Asia Pacific\'s Night of Nights

FilmInk gives you a rundown on which cinematic achievements scored the top prizes at the recent Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

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The Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) is an event with all the glamour of the Oscars, on a local scale. The Awards focus on the Asia Pacific region and reward excellence in filmmaking, acting, direction and writing. Now in its fifth year, the ceremony is held on the Gold Coast and is less about competition than it is about honouring creative talent in the industry. All of the nominees are seated together on stage and rather than being awarded trophies, they are given a glass vessel, which is a one of a kind sculpture that reflects the individual creative voices of each filmmaker.

These exquisite vessels have been hand crafted by Brisbane artist Joanna Bone. They are organic and fluid and incorporate her reflections on the colour and culture of Asia-Pacific. Joanna drew much of her inspiration from the natural beauty of Queensland such as the patterns and colours of the fish and corals within the Great Barrier Reef.

The first performance of the evening was the international debut of Yao Qifeng, a ten-year-old Chinese ballet dancer. Qifeng is the subject of a documentary, chronicling her passion for dance; for nearly two years she would practice her dancing in a public square, regardless of the weather. Her family struggled financially, so she danced in broken ballet slippers on a piece of carpet. She shared the stage with Queensland Ballet’s Rachael Walsh in a beautiful performance choreographed by Francois Klaus.

Four years ago, Japanese producer Noritaka Kawaguchi won the best animation APSA award for his film 5 Centimetres Per Second. Tragically, his vessel was destroyed during the recent earthquake and tsunami that hit Tokyo. This year Kawaguchi was invited back and given a replacement vessel for the one he lost. He expressed his gratitude for the continued support of APSA and their assistance in allowing filmmakers to share their work with a wide audience.

To round out the evening, APSA patron Jack Thompson gave an impassioned speech, expressing the sentiments of the filmmakers and industry people in attendance. He spoke about filmmakers and actors who were experiencing extraordinary difficulties in Iran being discriminated against. He was of course referring to the Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who was recently jailed for six years and has been banned from making films, talking to the press or travelling abroad for 20 years. While under house arrest Panahi made a movie titled This Is Not a Film depicting a day in his life and the frustrations he experienced. He famously smuggled the film out of his house on a flash drive hidden in a cake.

Among the many amazing films nominated was Toomelah, which took the UNESCO Award with writer director Ivan Sen, young star Daniel Connors and his father accepting the prize. Daniel’s short, softly spoken speech was one of the most endearing and charming as he murmured, “I’d just like to thank everyone for coming, I’d like to thank my mother and father, and Ivan and…whoever.”

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan) was nominated for Best Feature Film and Best Screenplay as well as winning the awards for Directing, Cinematography and the Grand Jury Prize. This is the story of the search for the body of a dead man in the Anatolian countryside. The mystery is gradually revealed through the conversation of the men searching; a policeman, a prosecutor and the two men who have confessed to the killing.

A Separation won the Best Feature Film award, as well as nominations for Directing, Screenplay and Best Actor for Peyman Moadi. This film (which also took out the top prize at this year’s Sydney Film Festival) tells the story of a married couple who are forced to decide whether to move out of Iran and improve the quality of life for their child, or to stay and care for a parent who is suffering from Alzheimers.

The APSA awards were populated by a variety of filmmakers, actors, producers and film programmers from many countries, who all shared an enduring passion for film excellence. Together they made APSA a celebration of the talent and diverse movies being created within the Asia Pacific region.

For more information on the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, head here.

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