The best in South-East Asian cinema honoured at glitzy and glamorous affair

KUCHING, Malaysia - It was an evening quite unlike any other, as celebrities and film-makers from South-East Asia took centre stage at the inaugural ASEAN International Film Festival Awards (Aiffa) 2013.

Never has the city seen such a gathering of stars, which included the likes of Datuk Seri Michelle Yeoh, acclaimed Indonesian director Viva Westi and Bollywood actress Geeta Rani Basra.

Televised live from Borneo Convention Centre Kuching on Saturday, the glitzy affair saw Malaysia picking up four awards, which are Best Action Picture for Songlap, Best Comedy Picture for Istanbul Aku Datang, Best Screenplay for Bunohan and Best Actor for Shaheizy Sam's role in Songlap.

Renowned Malaysian film director U-Wei Saari was presented with a Special Honours Award for his film titled Hanyut, which tells the story of a Dutch trader struggling to survive in Malaysia at the turn of the 19th century.

"It's an honour for me to receive this award. Please, make sure to watch the film," he said.

Shaheizy beat four other contenders vying for the Best Actor honour, including Singapore's funny man Gurmit Singh and Filipino screen heart throb Jericho Rosales.

Songlap took the Best Action Picture award from Malaysia's other entries 8 Jam and Kepong Gangster, as well as Indonesia's Sang Martir.

"I'd like to say a big thank you to the film's directors, Effendee Mazlan and Fariza Azlina Isahak, for all their support. To my mother, who has always been there for me, I love you." Shaheizy said.

Meanwhile, Yeoh received the Lifetime Achievement Award for her various movie roles throughout the years, including numerous Hollywood blockbusters as well as her contributions to the ASEAN film industry.

"I cannot begin to describe what an incredible honour it is to be here tonight, and to receive this award," Yeoh said.

"This is my first time in Kuching, but I can promise you, it won't be the last," she said.

The Philippines had an impressive showing as well, bagging a total of four awards with Emmanuel Quindo Palo's Sta.Nina winning Best Drama Picture and its cast being presented with honours for Best Actress (Alessandra De Rossi), Best Supporting Actor (Bugoy Carino) and Best Supporting Actress (Anita Linda).

Guests were treated to one performance after another while they dined, with renditions of famous movie theme songs as well as a short comedy skit by Malaysian comedian Joanne Kam Poh Poh taking place in between each award presentation.

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