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The 12th Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) ceremony proved a true celebration of cinema from the region, with awards being bestowed upon films from Australia, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Singapore and Turkey. The gala ceremony, held in the main room of the The Brisbane Exhibition & Convention Centre, was hosted by New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis (Once Were Warriors; Whale Rider, The Meg) and Australian television personality Sofie Formica (pictured, below).

Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazoku) can now add an APSA to its list of growing international trophies after winning the Best Film honour. Having earned the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or in May and already slated as Japan’s official entry in the Best Foreign Film Oscar race, the prolific filmmaker’s family drama is proving to be one of the most warmly received films in a career filled with critical and commercial hits. The film’s producer Taguchi Hijiri accepted the award on his director’s behalf.

APSA International Jury President Alexander Rodnyansky, Russian producer of 2014 APSA Best Feature Film winner Leviathan, said, “We have had the great fortune to be presented with a unique line up of films that represent the different countries, cultures and talents of our region. I have discovered new worlds by watching them.” On the Best Film winner, he declared, “Shoplifters turns an intimate story about an unusual family into a metaphorical social analysis that is relevant not only for Japan, but everywhere.”

Rodnyansky (second from left) oversaw a jury that included (from left) Chilean actress Antonia Zegers, Indonesian director Nia Dinata, Nepalese filmmaker Deepak Rauniyar and Georgian producer Vladimer Katcharava. They awarded this year’s Grand Jury Prize to Lee Joon-dong and Lee Chang-dong for Burning (Republic of Korea), winner of the Cannes FIPRESCI Prize in 2018. The Korean filmmaking team is popular with APSA judges, having previously earned four awards. The unmistakable trophies, designed by Brisbane artist Joanna Bone, feature prominently in the apartment of star Steven Yuen in a scene from Burning.

The Cultural Diversity Award under the Patronage of UNESCO was awarded to Garin Nugroho and Ifa Isfansyah for Memories of My Body (Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku; pictured, right) from Indonesia and accepted on the night by lead actor Muhummad Khan. Nugroho will now present a screening of the film on December 15 in Paris at UNESCO Headquarters as part of the Intergovernmental Committee meeting on the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

In one of the evening's most moving moments, Indian actress-turned-filmmaker Nandita Das was awarded the FIAPF Award for Achievement in Film in the Asia Pacific Region. In her acceptance speech, the passionate advocate for civil liberties and human rights cited her early work in Deepa Mehta's lesbian romance Fire, a film that changed the landscape of Indian cinema 22 years ago and which still inspires her today. Her latest work, Manto, a biographical account of writer Saadat Hasan Manto's life in 1940s India, earned her leading man Nawazuddin Siddiqi the Best Actor APSA trophy.


The Australian sector was recognized in the Best Documentary Feature Film category, where director Paul Damien Williams and producer Shannon Swan were honoured for Gurrumul, the first win for Australia in this category at APSA. Also recognised were Hildur Guðnadóttir and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson for Mary Magdalene, director Garth Davies’ UK/Australian co-production. Legendary musician and chair of the Music in Film jury, Ryuichi Sakamoto said of the winning film, “Mary Magdalene’s soundtrack is a meticulous work of art by the composers. The quality of craftsmanship and the depth of emotions are overwhelming.”

The full list of 2018 Asia Pacific Screen Award winners:

Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazoku; Japan) Kore-eda Hirokazu, Matsuzaki Kaoru, Yose Akihiko, Taguchi Hijiri

Burning (Republic of Korea) 
Lee Joon-dong, Lee Chang-dong

CULTURAL DIVERSITY AWARD UNDER THE PATRONAGE OF UNESCO: Memories of My Body (Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku; Indonesia)
 Garin Nugroho, Ifa Isfansyah

Nadine Labaki for Capharnaüm (Lebanon)


Dan Kleinman, Sameh Zoabi for Tel Aviv on Fire (Israel, Belgium, France, Luxembourg)

Hideho Urata for A Land Imagined (Singapore, France, Netherlands)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR: Nawazuddin Siddiqui for Manto (India)

Zhao Tao for Ash is Purest White (Jiang hu er nv; People’s Republic of China, France)

Hildur Guðnadóttir, Jóhann Jóhannsson for Mary Magdalene (Australia, UK)

BEST YOUTH FEATURE FILM: The Pigeon (Güvercin) Banu Savıcı, Mesut Ulutaş (Turkey)

Rezo (Znaesh’ mama, gde ya byl) (Russian Federation) Leo Gabriadze, Timur Bekmambetov

Paul Damien Williams, Shannon Swan

Yeo Siew Hua for A Land Imagined (Singapore, France, Netherlands)

FIAPF Award for Achievement in Film in the Asia Pacific Region: Nandita Das (India) 


Producer Ifa Isfansyah, director Kamila Andini (Indonesia) for Yuni;

Producer Olga Khlasheva, director Adilkhan Yerzhanov (Kazakhstan) for Hell is Empty and All The Devils Are Here;

Producer Mai Meksawan, director Uruphong Raksasad (Thailand) for Worship;

Director, producer, screenwriter Semih Kaplanoglu (Turkey) for Asli.


Director Feras Fayyad (Syria) for feature documentary The Cave


Sherwan Haki (Syria)
Taro Imai (Japan)
Khanjan Koshore Nath (India)



Japan and the People’s Republic of China lead the field of nominees at the 2018 Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA), with their respective industries securing 7 nominations each. The pack tightens behind them, with Australia, India and Kazakhstan each earning 5 nominations in key categories.

The 12th annual celebration of Asia Pacific cinema, a sector that provides half the world’s film output, features 46 films from 22 countries. Kore-Eda Hirokazu’s Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters (Japan; pictured, top) stands alone at the head of the nominee list with three nominations, including Film, Director and Screenplay nods. The film has sentimental ties to the APSAs, with star Kirin Kiki the 2015 Best Actress award winner for Naomi Kawase’s An; a beloved figure in Asian cinema, she passed away in September, aged 75.

Four other titles earned dual nominations - Lee Chang-dong’s Burning (Republic of Korea); Adilkhan Yerzhanov’s The Gentle Indifference of the World (Kazakhstan, France; pictured, right); Khavn’s Balangiga: Howling Wilderness (Philippines); and, Phuttiphong Aroonpheng’s Manta Ray (Thailand, People’s Republic of China, France).

The Australian sector’s five noms came across four categories. Paul Damien William’s Gurrumul will vie for the Best Documentary honour; amongst the Best Actress contenders is US actress Rooney Mara for Garth Davis’ Mary Magdalene; veteran Bruce Beresford earned his first APSA Best Director nomination for Ladies in Black; and, in the Best Original Score race, Harry Gregson-Williams (for Simon Baker’s Breath) and Hildur Guðnadóttir and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson (for Mary Magdalene) will compete.

The APSA nominee family expands in 2018 with the first ever contender from Uzbekistan. Best Actor nominee Karim Mirkhadiyev (pictured, left), star of Rashid Malikov’s stirring father/son drama Fortitude, will carry his nation’s hopes against a formidable field, including Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Manto; India), child actor and former Syrian refugee Zain Al Rafeea (Capharnaüm; Lebanon), Bahman Farmanara (Tale of the Sea; Islamic Republic of Iran) and Akylbek Abdykalykov (Night Accident; Kyrgyzstan).

Rooney faces a tough field of Best Actress contenders - Zhao Tao (Ash is Purest White; People’s Republic of China, France); Damla Sönmez (Sibel; Turkey, France, Germany, Luxembourg); Cannes Best Actress winner Samal Yeslyamova (Ayka; Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, People’s Republic of China, Germany, Poland); and, deaf actress Laura Koroleva (Sveta; Kazakhstan).

The awards, overseen by APSA Academy President Jack Thompson, will be held at a black-tie event on Thursday, 29 November 2018 at Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre. Further details can be found at the official website.    


Balangiga: Howling Wilderness (Philippines; Dir: Khavn)
Burning (Republic of Korea; Dir: LEE Chang-dong
The Gentle Indifference of the World (Laskovoe Bezrazlichie Mira) (Kazakhstan, France; Dir Adilkhan YERZHANOV)
Manta Ray (Kraben Rahu) (Thailand, People’s Republic of China, France; Dir: Phuttiphong AROONPHENG)
Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazoku) (Japan; Dir: KORE-EDA Hirokazu)

Ava (Islamic Republic of Iran, Qatar, Canada; Dir: Sadaf FOROUGHI)
Nervous Translation (Philippines; Dir: Shireen SENO)
Passage of Life (Boku no kaeru basho) (Japan, Myanmar; Dir: Akio FUJIMOTO)
The Pigeon (Güvercin) (Turkey; Dir: Banu SIVACI; trailer, below)
Village Rockstars (India; Dir: Rima DAS)

Hoffmaniada (Russian Federation; Dir: Stanislav SOKOLOV)
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (Sayonara no asa ni yakusoku no hana o kazarô
(Japan; Dir: Mari OKADA)
Mirai (Mirai no Mirai) (Japan; Dir: Mamoru HOSODA)
On Happiness Road (Hsing Fu Lu Shang) (Taiwan; Dir: SUNG Hsin-Yin)
Rezo (Znaesh’, mama, gde ya byl) (Russian Federation; Dir: Leo GABRIADZE)

Amal (Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, France, Germany, Norway, Denmark; Dir: Mohamed SIAM)
Gurrumul (Australia; Dir: Paul Damien WILLIAMS)
Of Fathers and Sons (Syrian Arab Republic, Lebanon, Qatar, Germany; Dir: Talal DERKI; trailer, below)
Of Love & Law (Japan, United Kingdom, France; Dir: Hikaru TODA)
Up Down & Sideways (kho ki pa lü) (India; Dir: Anushka MEENAKSHI, Iswar SRIKUMAR)

Nadine LABAKI for Capharnaüm (Lebanon)
Bruce BERESFORD for Ladies in Black (Australia)
Emir BAIGAZIN for The River (Ozen; Kazakhstan, Norway, Poland)
KORE-EDA Hirokazu for Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazoku; Japan)
Ivan AYR for Soni (India)

Saumyananda SAHI for Balekempa (India)
Hideho URATA for A Land Imagined (Singapore, France, Netherlands)
Nawarophaat RUNGPHIBOONSOPHIT for Manta Ray (Kraben Rahu; Thailand, People’s Republic of China, France; trailer, below)
Chaiyapruek CHALERMPORNPANIT for Malila: The Farewell Flower (Thailand)
ZHANG Miaoyan, XU Zhiyong for Silent Mist (People’s Republic of China, France)

Payman MAADI for Bomb, A Love Story (Bomb, Yek Asheghaneh; Islamic Republic of Iran)
OH Jung-mi, LEE Chang-dong for Burning (Republic of Korea)
Adilkhan YERZHANOV, Roelof Jan MINNEBOO for The Gentle Indifference of the World (Laskovoe Bezrazlichie Mira; Kazakhstan, France)
KORE-EDA Hirokazu for Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazoku; Japan)
Dan KLEINMAN, Sameh ZOABI for Tel Aviv on Fire (Israel, Belgium, France, Luxembourg)

Ala Changso (People’s Republic of China; Dir: Sonthar GYAL)
Balangiga: Howling Wilderness (Philippines; Dir: Khavn)
The Lord Eagle (Toyon Kyyl) (Russian Federation; Dir: Eduard NOVIKOV)
Memories of My Body (Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku) (Indonesia; Dir: Garin NUGROHO; trailer, below)
The Taste of Rice Flower (Mi Hua Zhi Wei) (People’s Republic of China; Dir: Pengfei)

ZHAO Tao for Ash is Purest White (Jiang hu er nv; People’s Republic of China, France)
Samal YESLYAMOVA for Ayka (Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, People’s Republic of China, Germany, Poland)
Rooney MARA for Mary Magdalene (Australia, United Kingdom)
Damla SÖNMEZ for Sibel (Turkey, France, Germany, Luxembourg)
Laura KOROLEVA for Sveta (Kazakhstan)

Zain AL RAFEEA for Capharnaüm (Lebanon)
Karim MIRKHADIYEV for Fortitude (Sabot; Uzbekistan)
Nawazuddin SIDDIQUI for Manto (India)
Akylbek ABDYKALYKOV for Night Accident (Tunku Kyrsyk; Kyrgyzstan)
Bahman FARMANARA for Tale of the Sea (Hekayat-e Darya; Islamic Republic of Iran)

Eléni KARAÏNDROU for Bomb, A Love Story (Bomb, Yek Asheghaneh; Islamic Republic of Iran)
Harry GREGSON-WILLIAMS for Breath (Australia)
Hildur GUÐNADÓTTIR, Jóhann JÓHANNSSON for Mary Magdalene (Australia, United Kingdom)
Ryan CAYABYAB for The Portrait (Ang Larawan; Philippines)
Omar FADEL for Yomeddine (Egypt)



It was the embracing of the co-dependent relationship between the production and distribution/exhibition sectors that brought momentum to the early years of the Bulgarian film industry. Silent feature film production began in 1914 with the great Vasil Gendov’s The Bulgarian Is A Gentleman (aka The Bulgarian is Gallant) and led to works such as Kevork Kuyumdjian’s Baronet (1917) and Sons of The Balkans (1918) and Nikolai Larin’s Under the Old Sky (1922). In 1924 the Congress of Bulgarian Cinema Owners Union was formed, followed by the Cinemagoers Society and The Union of Friends of Film Art (a board of intellectuals who were charged with encouraging filmmaking as an art form).

(Picture, above; l-r, Zakhari Bakharov and Tania Ilieva in Zift, 2008)

Pioneers through this early period of production included Boris Grejov (Merry Bulgaria, 1928), Alexander Vazov (in the Realm of Roses, 1928), Petar Stojchev (Land, 1930), Vassil Bakardjiev (At a Dark Crossroads, 1930) and Boris Borozanov (Bulgarian Eagles, 1941; The Wedding, 1943). The support of the upper class and the funding they provided resulted in cinema becoming a major social influence, its practitioners feted as crucial to the country’s development.

The introduction of Communist rule in 1945 led to the ‘Red Cinema’ era, a period during which the means of film production were appropriated to serve the ideologies of the new leadership. Narrative boundaries were dictated, but the Soviet era also resulted in state-of-the-art facilities and a training regime, so crucial did the Russian rulers consider the impact of film. Bulgaria’s national cinema began to reflect stories of displacement from traditional rural life (Dimitar Minkov’s Bulgarian Old Times, 1945; Georgi Bogoyavlenski’s Back to Life, 1947) and adaptations of literary properties (Dako Dakovski’s Under the Yoke, 1953). In 1955, Sergei Vasilyev’s Shipka Heroes (pictured, above), an account of the heroic stand by Bulgarian rebels and Russian soldiers against the might  of the Ottoman empire in 1877, won the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival; in 1956, Boyan Danovski’s Item One earned a Golden Palm nomination on the Croisette; in 1958, Vladimir Yanchev directed star Apostol Karamitev in the comedy Favourite No. 13, which would become a blockbuster upon release and remains one of the country’s most beloved films to this day.

This was also the boom period of the national cinema’s animation sector, peopled by visionary filmmakers such as Vassil Bakardjiev, who began crafting animated advertising shorts as far back as the 1920s. Early innovator Dimiter Todorov Jarava engineered an early version of what would become known as the ‘nicolodeon’ machine in the mid 30s; in 1945, the shorts ‘Sick’ and ‘The Little Thief’ were produced. The formation of the government-funded Animation Film Production Department in 1948 led to ambitious feature-length projects, notably Dimo Lingorski’s The Fearful Bomb (1951) and Master Manol (1952); Ognian Danailov’s Event in the Kindergarten (1952); puppeteer Stefan Topaldjikov’s Orders of the Pike (1953) and Invisible Mirko (1958); and the remarkable works of ‘The Father of Bulgarian Animation’, Todor Dinov, including Marko the Hero (1955), Tale of The Pine Twig (1960), Duet (1961; co-directed with Donyo Donev) and The Daisy (1965). By the 1970s, Bulgarian animation was known around the world, thanks in part to Donev’s beloved series ‘The Three Fools’ (featured, above) and the emergence of talents such as Anri Kulev, Slav Bakalov and Nikolaj Todorov.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria’s live-action sector continued to grow, maintaining a steady production line of works that resonated with domestic and increasingly international festival audiences. Two decades of Bulgarian cinema would be defined by such works as Stefan Surchadzhiev’s populist comedy Sly Peter (1960); Petar B. Vasilev’s provocative social satire Jack of All Trades (1962); Zako Heskija’s Cannes-nominated Torrid Moon (1966); Mende Brown’s US/Bulgarian co-production, The Clown and The Kids (1967); Dimitar Petrov’s children’s film Porcupines Are Born Without Bristles (1971); Metodi Antonov’s acclaimed masterpiece The Goat Horn (1972; featured, below); The Boy Turns Man (1972), Lyudmil Kirkov adored coming-of-age tale; and, the films of Christo Christov, including his heartfelt parable The Last Summer (1974), surrealist romance The Barrier (1979; pictured, above) and Berlinale competition title, The Truck (1980).

As the grip of Communism began to loosen in the 1980s, Bulgarian cinema began to slyly embrace even more challenging thematic material. This was the decade of Nikola Rudarov’s thriller The Racket (1982); Eduard Zahariev’s Elegy (1982) and My Darling My Darling (1986); Veselin Branev’s drama Central Hotel (1983); Plamen Maslarov’s The Judge (1986); Ludmil Staikov’s historical epic Time of Violence (1988); and, Ivan Nitchev’s Aleksandra (1989).

If the fall of Communism in 1990 was socially and politically liberating, it left the development of the film sector in the hands of private investment – and it proved disastrous. Filmmakers who did get films made focussed on scathing indictments of the old regime and very few, regardless of quality, were seen internationally. Nikolai Volev’s teen-rebel drama Margarit & Margarita (1990; pictured, right), Docho Bodzhakov’s The Well (1991) and Evgeni Mihailov’s The Canary Season (1993) were the only films to be submitted for Foreign Film Oscar consideration in that decade. Independent sector works began to emerge, such as Sergei Komitski’s Bullets in Paradise (1992), Ralitsa Dimitrova´s The College (1992), Hristain Notchev’s The Frontier (1994) and Georgi Dyulgerov’s Chernata Lyastovitsa (1997), but distribution and exhibition proved difficult and critics were vocal.

The new millennium welcomed a fresh optimism, with Bulgarian filmmakers exploring a wider range of film genres. The sole production centre for many years, Bovana Films came to understand the need for diversification and welcomed independent producers and competitive studios. Iglika Triffonova’s coming-home saga Letters To America (2000), Kostadin Bonev’s doco Warming Up Yesterdays Lunch (2002), Andrey Paounov’s The Mosquito Problem And Other Stories (2006) and Zornitsa Sophia’s multi-award winning hit Mila From Mars (2004) were indie productions financed outside the National Film Centre (NFC) funding body. Most heartening were the new talents impacting the scene – Alexa Petrov, director of the controversy-shrouded Baklava (2007); Milena Andonova (Monkeys In Winter, 2006); actresses Aleksandra Sarchadjieva, Elena Koleva and Violeta Markovska, from Seamstresses (2007); and Javor Gardev, director of the noir thriller, Zift (2008).

Festival organisers opened up international events to the new Bulgarian cinema; in 2014, co-directors Kristina Grozeva and Peter Valchanov had their film The Lesson reach the finalist stage of the prestigious European Parliament LUX Film Prize. And the commercial instincts of Bulgaria’s contemporary producers had re-energised; Asen Blatechki directed the action hit Benzin, described as the region’s answer to Hollywood’s hit ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise, complete with LA ring-in, Michael Madsen. (Pictured, right; l-r, Liliana Stanailova, Assen Blatechki and Snejana Makaveeva in Benzin)

In June 2018, the NFC bestowed upon the local sector a fresh round of funding approvals that sent a signal to local producers and directors that the sector was strengthening its talent base for the future. €1.8million was distributed across nine features; at the high end of the production slate are Ivailo Penchev’s Uncle Christmas and Martin Makariev’s Into the Heart of the Machine, which will split a €1million purse, while low-budgeters The Platform and Farewell, Johnny and three short films are to take the remainder of the endowment. It is a declaration of intent from the NFC that Bulgarian film is set to continue its pattern of growth, both domestically and globally.

Key Events:
Sofia International Film Festival – Sofia, Bulgaria; March. ( )
From the official website: “Sofia International Film Festival is the leading film festival in Bulgaria. It began in 1997 and attracts more than 70 000 spectators annually. The festival aims to promote important and innovative works of modern world cinema to local audiences and regional Bulgarian and Balkan cinema to international audiences, as well as to encourage cooperation between local and international filmmakers.”

National Film Centre
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1000 Sofia.
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Fax: (+359 2) 9150 827

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The diversity of Spanish society – the centuries-old traditions that define the romanticism and passion of the land versus the role the urban centres play at the forefront of European modernisation – has infused the cinematic output since the first projected image stunned audiences in Madrid in 1896. Over the last century, the nation has been shaped by civil war, dictatorial politics and continental economic integration – all factors that have become evident in the artistry and unique interpretations Spanish filmmakers have produced.

(Penelope Cruz in Pedro Almodovar's Volver, 2006)

A few months prior to the Lumiere Brother’s tour of Spain, Eduardo Jimeno’s Salida de misa de doce del Pilar de Zaragoza (People Coming Out of the Noontime Mass at the Cathedral of the Virgin of Pilar in Zaragoza) screened in Madrid. Though essentially a collage of random images depicting the essence of Spanish rural life, the film displayed many of the traits that would define Spanish cinema for much of the first half of the century – quaint longings for and loving homages to the sweet exoticism of a country appreciative of the simple joys of life.

Spain’s silent cinema industry had little influence or impact outside of its homeland, but a fledgling industry did exist on the back of some innovative, entrepreneurial directors. Fructuós Gelabert (pictured, right) directed Spain’s first fictional silent short Riña en un café (Café Brawl) in 1896; he would remake the film just prior to his death in 1955 and soon became one of Spain’s most prolific and influential silent filmmakers, amassing over 100 writing and directing credits. His documentary, industrial and travelogue shorts are now considered invaluable records of a developing nation.

One of Spain’s greatest cinema technicians came from this period - Segundo de Chomón. His early use of special effects and image manipulation is best seen in the extraordinary El Hotel eléctrico (The Electric Hotel, 1908), a fantasy film about a fully-automated hotel that many historians consider to be technically on par with Georges Méliès' Le Voyages dans la luna (A Trip to the Moon, 1902).

As international silent film production increased and American and European films filled cinemas in Madrid and Barcelona, Spanish cinema continued to explore themes and narratives froma traditional perspective. Adaptations of popular Spanish historical stories flourished (Ricardo Baños's 1905 film version of the popular play Don Juan Tenorio, for example). The entrepreneur Benito Perojo was the driving force behind the establishment of the film industry in Madrid, launching his own production company in 1915 and producing and directing works of a nationalistic slant. Filmmakers such as Florian Rey (La hermana San Sulpicio / Sister San Sulpicio, 1927, pictured, right; Agustina de Aragón / Augustina of Aragon, 1929) and Juan de Orduña (Una aventura de cine, 1928) became leading forces in the silent film era and then into the conversion to sound. Epics were especially popular, if limited in their international distribution by an overt Spanish fervour, depicting Spanish bravery and resilience – Gerard Bourgeois’ La vida de Cristóbal Colón y su descubrimiento de América (The Life of Christopher Columbus and his Discovery of America, 1916) and Rey’s La aldea maldita (Cursed Village, 1929) are two of the more memorable examples.

As the sound era dawned (Spain’s first talkie was Francisco Elías's El misterio de la Puerta del Sol / The Mystery in the Puerta del Sol, 1929), an expatriate Spaniard, living in France, began to experiment with film. The films of Luis Bunuel (pictured, left), notably Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog, 1929) and L'Â ge d'or (The Golden Age, 1930) would change the course of film language forever. Creating the movement that would become known as Surrealism, Bunuel, with fellow Spaniard Salvador Dali, became the toast of bohemian Europe, his films shocking and disorienting to audiences used to linear narratives and traditional stories. To this day, Un chien andalou is considered a masterpiece and features one of the most iconic cinema images of all time – the slicing of a woman’s eye with a straight razor, shot in extreme close-up (faked, of course, but unforgettable nevertheless). Returning to Spain to make the socialist documentary Las Hurdes (Land Without Bread, 1933), Bunuel ran afoul of the Republican government, who banned the film for its confronting images of lower-class suffering in Salamanca.

Luis Bunuel would establish himself as Spain’s greatest filmmaker, ensuring a truly unique legacy for Spanish film culture. His major works include Quién me quiere a mí? (Who Loves Me?, 1936), Los olvidados (The Forgotten Ones, 1950), Una mujer sin amore (A Woman Without Love, 1952), El bruto (The Brute, 1953), Nazarin (1959), Viridiana (1961, a Cannes Golden Palm winner that was denounced by the Vatican), Le journal d'une femme de chambre (Diary of a Chambermaid, 1964), Belle du jour (1967, winner of Venice’s Golden Lion), El discreto encanto de la burguesía (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeousie, 1972, winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film) and Ese oscuro objeto del deseo (That Obscure Object of Desire, 1977).

The early 1930’s were a boom period for Spanish cinema – from 1930 to 1936, Madrid’s two major studios, Ricardo Urgoiti’s Filmófono (home to executive producer Luis Bunuel)  and Vicente Casanova’s Compañía Industrial Española SA (CIFESA), produced over 60 movies. But on July 18 1936, the eruption of the General Franco-led revolution and the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War all but shut down film production for three years.

Under Franco, censorship was rife. Films were the tool of the governing body – Franco himself wrote the script for José Luis Sáenz de Heredia's Raza (Race, 1942, pictured, right), the rousing tale of a faithful soldier who rises to lead a great revolution. Productions were primarily simple, melodramatic rural stories espousing the joys of simply being Spanish or embellished stories about saints and sinners - Manuel Augusto García Víñola's Inés de Castro (1944), José López Rubio's Eugenia de Montijo (1944), Rafael Gil's Reina santa (Saintly Queen, 1947), and Juan de Orduña's Misión blanca (The White Mission, 1946) are classic examples of this period.  

The 1950’s brought a sly sub-genre of social comedy that commented on Franco’s rule with a incision. Despite the establishment a film office in the Ministry of Information and Tourism charged with ensuring film output was nationalistic and celebratory, films such as Esa pareja feliz (That Happy Pair, 1953), the enormously popular Bienvenido, Mister Marshall (Welcome, Mister Marshall, 1953), Los Jueves, milagro (Miracles of Thursday, 1957), Plácido (1961) and El verdugo (The Executioner, 1963) took subtle but effective shots at Franco’s social policies. These films were all the work of Luis García Berlanga (pictured,left), now regarded as one the period’s great satirists. This light neorealism took a decidedly darker turn with Carlos Saura’s Los golfos (The Delinquents, 1962), in which Madrid’s disenfranchised youth’s turn to crime to survive. The ‘new wave’ of audacity in Spanish film was fanning the flames of social unrest and dissatisfaction with Franco’s reign.

A refreshing liberalism came to the Ministry of Information and Tourism with the appointment of the free-thinking Manuel Fraga Iribarne in the early 1960’s. He ushered in an era of young filmmakers who were eager to tell new Spanish stories to both the national population and world audiences. From this blossoming of Spanish talent came such respected filmmakers as Saura (La caza/The Hunt, 1965; El jardín de las delicias/The Garden of Delights, 1970; La prima Angélica/Cousin Angelica, 1974; Cría cuervos/Raise Ravens, 1976), Basilio Martín Patino (Canciones para después de una Guerra/Songs for After a War, 1971), Miguel Picazo, Mario Camus, Manuel Summers and Victor Erice (El espíritu de la colmena/The Spirit of the Beehive, 1973, pictured, above).

By the mid-1970’s, the idiosyncrasies of a young underground filmmaker were being talked about in the cafes and campuses of modern Spain. Pedro Almodovar was creating bold experimental films of striking originality and they were being noticed. As Franco’s constraints disappeared and creativity and vibrancy was restored to mainstream thinking, Almodovar embraced it with both hands, premiering his first film, the bawdy comedy Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón (Pepi, Luci, Bom) in 1980. By the time his second feature was released (Laberinto de pasiones/Labyrinth of Passions, 1982, featuring the film debut of a young actor named Antonio Banderas), Almodovar was the darling of the Spanish film scene, each of his subsequent films becoming a media and cultural event - Entre tinieblas (Dark Habits, 1983); Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto!! (What Have I Done to Deserve This?, 1984); Matador (1986); La Ley del deseo (Law of Desire, 1987); Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, 1988); Tacones lejanos (High Heels, 1991); Kika (1993); Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother, 1999, winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar); Hable con ella (Talk to Her, 2002, winner of Best Original Screenplay Oscar); La mala educación (Bad Education, 2004); Volver (2006). His mix of melodrama and sexuality and his effortless transition from light to dark in his themes, scenes and imagery has seen him assume the mantle of national treasure in his home land and reverence as one of the great modern international filmmakers.

Spanish filmmakers of note are impacting international commercial cinema in greater numbers than ever before – Fernandi Trueba (the Oscar-winning Belle Epoque, 1992; Calle 54, 2000; Chico & Rita, 2010); Isabel Coixet (Cosas que nunca te dije/Things I Never Told You, 1996; My Life Without Me, 2003; The Bookshop, 2017); José Juan Bigas Luna (Jamón, Jamón, 1992, the film that introduced international audiences to the charms of future Oscar winners Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem); Julio Medem (Los amantes del círculo polar/The Lovers of the Arctic Circle, 1999; Ma Ma, 2015); Alejandro Amenabar (Abre los ojos/Open Your Eyes, 1997, pictured, right; The Others, 2001; The Sea Inside, 2004); Juan Antonio Bayonas (El Orfanato/The Orphanage, 2008; The Impossible, 2012; Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, 2018); Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Intacto, 2001; 28 Weeks Later, 2008).

In 2000, the film Amores Perros introduced the world to Alejandro González Iñárritu, a master of visceral and emotional cinema who would dominate the global film scene with films such as 21 Grams (2003), Babel (2006) and Biutiful (2010), before winning two Best Director Oscars for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (2014) and The Revenant (2015). The door was now open for the unique visionaries of Spanish cinema, festival and arthouse audiences seeking out such names as Paula Ortiz (The Bride, 2015); Álex de la Iglesia (Witching and Bitching, 2013); Pablo Berger (Blancanieves, 2012); Jaume Balagueró ([Rec], 2007; Sleep Tight, 2011; Muse, 2017); Cesc Gay (A Gun in Each hand, 2012; Truman, 2015); Fernando León de Aranoa (Princesas, 2005; A Perfect Day, 2015); Cala Simon (Summer of 1993, 2017); and, Rodrigo Cortés (Buried, 2010).

Having survived the hardships of an oppressive regime determined to silence free thinking, the Spanish film scene emerged stronger for the experience. The confidence and passion of the nation and its people is on the screen for all to see.

Key Events:
San Sebastian International Film Festival – Donostia, San Sebastian, Spain; September.
Launched on September 21, 1953, Spain’s premier film event was conceived as a non-competitive ‘International Film Week’ for the purpose of screening and marketing films; within two years it was recognised as a competitive festival of global standing. This marked the emergence of the "Concha", or shell – the now-iconic award handed to those films and filmmakers whose work is deemed to honour the ideals of the festival – the ongoing liberalisation of cinema and to serve as a showcase for each year's most innovative films.

Escuela de Cinematografia y de la Audiovisual de la Communidad de Madrid (ECAM)
C / Juan de Orduña, 3 
City of the Image 
28223 Pozuelo de Alarcón, Madrid
Tel: (+34) 915 121 060

(All effort has been made to ensure content is comprehensive and accurate at time of publication. No claim to ownership on any visual material; please contact the site directly with issues regarding copyright for immediate resolution).



Geographical isolation from the European centre of early film technology was no hindrance to the development of a strong cinema culture in New Zealand. As far back as 1896, cinema projection was introduced to the North island of Aoteoroa – at the Auckland Opera House as part of the Charles Godfrey Vaudeville Company travelling showcase. By 1910, one of the oldest theatres in the world, The Kings Theatre in Wellington, opened its doors and featured the premiere of the French silent short Two Kids on a Spree in Brussels (1909).

The birth of global cinema ignited the curiosity and ingenuity of New Zealand’s early film craftsmen, and soon the newsreel spools of pioneers A.H. Whitehouse and Joseph Perry were capturing life in The Antipodes on celluloid. Whitehouse directed the earliest footage that still survives from the period – the January 1900 departure of troops for the Boer War, of which fifty feet, or thirty-three seconds, of usable frames remains to this day. They are the very earliest images of a nation bound to Monarchist rule and a society struggling to integrate a centuries-old indigenous culture and young European settlement.

Film production began in 1913, when filmmaker/adventurer Gaston Melies (brother of famed French producer Georges Melies) declared “To get something fresh, set sail on the Pacific for the land of the sunny south.” He would produce three short films highlighting Maori culture and mythology - Loved by a Maori Chieftainess, How Chief Te Ponga Won His Bride and Hinemoa, the first of many adaptations of the local legend (George Tarr directed a 1914 version that is still regarded as New Zealand’s first feature film). A major achievement from the period was the work of James McDonald of the Dominion Museum who, with the blessing of Maori elders, filmed the now famous ‘Scenes Of Life’ series, documenting for the first time tribal life and customs. Some of the surviving reels were restored and screened in 1986, among them Scenes at the Rotorua Hui (1920), Scenes of Maori Life on the Whanganui River (1921; pictured, above) and Scenes of Maori Life on the East Coast (1923).

Newsreel and travelogue productions flourished, with the occasional silent feature being produced, such as Barry Marschel’s adaptation of the nationalistic ballad The Kid From Timaru (1917) and Australian director Harrington Reynold’s hugely-popular The Birth Of New Zealand (1922), which featured re-enactments of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and Captain Cook’s landing. Filmmaking endeavours were springing up in most major cities, including Maoriland Films in Otaki, producers of the hit Chaplin homage Charlie’s Capers (1921).

Key to the sector’s growth in the 1920’s was ex-pat Brit, Rudall Hayward. Having relocated to New Zealand at a young age, Hayward applied his passion for the new artform in a most unique way; with his colleague Lee McLeod Hill, Hayward devised the ‘Community Comedy’ films. Travelling from town-to-town, the pair would shoot some slapstick footage with a rudimentary storyline featuring the townsfolk, and return ten days later to screen it. It became a source of national pride to Depression-era New Zealanders to have Hayward or Hill visit their township. (Pictured, above; an advertisement produced to encourage participation in the Community Comedy initiative) 

With his second feature, Rudall Hayward would create one of the most beloved New Zealand films of all timeRewi’s Last Stand (1925; pictured, right), the story of the bloody confrontation at Orakau during the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s when 300 Maori defied five assaults by 2,000 British troops. He would continue to shoot films of a proud, nationalistic flavour, including The Te Kooti Trail (1927), The Bush Cinderella (1928), his first sound film, a bigscreen version of the popular radio serial On A Friendly Road (1936) and the blockbuster release of a remade sound version of Rewi’s Last Stand (1940). His passing in 1974 brought a day of national mourning and honoured the commitment and good grace he always showed for his adopted homeland.

The advent of sound in a January 1930 ‘Coubray-tone News’ newsreel from director/journalist Ted Coubray (who had directed the beloved romance Under The Southern Cross in 1927 with Danish filmmaker, Gustav Pauli), the 1929 opening of the 3500-seat Civic Theatre picture palace in Auckland and the establishment of the National Film Unit (N.F.U.) in 1940 were positive signs for the region. The global love of cinema as a social event never waned – imported films, first from the U.K. and then from Hollywood, were hugely popular (though often viewed with disdain by the conservative censorship regime, who would ban Brando’s The Wild One in ’54); screenings of the N.F.U.-produced newsreels ‘Weekly Review’ and ‘Pictorial Parade’, that captured New Zealanders at play, became standing-room only events.

But feature film production all but ceased; incredibly, between 1940 and 1970, only three feature films were produced. Broken Barrier (1952), Runaway (1964), Don’t Let it Get You (1966), directed by John O’Shea for his Pacific Film Unit shingle (later renamed Pacific Film Productions), kept the feature film industry afloat over three decades. Their investment in the industry’s future included financing a slate of documentaries, which allowed technicians and craftsmen to hone their skills. Other forms of New Zealand cinematic ingenuity sprung forth, notably Dunedin-based animator Fred O’Neill, whose stop-motion puppet masterpiece Phantasm (1960) won an amateur filmmaker’s award at the Cannes Film Festival (pictured, above; O'Neill with his creations, photo:Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.)

The wave of social change that was sweeping the world reignited the New Zealand film industry in the early 1970s. A short documentary made for the World Expo called This is New Zealand (1970) became a sensation in the nation’s cinemas. In 1972, the launch of the Wellington Film Festival and the publication of the magazine Alternative Cinema contributed to film’s resurgence. Maori social and cultural issues were being pushed to the fore; the six-part television documentary Tangata Whenua: the People of the Land (1974) became a landmark small-screen production.

The first New Zealand hit movie in nearly thirty years was Roger Donaldson’s Sleeping Dogs (1977), a brutal, politically-charged tale that featured names that would shape and define New Zealand cinema output foe decades to come – Australian-born Donaldson (Smash Palace, 1981; The World’s Fastest Indian, 2005; McLaren, 2017); actor Sam Neill; industry figurehead Ian Mune (Came A Hot Friday, 1985; The Grasscutter, 1990; What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted?, 1999); and, indigenous industry trailblazer, Don Selwyn (The Maori Merchant Of Venice, 2002).

After years of inactivity, the industry was jolted from its slumber and the government responded with the formation of the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) in 1978. Production surged and the ingrained ‘cultural cringe’ that a generation of domestic audiences had developed having not seen themselves on the silver screen began to crumble. In the early years of the NZFC’s reign, the tax breaks afforded investors led to one of its most prolific and internationally recognised phases of production. This period included Paul Maunder’s Sons for the Return Home (1979); Michael Black’s Pictures (1981); Sam Pillsbury’s The Scarecrow (1982), the first New Zealand film to screen at Cannes in the Director’s Fortnight section; Vincent Ward’s Vigil (1984) and The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988); Rolf Hadrich’s Among the Cinders (1984); John Reid’s French-New Zealand co-shoot, Leave All Fair (1985), with John Gielgud and Jane Birkin; Geoff Murphy’s cult hits Goodbye Pork Pie (1981), Utu (1983), The Quiet Earth (1984) and Never Say Die (1988); Richard Riddiford’s Arriving Tuesday (1986); British director Mike Newell’s New Zealand/U.K. co-production, Bad Blood (1981); and, the prolific hits of genre director John Laing, including Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1981), The Lost Tribe (1983), Other Halves (1984) and Dangerous Orphans (1985). The decade saw the release of the one of the biggest films in New Zealand’s cinema-going history – the late Murray Ball’s rough-around-the-edges animated adaptation of his iconic comic strip, Footrot Flats: The Dog’s Tale (1987; pictured, above).

Of course, it was also the decade in which a young, slightly twisted filmmaker named Peter Jackson unlaunched his unique brand of horror comedy in the landmark gross-out low-budgeters Bad Taste (1987), Meet The Feebles (1989) and Braindead (1992), films that paved the way for one of the most successful international directing careers of all time. By Jackson’s side for much of the way was Costa Botes, who co-created the hilarious mock-umentary on the nation’s film history, Forgotten Silver (1995) before a long career as a factual filmmaker (Saving Grace, 1998; Struggle No More, 2006; Act of Kindness, 2015).

This growth in production and financing also allowed for native Maori and Polynesian islander films to develop. In 1986, a collective of Maori artists, elders and community representatives called Te Manu Aute was established, and from its commitment grew films such as Merata Mitu’s documentary Patu! (1983) and her feature debut Mauri (1988); Mike Walker’s Kingpin (1985), Barry Barclay’s much-loved Ngati (1987) and Te Rua (1991) and Lee Tamahori’s adaptation of the Alan Duff bestseller,  Once Were Warriors (1994), which became a cultural phenomenon upon release. The increased profile and acceptance of Maori culture onscreen led to the NZFC co-financing Niki Caro’s Whale Rider in 2002, a global hit that earned young star, Keisha Castle-Hughes (pictured, top) a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

‘Kiwi’ film output in the new millennium has reflected an industry secure in its native cinematic voice and innovative enough to attract global productions to its unique locales and facilities. Filmmakers who have impacted global cinema in the last two decades that have sprung from the creative community of Aoteoroa include Jane Campion, two-time Palme D’or winner at the Cannes Film Festival, for her short Peel (1982) and her Oscar winning worldwide hit, The Piano (1993) and most recently, the critically acclaimed TV series, Top of The Lake (2015-17); Gaylene Preston (Ruby And Rata, 1990; Bread And Roses, 1994; Perfect Strangers, 2003; Home by Christmas, 2010; My Year with Helen, 2017); Robert Sarkies (Scarfies, 1999, Out Of The Blue, 2006, starring Karl Urban); Christine Jeffs (Rain, 2001; Sylvia, 2003; Sunshine Cleaning, 2009);  and the return home of Vincent Ward (River Queen, 2005; Rain Of The Children, 2008.) In the wake of the …Rings juggernaut, a new generation of directors are emerging, including Chris Graham (Sione’s Wedding, 2006; The Ferryman, 2007), Toa Fraser (No.2, 2007; Dean Spanley, 2009; The Dead Lands, 2014); Glenn Standring (The Truth About Demons, 2000; Perfect Creature, 2006), Dana Rotberg (White Lies, 2013), Jonathan King (Black Sheep, 2008; Realiti, 2014) and James Napier Robertson (The Dark Horse, 2014), with star Cliff Curtis (pictured, above).

The latest local lad to follow in the Hollywood footsteps of countrymen Peter Jackson, Andrew Adamson (Shrek, 2001; The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, 2005) and Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, 1995; The Mask of Zorro, 1998; Casino Royale, 2006) is Taiki Waititi, who arrived on the scene with the Oscar-nominated short Two Cars One Night (2005) followed by a parade of crowdpleasers - Eagle vs Shark (2008), Boy (2010), What We Do In The Shadows (2014) and Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016). In 2017, he helms the MCU blockbuster, Thor: Ragnarok.

Key Events:
New Zealand International Film Festival – Various cities, New Zealand; from July.
The New Zealand International Film Festival is the banner under which four key New Zealand cities hold their annual film events – Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. In addition to these events, a travelling roadshow of selected titles plays to smaller regional centres from July through to November.

New Zealand Film Commission
Level 3, 119 Ghuznee St
Wellington, New Zealand
Tel: (+64 4) 382 7680

(All effort has been made to ensure content is comprehensive and accurate. No claim to ownership on any visual material; please contact the site directly with issues regarding copyright for immediate resolution).