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‘Sweet Country,’ ‘Newton’ Share Top Honors at Asia Pacific Screen Awards

Sweet Country,” a Western set in the Australian Outback, was named best film at the annual Asia Pacific Screen Awards on Thursday.

The film, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice festival earlier this year, is the second feature by cinematographer-turned-director Warwick Thornton. His first film, “Samson and Delilah,” won the APSA best picture award in 2009, making Thornton the only two-time APSA winner.

The APSA awards were in their 11th iteration. They were presented Thursday evening at a ceremony in Brisbane, Australia.

The other big winner during the evening was India’s “Newton.” It earned a best acting prize for Rajkummar Rao, while Mayank Tewari and Amit V. Masurkar claimed the award for best screenplay.

Russia’s Andrey Zvyagintsev was named best director for “Loveless,” which had its premiere in Cannes. Zvyagintsev previously won the best film award with “Leviathan” in 2014.

The international awards were decided by a jury headed by film editor Jill Bilcock. She praised Thornton for his “strong cinematic style and personal knowledge of his own culture.”

Of the 42 nominees, 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. The Asia Pacific region continues to bring us extraordinary stories and talent with a highly original slant.”

The APSAs, which follow UNESCO’s definition of the Asia-Pacific region, took in nominations from 25 territories. Films from both Georgia and Russia won three APSAs each on Thursday. Films from Australia and India won two APSAs each. There were no prizes for films from cinema’s East Asian powerhouses China, Korea and Japan.

The Cultural Diversity Award, under the patronage of UNESCO, was awarded to “Dede,” which was filmed on location in the UNESCO World Heritage-protected province of Svaneti and directed by Mariam Khatchvani. “Dede” will now screen at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters on Dec. 12. The other Georgian winner was Sashishi Deda’s “Scary Mother.”

During the ceremony, the Motion Picture Association (MPA) announced the four recipients of the eighth round of the MPA APSA Academy Film Fund. The four development grants of US$25,000 each went to Rajit Kapur (India) for “Paradise in Flames”; Robert Connolly (Australia) for “Magic Beach”; Guy Davidi (Israel) for “Senseless”; and Vladimer Katcharava (Georgia) for “Nene.”

Sweet Country” (Australia) Produced by Greer Simpkin, David Jowsey. Dir. Warwick Thornton

“The Seen and Unseen” (“Sekala Niskala”) (Indonesia, Netherlands, Australia, Qatar) Dir. Kamila Andini

“Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming” (Canada) Dir. / prod. Ann Marie Fleming

Winner: “Last Men in Aleppo” (Syria, Denmark, Germany) Dir. Feras Fayyad
Special mention: “Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web” (New Zealand) Dir: Annie Goldson.

Andrey Zvyagintsev for “Loveless” (“Nelyubov”) (Russia, Belgium, France, Germany)

Mayank Tewari, Amit V. Masurkar for “Newton” (India)

Pyotr Dukhovskoy, Timofey Lobov for “The Bottomless Bag” (“Meshok Bez Dna”) (Russia)

Nata Murvanidze for “Scary Mother” (“Sashishi Deda”) (Georgia, Estonia)

Winner: Rajkummar Rao for “Newton” (India)
Special mention: Navid Mohammadzadeh for “No Date, No Signature” (“Bedoune Tarikh, Bedoune Emza”) (Iran)

Winner: “Dede” (Georgia, Croatia, Netherlands, Qatar, U.K.) Dir. Mariam Khatchvani.
Special Mention: “Lady of the Lake” (“Loktak Lairembee”) (India) Dir. Haobam Paban Kumar

Bianca Balbuena (Philippines)
Determined by FIAPF–International Federation of Film Producers Associations for outstanding achievement in film in the Asia Pacific region.

Ilgar Najaf for “Pomegranate Orchard” (“Nar Bagi”) (Azerbaijan)
Awarded by the NETPAC Jury, the Young Cinema Award presented by Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) and Griffith Film School, recognizes the abundant emerging talent of the Asia Pacific.

Abbas Kiarostami for “24 Frames” (Iran, France)
The APSA 2017 International Nominations Council commends Abbas Kiarostami with a special artistic acknowledgement, and the APSA Academy confers posthumous Academy membership on him.

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