Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lav Diaz, The Raid 2 among Asian Film Awards nominees

Demonstrating that it helps if you kick ass, Filipino auteur Lav Diaz and the Indonesian martial-arts film The Raid 2: Berandal will represent Southeast Asia at the ninth Asian Film Awards, which have once again not included any Thai films among its nominees.

Indie-cult helmer Diaz is among the best director nominees for his latest opus, From What Is Before (Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon), which examines the profound social tattering of a village under martial law during the Marcos regime. The four-hour drama premiered in competition at last year's Locarno fest, where it won the top-prize Golden Leopard.

And the impressionist action film The Raid 2: Berandal is nominated twice, best cinematography for Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono and best editing for Gareth Evans (who also directed and made it snow in Jakarta). One-upping 2011's The Raid at every turn, in terms of scope, fight scenes, stunts and characters, The Raid 2 follows a young butt-kicking police officer (no-nonsense leading man Iko Uwais) as he takes an undercover assignment as a prison inmate. His job is to infiltrate an underworld mob that has tentacles reaching all the way to the top of the police force.

Announced yesterday, the leading nominee for the ninth Asian Film Awards is Hong Kong director Ann Hui's The Golden Era, including best director and best actress for Tang Wei.

Other best director nominees are China's Lou Ye for Blind Massage, Japan's Shinya Tsukamoto for Fires on the Plain, India's Vishal Bhardwaj for Haider and South Korea's Hong Sang-soo for Hill of Freedom.

And the Best Film nominees are China's Black Coal, Thin Ice and Blind Massage, South Korea's Hill of Freedom and Ode to My Father, Japan's The Light Shine Only There and India's Haider. Variety and Film Business Asia break it down.

As with past editions of the Asian Film Awards, most of the nominees hail from China, followed by Hong Kong/Mainland co-productions, then South Korea, Japan and India.

Thailand has been shut out of the past couple editions of the Asian Film Awards, last appearing in 2012, when the Rashomon remake U Mong Pa Mueang and Pen-ek Ratanaruang's hitman drama Headshot were up for prizes. Thai composer Chatchai Pongpraphan came away a winner for his work on the Donnie Yen martial-arts drama Wu Xia.

Another good year was 2010, when Lee Chatametikool won best editing on the Malaysian indie Karaoke, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cannes-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives was named Best Film in 2011.

But looking at the nominees this year, I can start to see a pattern of sorts. Thailand had some well-regarded commercial hits last year, such as the GTH romances The Teacher's Diary and the blockbuster I Fine ... Thank You ... Love You or Yuthlert Sippapak's Tukkae Rak Pang Mak, but I can't quite see those going into a dark Macau alley with Lav Diaz or the boys from The Raid 2, or even the Chinese entries Black Coal, Thin Ice or Blind Massage. They'd get clobbered.

Best chance for Thailand at the Asian Film Awards might have been with past-winner Lee's feature directorial debut Concrete Clouds, which had many strong points, especially its cast. The scrappy indie student film W. might have fit in there somewhere as well, especially for editing. Another possibility might have been Uruphong Raksasad's award-winning documentary The Songs of Rice, which could have been a contender in the editing and cinematography categories. But, being a documentary, it's off the radar for the awards. Perhaps it's time to add a documentary category, hmm?

The Asian Film Awards are set for March 25 in Macau.

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