guerrilla fighter in Hong Kong's underground resistance against the Japanese. Hisaishi Joe composed the film's score.

Blade of the Immortal (Japan)
Nominations: Best Supporting Actress, Best Action Film, Best Costume Design

Miike Takashi's adaptation of Samura Hiroaki's manga about a samurai cursed with immortal life is packed with action and stars, most notably leading man Kimura Takuya. Young rising star Sugisaki Hana holds her own as the orphan girl whom the hero pledges to help.

A Taxi Driver (Korea)
Nominations: Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Music

Jang Hoon's high-profile blockbuster depicts the Gwangju Uprising through the perspective of a Seoul taxi driver who unknowingly drives into a revolution. Best Supporting Actor nominee Yu Hae Jin plays an unassuming local cabbie who rises to the occasion to protect and transport demonstrators.

Mon Mon Mon Monsters (Taiwan)
Nominations: Best Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound

Novelist-turned-director Giddens Ko's brutally satirical portrait of the horror of cruel teenagers – and also flesh-eating ghouls – attacks the senses with gory visuals and crisp sound. The film's team of sound designers that includes Tu Du Chih has already won Best Sound Effects at the Golden Horse Film Awards.

Along with the Gods: Two Worlds (Korea)
Nominations: Best Action Film, Best Production Design, Best Visual Effects

Most of this epic fantasy blockbuster about three grim reapers guiding a firefighter through the trials of afterlife is set in a CGI-rendered vision of the underworld. As Korean cinema's most ambitious special effects undertaking, the first part of Along with the Gods is often visually inventive and stunning, a testament to the work of director Kim Yong Hwa's Dexter Studios.

Brotherhood of Blades: The Infernal Battlefield (China)
Nominations: Best Action Film, Best Sound

Winner of Best Action Direction at the Golden Horse Film Awards, the prequel to Lu Yang's acclaimed 2014 wuxia hit follows Chang Chen's imperial secret police as he navigates a conspiracy in the Ming court while he's on the run from assassins and fellow guards.

The Thousand Faces of Dunjia (China/Hong Kong)
Nominations: Best Action Film, Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects

With Yuen Woo Ping as director and Tsui Hark as producer, the CGI-laden topsy-turvy remake of Yuen's 1982 costume fantasy The Miracle Fighters naturally impresses in the action and visuals department, though perhaps not as much as one would expect from the pedigree.

Confidential Assignment (Korea)
Nominations: Best Newcomer

While a regular presence on the small screen, K-pop idol Im Yoon Ah of Girls' Generation fame made her big screen debut just last year in Kim Sung Hoon's action comedy. She plays the smart-mouthed sister-in-law of Yu Hae Jin's South Korean cop, who is on detail with Hyun Bin's visiting North Korean agent.

Tomorrow is Another Day (Hong Kong)
Nominations: Best Newcomer

Theater actor Ling Man Lung makes his film debut in the challenging role of an autistic young man under the care of Teresa Mo's jilted middle-aged housewife in screenwriter Chan Tai Lee's directorial debut. Ling has also been nominated for both Best Actor and Best New Performer at the upcoming Hong Kong Film Awards.

The King (Korea)
Nominations: Best Editing

Editor Shin Min Kyung, who previously won in 2014 for Cold Eyes, earns her third AFA nomination for her work on Han Jae Rim's high-tension crime thriller about corruption and conspiracy in the prosecutor's office.

The Fortress (Korea)
Nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Sound

Set during the Qing invasion of Korea in the 17th century, Hwang Dong Hyuk's historical drama retreats to the besieged mountain fortress where the king and his two rival advisors clash over the appropriate course of action. Meanwhile, outside the cloistered fortress walls, war and winter rage mercilessly in sweeping vistas captured by cinematographer Kim Ji Yong (Okja).

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (India)
Nominations: Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects

The highest-grossing film of all time in India, the second feature film of S. S. Rajamouli and K. V. Vijayendra Prasad's ambitious period fantasy franchise concludes the epic fight for the throne in a dazzling flurry of over-the-top action and operatic battles.

Gintama (Japan)
Nominations: Best Visual Effects

The jury is out on the best part, but Fukuda Yuichi's cheeky and colorful live-action adaptation of Sorachi Hideaki's manga is most definitely full of visual effects, from flying ships to giant dogs to swords that turn men into monsters.

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Published March 8, 2018

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