Writer-director Rodd Rathjen’s Buoyancy won Best Youth Feature Film at last night’s Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) in Brisbane.
The award comes just as Rathjen returns to Australia from an Oscar campaign in The States; Buoyancy is Australia’s submission for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film.
Produced by Causeway Films’ Sam Jennings and Kristina Ceyton with Rita Walsh, Buoyancy details the story of a 14-year old Cambodian boy (Sarm Heng) who heads to Thailand search of a better life, only to find himself trafficked and enslaved on a fishing trawler.
The story of Buoyancy is inspired by real events, and informed by more than 50 interviews Rathjen conducted with people who had been trafficked onto fishing boats, as well as interviews with local communities, former ship captains and NGOs, and other research. An estimated 200,000 men and boys are thought to be in slavery and forced labour in the fishing industry in South East Asia.
Accepting the award, Rathjen said: “The inspiration behind this film were the survivors who shared their stories with me about what it was like on these trawlers, and they broke my heart over and over again. I hope that by making this film we can hopefully make a bit of difference.”
Buoyancy premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, where it won the Ecumenical Jury Prize and placed third in the Panaroma audience awards. It is also nominated for Best Indie Film at the AACTA Awards in December.
Taking home ASPA for Best Feature Film was Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. The film from the Korean auteur won the Palme d’Or in Cannes earlier this year, has made upwards of $US105 million at the worldwide box office and is tipped to be nominated for Oscars in numerous category.
The win for Parasite comes as the concurrent Asia Pacific Screen Forum focused in on 100 years of Korean cinema and Australian-Korea collaboration. It is the first Korean film to win the APSA for Best Feature Film since Lee Chang-dong’s Secret Sunshine took out the inaugural prize in 2007.
The Cultural Diversity Award under the patronage of UNESCO was awarded to director Jamshid Mahmoudi for Rona, Azim’s Mother (Islamic Republic of Iran, Afghanistan). Russian film Beanpole (Dylda) was the only film to take home two awards: Ksenia Sereda Achievement in Cinematography, and Kantemir Balagov and Alexander TerekhovBest Screenplay.
The Achievement in Directing APSA went Adilkhan Yerzhanov for his Kazakh noir feature A Dark, Dark Man. A special Jury Grand Prize went Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman, who wrote, directed, produced and starred in It Must Be Heaven, with the jury stating: “The Grand Jury Prize is given to a filmmaker who not only exceeds and transcends the individual roles of director, writer and actor, but also embodies the true essence of cinema, an auteur whose humanism is only superceded by his contemporary relevance.”
The six feature film categories and Jury Grand Prize were determined by the APSA International Jury cf Singaporean filmmaker Eric Khoo, Australian producer Greer Simpkin, Cannes and Venice Film Festival selector Paolo Bertolin, Korean screenwriter, theatre actor and Russian literature specialist Oh Jung-mi and deputy chair of the European Film Academy, UK film producer, journalist and activist Mike Downey.
Determining winners in three categories, APSA Youth, Animation and Documentary International Jury was comprised of Indonesian auteur Garin Nugroho (chair), Syrian film director and producer Diana El Jeiroudi and CEO of Animal Logic Zareh Nalbandian.
Overall 37 films from 22 countries and areas of Asia Pacific achieved nominations for the prestigious awards, drawn from the 289 films in APSA competition.
Also announced during the APSA Ceremony were the four recipients of the 10th MPA APSA Academy Film Fund, which for the first time, went to four women filmmakers.
The full list of winners:
BEST FEATURE FILM
Republic of Korea
Directed by BONG Joon -ho
Produced by KWAK Sin-ae, MOON Yang-kwon, JANG Young-hwan
JURY GRAND PRIZE
Elia SULEIMAN for It Must Be Heaven
Palestine, Qatar, Turkey, Canada, France, Germany
BEST YOUTH FEATURE FILM
Directed by Rodd RATHJEN
Produced by Samantha JENNINGS, Kristina CEYTON, Rita WALSH
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Weathering With You (Tenki no Ko)
Directed by Makoto Shinkai
Produced by Genki Kawamura
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM
Israel, Canada, Switzerland
Directed by Rachel Leah JONES, Philippe BELLAÏCHE
Produced by Philippe BELLAÏCHE, Rachel Leah JONES, Paul CADIEUX, Joëlle BERTOSSA
ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING
Adilkhan YERZHANOV for A Dark, Dark Man
Kantemir BALAGOV, Alexander TEREKHOV for Beanpole (Dylda)
ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
Ksenia SEREDA for Beanpole (Dylda)
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS
Max EIGENMANN for Verdict
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR
Manoj BAJPAYEE for Bhonsle
CULTURAL DIVERSITY AWARD UNDER THE PATRONAGE OF UNESCO
Rona, Azim’s Mother (Rona, Madar-e Azim)
Islamic Republic of Iran, Afghanistan
Directed by Jamshid MAHMOUDI
Produced by Navid MAHMOUDI
YOUNG CINEMA AWARD
Ridham JANVE for The Gold-Laden Sheep and The Sacred Mountain (Sona Dhwandi Bhed Te Suchha Pahad)
10th MPA APSA ACADEMY FILM FUND RECIPIENTS
– Delphine Garde-Mroueh & Nadia Eliewat (UAE/France) for The Station
– Rachel Leah Jones (Israel/United States of America) for Reality Bites
– Catherine Fitzgerald (New Zealand) for Sweet Lips
– Dechen Roder (Bhutan) for I, The Song