The Asian Film Awards has announced that it will give a special award to Hong Kong and Amsterdam-based Fortissimo Films for its long-time promotion of Asian cinema.

Fortissimo, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, was instrumental in discovering or nurturing many Asian filmmakers, including Wong Kar-wai, Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Shunji Iwai, and launching their works in the West. Late company co-founder Wouter Barendrecht was also a driving force behind the launch of Hong Kong’s co-production market, the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF).

The Promotion of Asian Cinema award will be presented to Fortissimo chairman Michael J. Werner at the fifth edition of the awards to take place in Hong Kong on March 21. In addition a programme of Fortissimo films will be screened as part of the Hong Kong International Film Festival (March 20 – April 5).

HKIFFS chairman Wilfred Wong said: “On the occasion of its 20th year in existence, we are pleased to recognise the groundbreaking achievements of this world renowned company, with a special award to be presented at this year’s Asian Film Awards. Fortissimo is a very special company that from its beginning sought out the best that was Asian cinema and brought it to the world, helping along the way to create the ascendancy of Asian Cinema that we see and celebrate here today.”

Michael J. Werner said: “In the early 90’s there was a general global lack of awareness and recognition of Asian Cinema and this was one of the key motivational factors that brought about the creation of Fortissimo Films about twenty years ago when the original founders, Wouter, Shu Kei, and Helen Loveridge saw both a need and an opportunity. This wonderful award today from the HKIFFS celebrates that early vision which still guides us, and will inspire us to seek new challenges and achievements as we move forward into the next generation.”

Organised by the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society (HKIFFS) with support from the Film Development Fund and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the AFAs recognise excellence in Asian cinema produced in 2010. 

The nominations for this year’s awards were announced last month.