HONG KONG -- Ang Lee's spy thriller "Lust, Caution" and Peter Chan's historical epic "The Warlords" led with six nominations each in the shortlist for the second Asian Film Awards announced Thursday.
Other top contenders include Jiang Wen's "The Sun Also Rises," with five nominations. The Japanese movie "I Just Didn't Do It" and South Korea's "Secret Sunshine" each had four in the event organized by the Hong Kong International Film Festival.
"Lust, Caution," about the affair between an undercover student activist and the Japanese-allied spy chief in World War II-era Shanghai, and "The Warlords" are both up for best film and best director.
The lead actors from "Lust, Caution," Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Tang Wei, also were nominated for top acting awards.
"The Warlords" star Jet Li is also competing for best actor, along with South Korean Song Kang-ho from "Secret Sunshine," who won in the same category last year for the monster thriller "The Host," and Ryo Kase from "I Just Didn't Do It," about a young man fighting sexual harassment charges.
Song's costar from "Secret Sunshine," Jeon Do-yeon, is up for best actress, along with Korean American actress Kim Yun-jin from the hit U.S. TV show "Lost" and veteran Chinese actress Joan Chen.
Jeon already won Cannes' best actress prize last year for "Secret Sunshine," in which she portrays a woman's mental breakdown after moving to her husband's hometown following his death in a traffic accident, only to face the kidnapping and murder of her son.
The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Hong Kong on March 17.
The Hong Kong film festival launched the Asian Film Awards last year in an attempt to add luster to the event, which is facing growing competition from other film festivals in the region, most notably the Pusan International Film Festival in South Korea.
The awards ceremony was one of two pan-Asian film awards that debuted last year, along with the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, organized by Australia's Queensland state government, the International Federation of Film Producers Associations, broadcaster CNN and UNESCO.
Wilfred Wong, chairman of the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society, said the budget for the Asian Film Awards was about $1.3 million this year.
The Hong Kong film festival will run from March 17 to April 6.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun