Oct 12, 2011

Asia Pacific Film Academy announced nominees, Oscar submissions dominate

The nominations for this year’s Asia Pacific Screen Academy, Asia’s highest continental honour were announced a couple of days ago and the news bears typically Oscar-y titles. (This is one of my favourite awards of the season, actually.) Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and A Separation – Foreign Language Film submissions on behalf of Turkey and Iran, respectively – lead the pack with four nominations apiece. Joining these two films in the top category are another Iranian film called Goodbye (I reviewed it for The Film Experience at TIFF), China’s Let the Bullets Fly, and India’s Wedding Planners. Winners will be announced on November 24th and the awards ceremony will be held in Gold Coast, Australia.

The awards were first handed out in 2007 and previous best picture winners are South Korea’s Secret Sunshine, Kazakhstan’s Oscar nominated Tulpan, Australia’s Samson and Delilah and China’s Aftershock. Something tells me this year’s prize will come to the Middle East for the first time.

Here’s the list of nominees in the main categories along with my comments.

Best Feature Film
A Separation (Iran)
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Turkey)
Goodbye (Iran)
Let the Bullets Fly (China)
Wedding Planners (India)

Prediction: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

The big snub of the category is Lebanon’s Where do we go now? I haven’t seen the list of all eligible titles though and I suspect it missed out because of release date regulations. Russia’s extremely well received Elena and Australia’s The Eye of the Storm are two other films I expected to see here. They’re nominated elsewhere but not in the top category.

All these five countries have been on this stage before. China has the most previous nominations with four (and one win). Turkey follows with three, Iran with two and India with one. Nuri Nilge Ceylan and Asghar Farhadi both had their films in contention here with Three Monkeys in 2008 and About Elly in 2009. Iran is not the first country to score double nominations; China got there in 2009 and South Korea in 2010 but neither country managed a win. Given the popularity of Poetry over Aftershock last year, I’d blame Korea’s loss on vote splitting. If that’s the case, A Separation might be left behind by the Turkish film this year as well. I’ve put my money on Anatolia.

Best Director
Asghar Farhadi (A Separation)
Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Turkey)
Mohammad Rasoulof (Goodbye)
Jiang Wen (Let the Bullets Fly)
Na Hong Jin (The Yellow Sea)

Prediction: Jiang Wen (Let the Bullets Fly)

The lone director nominee is the South Korean filmmaker. Ceylan has won this award in 2008 for the aforementioned Three Monkeys. Iran and China have also won the award (with different directors) in the past.

Best Actress
Leila Zare (Goodbye)
Judy Davis (The Eye of the Storm)
Shayesteh Irani (Facing Mirrors)
Nahed El Sebai (Cairo 678)
Nadezhda Markina (Elena)

Prediction: Nadezhda Markina (Elena)

The only nominee I’ve seen here is Zare and she’s very strong if a touch too cold. Hopefully I’ll get to see Elena before the ceremony too.

Best Actor
Peiman Moaadi (A Separation)
Daniel Connors (Toomelah)
Fa’afiaula Sagote (The Orator)
Wang Baoqiang (Mr. Tree)
Sasson Gabay (Restoration)

Prediction: Peiman Moaadi (A Separation)

The biggest surprise here is that none of the men from Anatolia made the shortlist. The cast was strong all around, but Muhammet Uzuner created a complex character with his nuanced performance that really stood out. Given the film’s warm reception, I think that’s the biggest snub in the nominations.

Best Screenplay
Asghar Farhadi (A Separation)
Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ercan Kesal and Ebru Ceylan (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia)
Yoon Sung-hyun (Bleak Night)
Denis Osokin (Silent Souls)
Alexey Balabanov (A Stoker)

Prediction: Asghar Farhadi (A Separation)

Silent Souls had a good festival run last year but its only nomination comes in this category. Bleak Night and A Stoker didn’t have luck anywhere else either.

Best Cinematography
Mark Lee Ping Bin (Norwegian Wood)
Gokhan Tiryaki (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia)
Yuri Klimenko (The Edge)
Sonthar Gyal (Old Dog)
Vladimir Bashta (Brest Fortress)

Gokhan Tiryaki (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia)

I’ve seen three of the nominees here (Anatolia, Norwegian Wood and The Edge). While all are strong works, Anatolia should walk away with this one easily.

The other three categories are Best Animated Feature (where all five nominees look terrific), Best Documentary (where Iran competes with Amin) and Best Children’s Feature (where Iran competes with Wind and Fog).

The main question for me is whether one film can sweep or not. If it can, it’ll be A Separation unless the jury feels the film is over-rewarded with the sweep at Berlin. If there’s no sweep, A Separation will miss out on the top prize since the screenplay prize is a no brainer. Can it win both AND best actor or is Moaadi the one who comes up short in favour of the big prize? Can any film other than Anatolia beat A Separation to the top prize?

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