'Dharm,' 'Miles' share First Films prize

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SINGAPORE -- The Third Asian Festival of First Films tapped two productions for its best film award Monday night, jointly awarding the prize to India's "Dharm" and Australia's "Lucky Miles."

Director Bhavna Talwar's "Dharm" is about a devout Hindu priest who unknowingly adopts a young Muslim boy and the consequences that engenders. "Lucky Miles," Michael James Rowland's bittersweet comedy about the plight of illegal immigrants in Australia, also garnered the best producer award for Jo and Lesley Dyer.

The festival's directing nod went to Kabir Khan for his film "Kabul Express," also from India, about two Indian journalists in search of the ultimate news scoop in Afghanistan: meeting the Taliban. "Kabul Express" also scooped the Foreign Correspondents Assn. Purple Orchid Award.

The best male actor award went to Batzul Khayankhyarvaa for his role in "Khadak," as a young Mongolian nomad confronted with his destiny to become a shaman, while the award for top female performance went to India's Mamatha Bhukya for her role in "Vanaja" as a young girl who dreams of escaping her poverty through dancing but faces sexual abuse from her employer's son.

The screenplay award went to Fen Fen Cheng for "Keeping Watch" (Taiwan), while the prize for best cinematography went to Hu Linping for the documentary "Family on the Sky Lake" (China).

In the documentary category, "The Boy Who Died of Fear" (Israel) was tapped as best film, while Maya Newell of Australia earned the directing nod for "Richard."
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