Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country was named Best Feature Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards held in Brisbane last night.
Sweet Country is only the second Australian film to take home the award; the first being Thornton’s debut feature Samson and Delilah in 2009. He is the first director to have two films win Best Feature in the awards’ 11 year history.
Set in the 1920s in the Northern Territory’s MacDonnell Ranges and inspired by true events, the film follows the saga that unfolds after an Aboriginal stockman (Hamilton Morris) kills a white station owner (Ewan Leslie) in self-defence. Produced by Bunya Productions’ David Jowsey and Greer Simpkin, and written by David Tranter and Steven McGregor, it also stars Sam Neill, Bryan Brown, Matt Day and Natassia Gorey Furber.
The APSA Award is yet another accolade for Sweet Country, which premiered in competition at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Prize. It has since gone on to win the Platform Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival, Best Dramatic Feature film at the ImagineNATIVE Film Festival in Canada, and the Adelaide Film Festival Audience Award for Best Fiction Feature. It will be released theatrically in Australia via Transmission on January 25, 2018.
In a statement, APSA international jury president and film editor Jill Bilcock said Sweet Country was milestone film about Australia’s shameful history.
“It is uniquely told through Warwick Thornton’s strong cinematic style and personal knowledge of his own culture. Our jury from five countries have been transported by cinema into diverse communities and privileged to share in their personal stories, history and traditions,” she said.
“I was particularly impressed by the rise of stories featuring strong women characters and also the emergence of some truly talented female directors. Overall the Asia Pacific region continues to bring us extraordinary stories and talent with a highly original slant.”
In addition to Bilcock, the jury consisted of Filipino writer-director Adolfo Alix Jr, Chinese actress He Saifei, Tokyo Film Festival Programmer Yoshi Yatabe and Kazakh writer, director and cinematographer Adilkhan Yerzhanov.
Other films to win on the night were Dede (Georgia, Croatia, Netherlands, Qatar, UK), which won the Cultural Diversity Award under the patronage of UNESCO, and Georgian and Estonian film Scary Mother, which won a Grand Jury prize for director Ana Urushadze and Best Performance by an Actress for Nata Murvanidze.
Writers of Indian film Newton, Tewari and Amit V Masurkar, won Best Screenplay, and Best Performance by an Actor went to the film’s star Rajkummar Rao.
The award for Achievement in Directing was won by Russia’s Andrey Zvyagintsev for Loveless, and Achievement in Cinematography went to fellow Russian’s Pyotr Duhovskoy and Timofey Lobov for The Bottomless Bag (Meshok Bez Dna).
The second Jury Grand Prize was awarded to Russian actor Aleksandr Yatsenko for his performance in Arrhythmia (Aritmiya; Russian Federation, Finland, Germany).
At the event, the Motion Picture Association (MPA) also announced the four recipients of the MPA APSA Academy Film Fund, created to support, at script stage, new feature film projects. It awards four $USD25,000 grants annually.
This year’s receipients are:
Rajit Kapur (India) for Paradise in Flames
Robert Connolly (Australia) for Magic Beach
Guy Davidi (Israel) for Senseless
Vladimer Katcharava (Georgia) for Nene
The full list of award recipients:
BEST FEATURE FILM
Produced by Greer SIMPKIN, David JOWSEY
Co-Produced by David TRANTER
Directed by Warwick THORNTON
BEST YOUTH FEATURE FILM
The Seen and Unseen (Sekala Niskala)
Indonesia, Netherlands, Australia, Qatar
Produced by Gita FARA, Kamila ANDINI, Ifa ISFANSYAH
Directed by Kamila ANDINI
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming
Directed and Produced by Ann Marie FLEMING
Co-Produced by Shirley VERCRUYSSE, Michael FUKUSHIMA
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM
Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web
Produced by Alexander BEHSE
Directed and Co-Produced by Annie GOLDSON
Last Men in Aleppo
Syrian Arab Republic, Denmark, Germany
Produced by Søren Steen JESPERSEN, Kareem ABEED, Stefan KLOOS
Directed by Feras FAYYAD
ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING
Andrey ZVYAGINTSEV for Loveless (Nelyubov)
Russian Federation, Belgium, France, Germany
Mayank TEWARI, Amit V MASURKAR for Newton
ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
Pyotr DUKHOVSKOY, Timofey LOBOV for The Bottomless Bag (Meshok Bez Dna)
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS
Nata MURVANIDZE for Scary Mother (Sashishi Deda)
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR
Navid MOHAMMADZADEH for No Date, No Signature (Bedoune Tarikh, Bedoune Emza)
Islamic Republic of Iran
Rajkummar RAO for Newton
CULTURAL DIVERSITY AWARD UNDER THE PATRONAGE OF UNESCO
For outstanding contribution to the promotion and preservation of cultural diversity through film.
Georgia, Croatia, Netherlands, Qatar, United Kingdom
Directed by Mariam KHATCHVANI
Produced by Vladimer KATCHARAVA, Samantha TAYLOR, Mike DOWNEY, Igor A. NOLA
Co-Produced by Conrad ALLEBLAS, Jamillah VAN DER HULST
Lady of the Lake (Loktak Lairembee)
Directed by Haobam Paban KUMAR
Produced by Haobam Paban KUMAR
Co-Produced by Thiyam ROMOLA DEVI, Haobam IBETOMBI, Warepam JHANSIRANI
Determined by FIAPF–International Federation of Film Producers Associations for outstanding achievement in film in the Asia Pacific region.
YOUNG CINEMA AWARD
Ilgar NAJAF for Pomegranate Orchard (Nar Baği)
Awarded by the NETPAC Jury, the Young Cinema Award presented by NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) and Griffith Film School (GFS) recognises the abundant emerging talent of the Asia Pacific.
Abbas KIAROSTAMI for 24 Frames
Islamic Republic of Iran, France
The APSA 2017 International Nominations Council commends Abbas Kiarostami with a special Artistic Acknowledgement, and the APSA Academy confers a posthumous Academy membership on him.