The Asian entries at this year's Venice Film Festival might not have made an award-winning impression on the jury and foreign critics, but the festival still served its purpose as a major platform for mainstream filmmakers from the region - and particularly Hong Kong. Despite not winning any major awards at Saturday night's closing ceremony at the Sala Grande, Asian cinema remained the focus of this year's selection, thanks to festival director Marco Muller, who has deep connections with Hong Kong and Chinese cinema. Hong Kong filmmakers made some noise with four entries, which were all commercial productions. Curtain-raiser Tsui Hark's martial arts fantasy Seven Swords and closer Peter Chan Ho-sun's Perhaps Love, a cross-over between musical and traditional narrative drama, targeted broad audiences rather than the art house. Everlasting Regret, by Stanley Kwan Kam-pang's Everlasting Regret, a drama set against the backdrop of the history of modern China and starring Sammi Cheng Sau-man, won the arts communications award. Then there was the screen adaptation of Japanese road-racing comic Initial D, by Andrew Lau Wai-keung and Alan Mak Siu-fai, shown in the out-of-competition section. South Korean director Park Chan-wook wowed audiences with his controversial Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, a box-office success back home. Hayao Miyazaki became the first animation director to be awarded a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement (see interview above). Cult Japanese actor-director Takeshi Kitano was invited to present his Takeshi's as the festival's 'surprise film'. Golden Lion winner Ang Lee says Venice has been an 'auteur film festival', but more commercial Asian releases were screened this year. Chan, who led the cast of Perhaps Love to bring down the curtain on the festival, says China's emergence as one of the world's greatest economies may have influenced this year's selection. Such an impact will continue at other major film festivals around the globe, he says. And the prominence of directors such as Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige might have a lot to do with China's increasing openness. 'In the past, films shown at international film festivals were limited to art house,' Chan says. 'But this time, most Asian films are commercial releases. They're no longer alternative. If you simply add Italian subtitles to these films, even the Italians wouldn't find them hard to understand. 'The economy has changed our lifestyle - so, too, our taste in films. Having so many Chinese or Asian films is a brave act. Now one festival has started, others will follow.' It wasn't just mainstream releases from Asia that were well-received at the festival. Some North American productions by Hollywood names earned wide acclaim. Lee's gay cowboy film Brokeback Mountain was the big winner. Despite the Taiwanese-born director walking away with the Golden Lion, most critics regard it the film as American mainstream. Other winners included Philippe Garrel (Les Amants Ruguliers) for best director, and George Clooney and Grant Heslov (Good Night and Good Luck) for best screenplay. Best actor went to David Strathairn for his performance in Good Night and Good Luck. On the less commercial side, John Woo turned up for co-directing a segment from the portmanteau All the Invisible Children, which comprises seven segments, each by a different director, and is aimed at raising money for needy children. Woo was also invited to present restored Chinese cinema classics from the 1930s. Wei Wei, the female lead of Fei Mu's 1947 classic Spring in a Small Town, was among the special guests. Taiwan's Lin Chien-ping won a Silver Lion in the best short film category for Small Station. Two mainland films in the Horizons section, Dam Street and Perpetual Motion, won acclaim from the international press, although they missed out on any major awards. Fears that the festival might be a target for terrorists prompted the organisers to impose tighter security measures, such as using metal detectors and guards inspecting the belongings of every attendee. But it didn't detract from the Hollywood glamour that stole the show on the red carpet. Several Hollywood features, which will soon be released in Hong Kong, attracted the fans, who didn't mind standing for hours in the sweltering heat of the Lido waiting for autographs. Among those who drew the loudest screams were Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger (Cinderella Man), Orlando Bloom (Elizabethtown) Tim Burton (Corpse Bride) and Clooney. Roman Polanski made a midnight appearance at Sala Grande. The most hard-working stars were Jake Gyllenhaal (competition films Proof and Brokeback Mountain) and Heath Ledger (competition films Brokeback Mountain and The Brothers Grimm, and Casanova in the out-of-competition section), who kept returning to the red carpet. One non-Hollywood star who drew a good deal of attention was Cannes best actress in 2000, Icelandic singer Bjork, who was promoting her avant-garde film Drawing Restraint directed by Matthew Barney. Although Hollywood was the focus, Woo wasn't bothered. Working on the fifth draft of his next film, Battle of the Red Cliff (based on the Chinese classic Romance of Three Kingdoms), he says Chinese and Asian cinema shouldn't aim to take over from Hollywood. 'We should just do our best,' he says. International film critics say the screening of Asian commercial productions will prevail. 'With the recent surge in international appreciation of Asian cinema, there's now more fervour over whether the new Tsai ming-liang will be any good, for example, rather than the work of a western auteur,' says Saul Symonds, jury member for the international film critics prize and editor of online film journal Light Sleeper.