Taiwan actress Lin Chi-ling arrives for the Hong Kong Film Awards April 19, 2009. [Agencies]
Woo's $US80 million two-part epic Red Cliff, based on an ancient Chinese battle by the same name, is a prime example of the recent trend of films made with an eye toward mainland viewers. Wilson Yip's action-filled biography of Bruce Lee's teacher Ip Man is another example, portraying the late martial arts master as a patriot who resists the Japanese occupation of his southern Chinese hometown.
The first installment of Red Cliff is up for 15 prizes and Ip Man is competing for 12 at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Both movies are nominated for best picture.
Hong Kong director John Woo (C), his wife Annie and Hong Kong director Ann Hui (R) arrive at the Hong Kong Film Awards April 19, 2009. [Agencies]
But another top contender harkens back to the locally flavoured fare made in the former British colony known for its mix of Chinese and Western cultures.
Veteran filmmaker Ann Hui's The Way We Are, which follows the life of a single mother in Hong Kong's Tin Shui Wai district, is a contender for best film, best director, best screenplay and best actress.
The other best picture nominees are Hong Kong comedian Stephen Chow's sci-fi movie CJ7 and Gordon Chan's ghost thriller Painted Skin.
Woo and Yip are also up for best director, competing against Benny Chan for Connected and Johnnie To, who was nominated for Sparrow, a playful look at a pickpocket gang.
Former Cannes winner Tony Leung Chiu-wai received a nod for best actor for playing a Chinese general in Red Cliff. He faces off with action star Donnie Yen, who played Ip Man; Simon Yam in Sparrow; Nick Cheung from the police thriller The Beast Stalker; and heartthrob Louis Koo, who portrayed a gangster who struggles to give up a life of crime in Run Papa Run.
China's Zhou Xun, the lead in Painted Skin, is the biggest star in the best actress competition, but she faces stiff competition from Hong Kong's Prudence Liew, who won the Chinese-language equivalent of an Oscar at Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards in December for playing a sex worker in True Women for Sale.
The other nominees are Paw Hee Ching from The Way We Are, Barbie Hsu from Connected, and Karena Lam from the romance Claustrophobia.
Japanese actress Chie Tanaka arrives at the Hong Kong Film Awards April 19, 2009. [Agencies]