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Entries in Australian Film (2)

Friday
Nov242017

GEORGIA ON EVERYONE'S MIND AFTER APSA TRIUMPH

Warwick Thornton’s brutal Aussie western Sweet Country kept up its award season momentum by taking out Best Film honours at tonight’s Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA), held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. But it was filmmaking minnow Georgia that won over the hearts and minds of the jurors and gathered attendees at the 11th annual celebration of filmmaking from region that this year comprised 42 nominated works from 25 countries.

Servicing a population of roughly 5 million occupying a mere 70,000 square kilometres, the Georgian film community stood proud, taking three of the event’s most prestigious prizes. The drama Dede (pictured, below), a tradition-defying love triangle set in the Caucasus Mountains from director Mariam Khachvani (pictured, above: centre), was chosen to represent the Asia Pacific film community before UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee as recipient of APSA Cultural Diversity Award; a special screening of the film will be held at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters on December 12. The young director, who shot her film in the UNESCO World Heritage province of Svaneti in her homeland, was clearly moved when she took to the stage; similar displays of genuine humility and unbridled glee were indicative of all the Georgian honorees.

The Best Actress trophy went to Nato Murvanidze (above, right) for her role in Scary Mother, the riveting first feature from 27 year-old auteur Ana Urushadze (above, left). The debutant director also received acknowledgement for her assured work with an APSA Jury Grand Prize, an honour that will sit alongside 2017 statuettes earned from Locarno, Mumbai and Sarajevo film festivals. A fourth in-development Georgian project, Vladimer Katcharav’s Nene, was selected to receive a US$25,000.00 grant as part of the 2017 Motion Picture Association (MPA) APSA Film Fund.

Read SCARY MOTHER: THE ANA URUSHADZE / NATO MURVANIDZE INTERVEW here. 

The mighty Russian film sector was the other award frontrunner, also nabbing three APSA trophies. These were Achievement in Directing, bestowed upon Andrey Zvyagintsev (an APSA favourite, with wins under his belt Leviathan and Elena) for his missing child drama, Loveless; the Cinematography honour, awarded to the duo Pyotr Duhovskoy and Timofey Lobov for Rustam Khamdamov’s monochromatic dreamscape The Bottomless Bag; and, a second Jury Grand Prize for actor Aleksandr Yatsenko’s performance in Boris Khlebnikov’s Arrhythmia.

Read our review of ARRHYTHMIA here.

Thornton’s Best Picture triumph establishes an APSA milestone, with the indigenous filmmaker the first director to have had two films take the top honour; his breakthrough hit Samson and Delilah won in 2009. The only other Antipodean work honoured was Annie Goldson’s New Zealand documentary Kim Dotcom: Caught in The Web, which earned a Special Mention in the Feature Documentary section; Feras Fayyad’s Last Men in Aleppo was deemed the front runner in that category.

India celebrated wins in two major categories, both for Amit Masurkar’s polling-booth black comedy Newton; leading man Rajkummar Rao won Best Actor, while Masurkar and co-writer Mayank Tewari took Best Screenplay honours. Other winners included Kamila Andini’s The Seen and Unseen (Indonesia) for Best Youth Feature; Anne Marie Fleming’s Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming (Iran, Canada) for Best Animated Feature. Iranian actor Navid Mohammadzadeh gave an entertaining acceptance speech in his native Fasi when called onstage to claim his Special Mention honour for his lead role in Vahid Jalilvand’s No Date, No Signature.

Read WINDOW HORSES: THE ANN MARIE FLEMING INTERVIEW here.

The two honorary awards were amongst the highlights of the slickly-staged show, hosted by Australian television identity Lee Lin Chin and actor David Wenham. The FIAPF Outstanding Achievement in the Asia Pacific honour was awarded to Filipino producer Bianca Balbuena (Beast, 2015; Singing in Graveyards, 2016), whose rousing speech was the best of the night (“May we never get tired of being storytellers because the world needs us now”). The APSA Young Cinema Award, a recognition of emerging Asia Pacific talent, went to Azerbaijani filmmaker Ilgar Najaf’s Pomegranate Orchard.

 

Thursday
Jan292015

WILL THE BABADOOK HAUNT ALL COMERS AT THE AUSSIE OSCARS?

Only a few short hours before the red carpet turns a muddy purple under the heels of Sydney’s sodden socialites (it has really rained this week), SCREEN-SPACE takes a last minute stab at who will take home an AACTA Award at tonight’s Oz industry gala event, to be hosted by AACTA ambassador Cate Blanchett (pictured, below; at the 2014 event) and actress Deborah Mailman… 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Nowhere is the paucity of well written female characters in modern cinema more evident than in this years’ Supporting Actress category. This in no way reflects on the nominees, who all gave fine performances, but closer inspection indicates that the material was pretty thin. Jacqueline McKenzie emoted her heart out in what amounted to about 40 seconds of screen time in The Water Diviner. Ditto the wonderful Susan Prior in The Rover; why she is not an awards-laden international star is incomprehensible given her talent and resume. It looks like two solid if slight comedy turns from Josh Lawson’s The Little Death will fight over this one. In a coin toss, Kate Mulvany over Erin James.
Who should win
– Angourie Rice who, as the innocent swept up in society’s destruction, was the heart and soul of Zak Hilditch’s otherwise grim These Final Hours. 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
No such luck for The Little Death here – ensemble players TJ Power and Patrick Brammall will cancel themselves out. Kudos to Robert Pattinson for his bizarre, brazen psycho in David Michod’s The Rover, but it was a performance that earned just as many brickbats as bouquets. Veteran Turkish character actor Yilmaz Erdogan (pictured, right) thouroughly deserves the trophy for his stoic, honourable defeated warrior opposite Russell Crowe in The Water Diviner. One side note – why isn’t The Mule’s Hugo Weaving in this race?
Who should win
– Noah Wiseman, whose troubled, enigmatic, horrified character Samuel will rank alongside the kid stars of The Shining and Poltergeist as one of the horror genre’s MVPs.

BEST ACTRESS
What’s with all these acting noms for the raunchy sitcom vibe of The Little Death? Kate Box is making up numbers here. But a winner is much harder to pick from the remaining three nominees. If the night becomes a ‘Babadook Sweep’, Essie Davis will win and deservedly so. But Predestination has three tech awards already, so there’s a lot of love for Predestination, thanks in no small part the wonderful Sarah Snook. And there was a lot of early Oscar buzz for Mia Wasikowska’s transformative journey in John Curran’s Tracks…
Who should win
– A tie is not out of the question; Davis and Wasikowska might split it. We’ll lean towards Davis (pictured, left). 

BEST ACTOR
The great skill of Russell Crowe’s performance in The Water Diviner is that he was able to rein in his movie-star grandness and play an everyman so convincingly. Did he make it look too easy, though? Damon Herriman is an industry favourite, but The Little Death won’t contest in this category (he should’ve been awarded for 100 Bloody Acres). The Rover’s Guy Pearce did his best Clint Eastwood and was very good at it. But with a Cannes gong and an APSA honour already to his name for Charlie’s Country, this is David Gulpilil’s night.
Who should win
– David Gulpilil. 

BEST DIRECTOR
Rolf de Heer’s sublimely understated direction of his lead actor and friend in Charlie’s Country is superb, but the Best Original Screenplay award may be where his contribution is honoured. David Michod (The Rover) and brothers Michael and Ian Spierig (Predestination) have long, worthwhile careers ahead of them, but will take a back seat Jennifer Kent tonight. Horror is not always favoured by the high-minded who hand out industry kudos, but The Babadook is a superbly crafted, emotionally resonant work from an exciting new auteur.
Who should win
– Kent (pictured, right), but Zak Hilditch for the end-of-days thriller These Final Hours can feel unloved given the category had time travel, dystopian future and fairy tale horror contenders front and centre.

BEST PICTURE
The lack of Best Director consideration will nix the night for The Water Diviner and The Railway Man; so too Tracks, though John Curran’s brilliant work was wrongfully snubbed. Charlie’s Country is a serious ‘actors’ piece, and will earn its trophy in that category. A week ago, The Babadook was a lock, it must be said, but Predestination’s slew of craft trophies may have tipped the scales back in in its favour.
Who should win – The Babadook.

The 4th annual AACTA Awards will be held at The Star Event Centre in Sydney’s Darling Harbour precinct tonight.