The Asia Pacific Screen Awards this year celebrated films with social agendas.
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26 Nov 2012 - 3:11 PM  UPDATED 26 Nov 2012 - 3:11 PM

The key feature film winners at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards – Beyond the Hill, Thy Womb and Night of Silence – together paint a highly compelling portrait of the complexity and diversity of life around the world. Cultural potency and filmmaking excellence are the two criteria used to judge these awards so it is not surprising.

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Tension and violence escalate in best film winner Beyond the Hill as the aggressive patriarch of a family retaliates against the actions of the nomads he believes are illegally on his land. But whether these nomads really are to blame for the wrongs being committee is the question that underpins this Turkish Greek co-production that neatly illustrates that violence begets violence.

Debut writer/director Emin Alper and producer Enis Köstepen accepted the award from Australian producer and jury president Jan Chapman, dedicating it to Seyfi Teoman, who died recently in a car accident.

Like Beyond the Hill, best documentary winner In My Mother's Arms, also spoke of the toll of human conflict, in this case via orphaned Iraqi children.

Filipino film Thy Womb and Turkish film Night of Silence, though very different from each other in style and content, are both unflinching accounts of the selflessness and sacrifice expected from women. Thy Womb won best direction for Brillante Mendoza at the presentation held on Friday evening at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane, while Night of Silence earned writer/director Reis Çelik the screenplay honour (pictured).

“I take this prize for all the women of the world who are suffering all the pain of the world,” said Çelik from the stage. (And, by the way, the elegant glass vessels that serve as the awards must be among the most gorgeous trophies given out anywhere in the world.)

His drama opens with a teenage girl being betrothed to a much older gun-toting man just out of prison for murders he was ordered to commit as part of a long-standing feud. The wedding too was about settling this dispute without thought for the damage done, including to the innocent girl.

Thy Womb tells of a midwife who helps her husband to find a second wife to bear the child he so dearly wants. In a cruel twist, the new wife makes the marriage conditional on the husband discarding the beloved first wife, played by veteran actress Nora Aunor. The drama is filmed in the picturesque island province of Tawi-Tawi in the Muslim region of Mindanao.

Neither Aunor nor Brillante were at the ceremony because it coincided with the premiere of the film in The Philippines, but Brillante was in Queensland in the preceding week to attend a gala screening held as part of the Brisbane International Film Festival.

Organisers say the awards have a footprint that covers four billion people in 70 countries, taking up one third of the earth. While it is not unexpected that the 34 nominees from 18 countries would reflect this culturally diverse region, this year it seemed to be the serious dramas with human rights issues at their core that won the admiration of the judges although comedies, action pictures and other genre films were among the nominees. And what better way to spark debate on these issues than film, which can very powerfully convey human emotion with great complexity. As presenter Nadira Naidoo said, the world has 60,500 languages but “film is the universal language that unites us all”.

The director-general of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, also spoke strongly of the value of film in her pre-recorded address when she thanked the nominees for their efforts in trying to create a better world. This year the UNESCO Award went to the Taiwanese historical epic Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale, a dramatisation of the Wushe Incident which happened early last century when the country was under Japanese rule.

Des Power founded the APSAs when head of Events Queensland but was notably absent due to ill health. He spoke of wanting to create something that would demonstrate to the world that Queensland – and Australia – was responsive to cultures that differ from the west, to the people, their stories and their creativity.

“Film is uniquely positioned,” he said. “It is a business generating billions of dollars, it is also an art form and, in some countries, a statement of pride.”

He wished he could say that the future of APSA was assured, he continued, particularly given its timeliness in the face of the Federal government's recently release White Paper on the Asian Century, but that there were global economic constraints.

But there was also positive news: “We have a long-held ambition for APSA to be hosted in different countries of Asia Pacific every second year, alternating with Brisbane… We may be on the verge of realising that goal.”

BEST FEATURE FILM
Beyond The Hill
(Turkey, Greece)
Producers Enis Köstepen, Emin Alper, Seyfi Teoman, co-producer Nikos Moutselos.

Highly commended: Nameless Gangster: Rules Of The Time (Republic of Korea)
Producers Park Shin-kyu, Han Jae-duk

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM
In My Mother's Arms
(Iraq, UK, Netherlands)
Producers Isabelle Stead, Mohamed Jabarah Al-Daradji, Atia Jabarah Al-Daradji,

Highly commended: Planet Of Snail
(Republic of Korea, Japan, Finland)
Producers Kim Min-chul, Gary Kam, co-producers Janne Niskala, Imamura Ken-ichi.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
A Letter To Momo
(Japan)
Producers Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, Hiroyuki Ikeda, Shigeru Watanabe, Kazuya Hamana.

BEST CHILDREN'S FEATURE FILM
The Mirror Never Lies
(Indonesia)
Producers Garin Nugroho, Nadine Chandrawinata.

ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING
Brillante Mendoza, Thy Womb
(Philippines)

Highly commended: Cheng Er, Lethal Hostage
(China)

BEST SCREENPLAY
Reis Çelik, Night Of Silence

ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
Touraj Aslani, Rhino Season
(Iraqi-Kurdistan,Turkey)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR
Choi Min-sik, Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time

Highly commended: Lior Ashkenazi, Footnote
(Israel)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS
Nora Aunor, Thy Womb

Highly commended: Darya Ekamasova, Once Upon A Time There Lived a Simple Woman
(Russia)

SCREEN INTERNATIONAL JURY GRAND PRIZE
Anurag Kashyap for his direction of Gangs of Wasseypur
(India)

Cho Min-soo for her performance in Pieta
(Korea)

Highly commended: Joseph Cedar for his screenplay for Footnote (Israel)

UNESCO AWARD
Warriors Of The Rainbow: Seediq Bale
(Taiwan)
Director Wei Te-sheng, producers John Woo, Terence Chang.

APSA FIAPF AWARD
Ryuichi Sakamoto, composer.

APSA NETPAC AWARD
Marlon Rivera, director, The Woman in the Septic Tank.