Leah Purcell and Nashen Moodley at State Theatre Sydney.

Leah Purcell is the first Australian to be awarded the Jury Grand Prize at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) after being recognised for The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson.

A total of ten films from 11 countries triumphed at the 14th APSA Ceremony tonight, which was presented from HOTA (Home of the Arts) on the Gold Coast.

A re-imagining of the Henry Lawson short story, The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson follows a woman and her stubborn determination to protect her family from the harshness of life in the 1893 Snowy Mountains.

Purcell wrote directed, starred in, and co-produced the project, which was adapted from her stageplay of the same name.

The APSA international jury said the final product represented “not only an artist’s total dedication to her craft but also a spirited act of courage and tenacity”.

“The Drover’s Wife is a film that quickly makes its way into the heart, taking a well-known genre, and exploding it into a much-needed story of survival, loss, and resilience,” they said.

In accepting the award, Purcell thanked the jury for “this validation” while also paying tribute to the people involved in bringing the project to life.

“As we know, filmmaking is a collaborative effort,” she said.

“I must thank and acknowledge my family Elders, Elders of the Monaro Ngarigo on whose country we filmed, my cast, crew, heads of department, production personnel, producers, distributors, private investors and funding bodies for their tireless effort, expertise, and experience, their trust and belief in me for wearing all of those hats, and actually pulling it off because without them this film would not be possible.”

It was one of two Jury Grand Prizes awarded on the night with the other going to Abdullah Mohammad Saad, director of Rehana (Rehana Maryam Noor), for “the precision of its filmmaking language which made it possible, by the only specific means of cinema, to detail the psychological and factual stages of a woman’s fight for justice”.

The film is from Bangladesh to be awarded the APSA Jury Grand Prize, after Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s Television in 2013.

Star Azmeri Haque Badhon was also awarded Best Performance by an Actress, beating out Essie Davis and also Purcell. Best Performance by an Actor was awarded to Georgian actor Merab Ninidze for Alexey German Jr’s House Arrest (Delo)

Of the other main awards, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car was announced as Best Feature Film and also won Best Screenplay. Hamaguchi previously won the screenplay award for Happy Hour in 2016 with co-writers Tadashi Nohara and Tomoyuki Takahashi.

‘Drive My Car’

Iranian auteur Asghar Farhadi was awarded Achievement in Directing for A Hero (Ghahreman), which the jury called “an intimate epic”, while Nguyễn Vinh Phúc won Achievement in Cinematography for Taste (Vị).

The five-member jury for the awards comprised president and French/Vietnamese filmmaker Trần Anh Hùng, Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir, Sydney Film Festival director Nashen Moodley, Indian screenwriter and filmmaker Sooni Taraporevala, and Heaven Pictures president and China Film Foundation – Wu Tianming Film Fund for Young Talents director Janet Wu.

The ceremony marks the official opening of the 3rd Asia Pacific Screen Forum, which runs from today until November 16.

Asia Pacific Screen Academy chair Tracey Vieira said the forum program reflected the academy’s deep connections with industry across the region.

“The Asia Pacific Screen Academy remains fiercely committed to supporting and celebrating the screen industries of Asia Pacific, and I congratulate all the winners in the 14th Asia Pacific Screen Awards, and acknowledge the many extraordinary nominees whose work we honoured,” she said.

“I also warmly welcome those attending the 3rd Asia Pacific Screen Forum which commenced today, and has garnered an audience joining our accessible virtual sessions from as far afield as the UK, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, People’s Republic of China and Mongolia, as well as across Australia, and in-person here on the Gold Coast.

The full list of winners are as follows:

BEST FEATURE FILM

Drive My Car
Japan
Directed by Ryusuke HAMAGUCHI
Produced by Teruhisa YAMAMOTO

JURY GRAND PRIZE

Abdullah Mohammad Saad for Rehana (Rehana Maryam Noor)
Bangladesh, Qatar, Singapore

Leah Purcell for The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson
Australia

BEST YOUTH FEATURE FILM

Moving On (Nam-mae-wui Yeo-reum-bam)
Republic of Korea
Directed by YOON Dan-bi
Produced by YOON Dan-bi, KIM Gi-hyeon

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

The Nose or The Conspiracy of Mavericks (Nos ili zagovor netakikh)
Russian Federation
Directed by Andrey KHRZHANOVSKY
Produced by Andrey KHRZHANOVSKY

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM

Sabaya
Sweden
Directed by Hogir HIRORI
Produced by Antonio RUSSO MERENDA, Hogir HIRORI

ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

Asghar FARHADI for A Hero (Ghahreman)
Islamic Republic of Iran, France

BEST SCREENPLAY

Ryusuke HAMAGUCHI, OE Takamasa for Drive My Car
Japan

ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

NGUYỄN Vinh Phúc for Taste (Vị)
Vietnam, Singapore, France, Thailand, Germany

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS

Azmeri HAQUE BADHON for Rehana (Rehana Maryam Noor)
Bangladesh, Qatar, Singapore

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR

Merab NINIDZE for House Arrest (Delo)
Russian Federation

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