Iranian Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi is arguably the greatest discovery in a journey filled with them at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. Years before the heights achieved by “A Separation,” the awards had unearthed Farhadi’s “About Elly” in 2009, rewarding it with the jury grand prize, the screenplay award and nominations for direction, actress (Golshifteh Farahani), and best feature.
Thus when 2011 rolled around, it came as no surprise to those following the Asia Pacific Screen Awards closely that “A Separation” won best feature, the win predating Oscar and Golden Globe glory. His “The Past” scored feature and screenplay nominations in 2013. Farhadi’s latest feature “The Salesman” won the lead actor prize for Shahab Hosseini at Cannes this year and also picked up the screenplay award.
The kudos have also showered Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan with trophies. His “Three Monkeys” scored cinematography and feature noms in 2008, and won the director prize. And in 2011, Ceylan won the director trophy for “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” and the film also won for cinematography. The trend continued in 2014 when Ceylan took home the APSA director award again for “Winter Sleep.”
The awards also recognize films that are not necessarily saluted elsewhere. In 2012, the APSAs nominated Pakistani filmmaker Shoaib Mansoor’s screenplay for “Bol” and Humaima Malik for lead actress. The awards also reward emerging talent: Bangladeshi filmmaker Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s “Television,” for example, won the jury grand prize in 2013 and also secured a screenplay nom. Farooki is now Bangladesh’s most visible face in the global film industry and has a raft of films in the works including “No Bed of Roses,” starring Irrfan Khan.
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The APSAs have also consistently rewarded the best-animated films in the region. The inaugural winner that year was Japanese filmmaker Makoto Shinkai’s “5 Centimeters Per Second.” Shinkai’s latest feature “Your Name” is rewriting Japanese box-office records.
The Unesco award for cultural diversity has been a mainstay of the APSAs since inception. Eran Kolirin’s Israeli “The Band’s Visit” won the inaugural award in 2007 and put the filmmaker firmly on the map. His latest feature “Beyond the Mountains and Hills” bowed at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard this year and received several noms at the Israeli Film Academy awards. Hany Abu-Assad’s Palestinian film “The Idol” won last year.
The APSAs also reward debutantes’ work. In 2012 Turkish filmmaker Emin Alper’s debut feature “Beyond the Hill” won best feature in a heavyweight field; in 2015, his “Frenzy” won the jury grand prize.