A violent love tragedy set in Wuhan won the hearts of a jury panel at last night's Asian Film Awards, becoming the biggest winner.
Korean films led the race with 16 nominations, but mainland entry Mystery won best film, best screenwriter and best newcomer. Iranian love story Rhino Season won three technical awards.
Mystery was Lou Ye's first mainland release in a decade. The acclaimed director was hit by a five-year filmmaking ban after submitting Summer Palace - which touched on the Tiannamen Square bloodshed - to compete at the Cannes Film Festival without authorisation. His latest effort beat strong contenders including Venice best film Pieta from South Korea and Outrage Beyond from Japan, as well as Johnnie To Kei-fung's Drug War.
The story of a woman discovering her husband's secret affairs, co-written by Lou, Mei Feng and Yu Fan, won best screenwriter, the night's first prize. Its star Qi Xi won the best newcomer award. Asked about his key to success, Lou laughed: "It's a mystery."
Filipino stars Eddie Garcia and Nora Aunor pocketed best actor and actress, whereas Hong Kong filmmakers were mainly on stage to present the prizes.
Veteran actor Garcia was also the people's choice as favourite actor for his role as a lonely gay man in the comedy Bwakaw. Aunor was named best actress for her role as a midwife suffering from miscarriages in Thy Womb.
"There has been a slump in the Philippines film industry,'' Garcia said. "Back in the 1980s, 220 films [a year] were made. Now there are barely 50."
He said he hoped the pair's awards would encourage more people to join the industry.
Jury president Andy Lau Tak-wah said many award-winning films this year were heavy. "Films reflect reality. I hope that future competing films will be more light-hearted," he said. On the poor performance of local films, Lau said many good movies were in production: "Hong Kong will come back next year."
Japanese maverick Takeshi Kitano was awarded best director for Outrage Beyond, a yakuza film and a sequel to 2010's Outrage.
The ceremony took place after a somewhat dim red carpet, which managed to maintain its glamour with support from the city's A-list despite fewer nominations for Hong Kong this year.
Actress Michelle Yeoh was honoured with the excellence in Asian cinema award for her professionalism and dedication to the industry. Hong Kong veteran Man Lim-chung was the best costume designer for his creations in the Hong Kong-mainland co-production The Silent War. The top-grossing Asian film award went to the mainland's low-budget Lost in Thailand. It took a record 1.2 billion yuan (HK$1.5 billion) on the mainland last year. Korean star Cho Min-soo, the lead in Pieta, was the people's choice favourite actress.
Farbod Khoshtinat, 24, said he was surprised by his best visual effects award for Rhino Season, which also won Bahman Ghobadi and Daryoosh Peiro best production designer. Indian star Nawazuddin Siddiqui won best supporting actor for his part in Talaash: The Answer Lies Within. Japan's Makiko Watanabe was best supporting actress for her role in Capturing Dad.