Going Big Down Under: The 13th Annual Asia Pacific Screen Awards
Entering its 13th year, the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) is becoming one of the best places to capture some of the most unique voices in filmmaking today. The filmmakers whose work is selected and honored by APSA each year reflect the diversity of the vast region (spanning 70 countries) and the astonishing breadth of stories being told. Take last year’s winner for best director, Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki (and read our interview with Labaki here), whose captivating feature Capernaum went on to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Labaki’s film told the story of a 12-year-old Lebanese boy named Zain Al Rafeea who sued his parents for the fact that he was born. Last year’s winning film Shoplifters, from Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda, focused on a family of small-time crooks who take in a child they find in the cold. This, too, also went on to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. (In a nice echo, one of this year’s nominees is a very different tale about a family of crooks, too—more on that in a minute.)
Some of this year’s APSA nominees run the gamut from the internationally well-known, like legendary Korean director Boon Joon-Ho’s masterful class warfare thriller Parasite (nominated for Best Feature), which introduces us to the Kim family, impoverished yet ingenious, who worm their way into the lives of the wealthy Parks. It’s a must-see. Then you’ve got Russian director Kantemir Balagov’s World War II drama Beanpole, about two young women readjusting to life Leningrad in the aftermath of the war. The sweep of films and filmmakers nominated this year—as in any year at the APSAs—speaks to the astonishing variety of voices telling their stories in this vast, inexhaustibly diverse region.
This year, APSA is expanding beyond a ceremony to honor the region’s filmmakers into a larger event dedicated to nurturing talent and creating connections within this sprawling film community. The newly formed Asia Pacific Screen Forum will include roundtable discussions, workshops, informal networking opportunities, and will culminate with the awards ceremony on November 21 in Brisbane, Australia. While the nominees and award winners all benefit from the imprimatur of the APSA, and the rest of us benefit from getting to see their work, broadening the scope into a filmmaking forum creates a true film academy in the region. “By introducing the Forum, we have recognized that meaningful connections happen in person and through shared experiences in an environment conducive for connections to evolve,” said Michael Hawkins in a press release, chair of the APSA and its Academy.
Part of this year’s slate will be a celebration of animation, with free public screenings of this year’s nominated animated features. These include director Kirby Atkins Mosely, which is the first-ever joint production between New Zealand and China, which is centered on the titular patriarch of a family of thoriphants (elephant-like creatures with the facial features of sheep). Then there’s Iranian director Behzad Nalbandi’s The Unseen, which tells the story of how those deemed ‘unsavory’ by local authorities in Tehran are rounded up before an international delegation comes to the city. These two very different kinds of animated films to speak to the astonishing scope of the stories being told by APSA’s nominees.
The MPA shares a close relationship with APSA and together manage the MPA-APSA Academy Film Fund. This year we celebrate the Fund’s 10th anniversary. It has been hugely successful in support of some of the most well-received and awarded films from the Asia Pacific — take the first completed film from the inaugural round of the Fund in 2010, Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation. The film went on to win almost 50 awards internationally including an Oscar®, Golden Globe®, Golden Bear and APSA for Best Film.
The Fund has long supported the work of APSA Academy members including Rolf de Heer, Lee Chang-dong, Zeynep Özbatur Atakan, Mohammad Rasoulof, Cliff Curtis, and the first female director from Saudi Arabia Haifaa Al Mansour, and has brought to completion notable projects including Maryam Ebrahimi’s No Burqas Behind Bars, Shawkat Amin Korki’s Memories on Stone, Annemarie Jacir’s celebrated family drama Wajib, and Payman Maadi’s feature Bomb, A Love Story.
The 13th year of the APSAs is its most ambitious to date. It’s a fitting expansion of ideals for a region that has millions of stories, and storytellers, waiting to be heard.
For more information on the APSAs, click here.
Featured image: The Kim Family (Woo-sik Choi, Kang-ho Song, Hye-jin Jang, So-dam Park) in Parasite. Courtesy of NEON CJ Entertainment