- Associated Press - Monday, March 18, 2013

HONG KONG (AP) - Chinese melodrama “Mystery” and veteran Filipino performers Nora Aunor and Eddie Garcia were honored with the top prizes at the Asian Film Awards.

The film directed by the often-censored Lou Ye tells the story of a middle-age woman who plans to take revenge on her husband after discovering his infidelity.

Lou said backstage Monday night that the award was an encouragement to the whole team who worked on the film, including photographers and art directors. “Mystery” also took home the award for best newcomer, Qi Xi, and best screenwriters.

Mainland China in 2006 banned Lou from filming for five years after he screened a film without approval, but in the interim he filmed a feature using small, digital cameras in defiance of the ban.

Aunor, one of the most popular Filipino stars of the 1970s and `80s, won best actress honors for her comeback film, “Thy Womb,” playing a midwife struggling with her own infertility in a picturesque, impoverished Muslim community in the southern Philippines. It was directed by the award-winning filmmaker Brillante Mendoza but performed poorly in Philippine cinemas.

Backstage, Aunor thanked the AFA and her fans back home, while countryman and best-actor honoree Garcia said he was “elated and honored” for his win. The 87-year-old actor also took home the people’s choice award for favorite actor.

Garcia dazzled viewers playing an aging gay man coping with loneliness and missed opportunities in “Bwakaw,” or “Voracious,” a drama that tested sensibilities about sexuality in the conservative Catholic country.

Japan’s Kitano Takeshi was named best director for “Outrage Beyond” but did not attend.

Malaysian-born actress Michelle Yeoh, previously named recipient of the Excellence in Asian Cinema Award, called herself “an extremely lucky gal.

“I’ve worked with truly the best of directors, not just in Asia but around the world,” she said. “I do believe that the harder you work, the luckier you get and I’ve been very, very privileged. So I thank God every day that I’ve been so blessed.”

Last year’s people’s choice winner Andy Lau was in a different role this year, president of the jury.

“I like films or performances that moved me,” he said about how he decided his votes.

Asked backstage why films from the greater China region did not fare well this year, Lau said his own theory was that it was just a cycle.

“This year, perhaps Hong Kong produced more comedy films, like the ones you saw, and also some action films. They are at a slight disadvantage,” he said. With new films from other directors in Hong Kong and Taiwan in the coming year, things will change.

“It takes a year or more to make a film,” the Hong Kong actor said. “So I think next year we will make a comeback.”

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