Japanese cinema dominated the third Asian Film Awards on Monday as "Tokyo Sonata" won best picture and Hirokazu Koreeda was named best director for another family drama, "Still Walking."
Riding on the success of its recent best foreign film win at the Oscars, a third Japanese movie, "Departures," clinched best actor for Masahiro Motoki, who played an unemployed cellist who learns how to prepare bodies for burial.
China's Zhou Xun was named best actress for her performance in the psychological thriller "The Equation of Love and Death."
"I am very happy that Japanese film can cross borders," Koreeda told reporters backstage after his win late Monday.
All three Japanese movies revolve around family relationships. "Tokyo Sonata" describes the breakdown of a family after the father loses his job; "Still Walking" follows a family reunion to honor the death of the eldest son; in "Departures," Motoki's character comes to terms with the death of his absentee father.
"Tokyo Sonata" director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who is not related to famed late Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, said his movie is reflective of family problems in Japan.
Kurosawa said he wanted to convey through the movie that "you can never abandon hope, no matter how little hope there is."
Koreeda, who received his award from "Platoon" director Oliver Stone and "The Last Emperor" star Joan Chen, told reporters backstage "Still Walking" was a personal film because he made it after his mother passed away, but said he enjoyed the shoot because he was pleased with the cast.
"I only have fond memories of the shoot. It was always happy moments," Koreeda said.
Motoki, who received his trophy from Oscar winner William Hurt and producer Arthur Cohn, said the theme of death in "Departures" was universal.
"It's not just about the negative aspects of death. It's also about how you can accept death in a peaceful way and move on positively," he said.
Chinese actress Zhou said she prepared for her role by asking her boyfriend not visit her on set so she could feel lonely, adding that she had a hard time withdrawing from the character.
"I felt a great sense of loss after finishing the movie," she told reporters backstage.
Adding to the event's pan-Asian flavor, trade publication The Hollywood Reporter presented the Nielsen Box Office Award to 25-year-old Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra. The former Miss World enjoyed a sizzling 2008, which saw her in six releases, including two of the year's biggest hits _ "Fashion" and "Dostana."
Jung Woo-sung won best supporting actor for the South Korean western "The Good, the Bad, the Weird" and the best supporting actress prize went to Filipino Gina Pareno for "Service."
A tearful Wei Te-sheng received the Edward Yang New Talent Award from Yang's widow Kaili Peng. Wei, who used to work for the late Taiwanese director, became an overnight sensation after the box office success of the Taiwanese romance "Cape No. 7."
Retired Taiwanese actress Brigitte Lin made a rare public appearance to present the Asian Film Award for Outstanding Contribution to Asian Cinema to veteran Hong Kong director Tsui Hark and his wife, producer Nansun Shi, who were honored for the work of their production house Film Workshop Co.