Stars gather in Taiwan for Chinese 'Oscars'

Stars from China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan gathered in Taipei on Saturday for this year's Golden Horse Film Awards with Wong Kar-wai's martial arts epic "The Grandmaster" leading the race with 11 nominations.

Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, Taiwanese screen siren Shu Qi and Hong Kong actors and Cantopop "heavenly kings" Andy Lau and Aaron Kwok were among the performers due to walk down the red carpet ahead of a gala ceremony, organisers said.

Oscar-winning director Ang Lee, who chairs this year's jury, will be joined by acclaimed Hong Kong filmmakers John Woo and Wong Kar-wai for the awards, dubbed the "Oscars" of Chinese-language cinema.

Singaporean director Anthony Chen and his cast will attend the ceremony for his family drama "Ilo Ilo," which has six nods including best feature film and best new director.

Zhang and Shu are vying for the best actress crown for their respective roles as a kungfu master in "The Grandmaster" and an exorcist in "Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons".

Their rivals are Taiwanese actress Gwei Lun-mei ("Christmas Rose") as well as Hong Kong's Sammi Cheng ("Blind Detective") and Cherry Ngan ("The Way We Dance").

"The Grandmaster," inspired by the life of Yip Man, the mentor of legendary kung fu star Bruce Lee, is a frontrunner with nominations in major categories including best feature film, best director, best actress and best actor for Hong Kong's Tony Leung Chiu-wai.

Wong, who won best director for the drama "Days of Being Wild" in 1991, will face off against Hong Kong's Johnnie To, China's Jia Zhangke, Taiwanese Chung Mong-hong ("Soul"), and Malaysian Tsai Ming-liang ("Stray Dogs") for the best director title.

Also nominated for the best feature film gong are To's action flick "Drug War," Jia's "A Touch of Sin" -- a tale of corruption, greed and exploitation in modern China -- as well as Tsai's "Stray Dogs" about a homeless Taiwanese family living on the margins of society.

Tony Leung Chiu-wai, who plays the eponymous "Grandmaster," will compete against fellow Hong Kongers Nick Cheung ("Unbeatable") and Tony Leung Ka-fai ("Cold War") as well as Taiwan's Lee Kang-sheng ("Stray Dogs") and Wang Yu ("Soul") for the best actor honour.

Singaporean Yeo Yann Yann is nominated for best supporting actress for playing a Filipina maid in "Ilo Ilo" while 13-year-old Koh Jia Ler is up for best new performer for his role as a troubled Singaporean boy who the maid befriends.

Several Taiwanese newspapers predicted that Wong Kar-wai could take home the best director award and Tsai Ming-liang the best feature film. Zhang Ziyi is a critics' favourite for best actress and Lee Kang-sheng for best actor.

Nearly 40 films are nominated in the 50th edition of the Golden Horse Film Awards, which are styled on the US Academy Awards but are decided by a jury along the lines of the Cannes film festival.

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