The chance that a Chinese-language film will grab top honours at the upcoming Asian Film Awards rose yesterday after three were nominated for best film. Of these, Bodyguards and Assassins stole the limelight with six nominations. The 4th Asian Film Awards, organised by the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society, will take place at the Convention and Exhibition Centre on March 22. The Hong Kong/mainland co-production Bodyguards and Assassins, mainland film City of Life and Death and Taiwan's No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti make up half of the six nominees for the best film award. Bodyguards, an all-star production about how revolutionaries protect Sun Yat-sen, founder of modern China, from assassins sent by the Qing government to Hong Kong, is competing for best film, best newcomer, best production designer and best costume design. Wang Xueqi and Nicholas Tse Ting-fung will vie for best actor and best supporting actor respectively. Yonfan is nominated best director for Prince of Tears, which will represent Hong Kong at the Oscars. South Korea's Mother, also the country's Oscars entry, gets six nominations. City, which depicts the Nanking Massacre during the second world war, secured three nominations. Matsu Takako (Villon's Wife) and Li Bingbing (The Message) will lock horns over the best actress award. Wada Emi, who won an Academy Award for costume design with the movie Ran, is a nominee in a new category, best costume designer, for her role in The Warrior and the Wolf. Tony Leung Ka-fai, a three-time best actor at the Hong Kong Film Awards, chairs the jury team. While Japanese movies swept the awards last year, more Hong Kong shows are challenging them this time. 'The quality of Hong Kong movies has risen along with its Asian counterparts,' the society's chairman, Wilfred Wong Ying-wai, said. Bodyguards and City were both serious productions, Wong said. The society will spend about HK$10 million on the awards, while the government has raised its sponsorship by 8 per cent to HK$7 million. The International Film Festival will be shortened from 23 to 17 days. The change aimed to sharpen the focus and to make it easier for foreigners to stay in the city during the festival, Wong said.