Asia Pacific Screen Awards: Chinese Films Dominate Nominations List

So Long My Son - TIFF - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of TIFF

Wang Xiaoshuai‘s ‘So Long, My Son‘ has a record number of six nominations including for best film, where it will be up against such high-profile Oscar submissions as Bong Joon-ho’s 'Parasite‘ and Kantemir Balagov’s ‘Beanpole.’

Five films submitted for consideration in the best international feature film Oscar category, including South Korea’s Parasite (Gisaengchung), Russia’s Beanpole (Dylda) and Japan’s Weathering With You (Tenki no Ko) are among the 22 pics nominated in 10 categories for the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. Australia’s Buoyancy and Palestine’s It Must Be Heaven are also among the nominees for the honors, which will be handed out Nov. 21 at a ceremony in Brisbane, Australia. 

Chinese movies led the way with a total of 13 noms for seven films, with Wang Xiaoshuai‘s So Long, My Son (Di Jiu Tian Chang) leading the tally with a record number of mentions across six feature categories, including best actor (Wang Jingchun), actress (Yong Mei), screenplay (A Mei, Wang Xiaoshuai), cinematography (Kim Hyunseok), directing (Wang Xiaoshuai) and feature film (producer Liu Xuan). The drama explores two families linked through tragedy as their lives unfold against 30 years of Chinese upheaval. 

Competing against So Long, My Son in the best feature category are: a second Chinese film, Balloon (Qìqiú), directed by Pema Tseden; Russia’s Beanpole (Dylda); the Indian Himalayan-set drama The Gold-Laden Sheep and the Sacred Mountain (Sona Dhwandi Bhed Te Suchha Pahad); and Bong Joon-ho’s Palme D’or winner from South Korea, Parasite (Gisaengchung).

China’s Balloon also was nominated for best screenplay.

Also from China, cinematographers Yu Ninghui and Deng Xu received their first APSA nomination for Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains (Chun Jiang Shui Nuan)a film inspired by the 14th century scroll artwork.

Two Chinese films are nominated for best youth feature: Bai Xue’s The Crossing (Guo Chun Tian), about a teenage girl smuggling smartphones across the border from Hong Kong; and Wang Lina’s A First Farewell (Di yi ci de li bie)spoken in the Uyghur language and set in a remote Chinese village as a young Muslim boy learns what it means to say goodbye. One Child Nation, an investigation inspired by motherhood into the lasting effects of China’s one-child policy from directors Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang, is nominated for best documentary feature. 

Iranian films received a total of six noms across five pics, with two Iranian thesps competing for best actor. Navid Mohammadzadeh, who plays a task force officer beginning to question the violent tactics of the war on drugs in Just 6.5 (Metri Shisho Nim), is up against Mohsen Tanabandeh, who stars as an Afghan refugee in Israel who is trying to bring his family to join him in Rona, Azims Mother (Rona, Madar-e Azim). Rona is also nominated for UNESCO’s Cultural Diversity Award. Also nominated from Iran is the documentary Narrow Red Line (Khat-e Barik-e Ghermez) by Farzad Khoshdast, which follows a group of young men in an Iranian juvenile rehabilitation and correction center. Mohsen Gharaei and Mohammad Davoodi received their first APSA nod for their screenplay for Castle of Dreams (Ghasr-e Shirin)

Both New Zealand and Iran have been nominated for best animated feature for the first time; the films are Kirby Atkins’ fantastical creature adventure Mosley, a New Zealand-China co-production, and the cardboard-animated documentary The Unseen (Kaghaz-Pareh ha), Behzad Nalbandi’s story of Tehran’s homeless women swept aside by Iran’s urban beautification policies.

Movies from Russian Federation received five nominations across two films. 

Russia’s official Oscar submission Beanpole (Dylda) — produced by 2018 APSA international jury president Alexander Rodnyansky alongside Sergey Melkumov and directed by Kantemir Balagov — is nominated for best feature and also received mentions for its screenplay (Kantemir Balagov, Alexander Terekhov), cinematography (Ksenia Sereda) and the debut of actress Viktoria Miroshnichenko. Set in post-World War II Leningrad, the film centers on two women who become connected as they attempt to search for meaning and hope amid the city’s destruction and ruins.

Liubov Borisova’s Arctic drama The Sun Above Me Never Sets (Min urduber kyun khahan da kiirbet) is nominated for the prestigious UNESCO Cultural Diversity Award, while Aquarela, Russian director Victor Kossakovsky’s environmental wake-up call and globe-trotting look at the power of water, is nominated for best documentary feature.

Two Indian films received two nominations each. Indian actor Manoj Bajpayee is nominated for his performance in Devashish Makhija’s Bhonsle, while the film has also been honored in the Cultural Diversity category. Bajpayee stars as a conflicted retired policeman who forms an unlikely friendship with two migrant children.

Ridham Janve’s debut feature film set in the remote Himalayas, The Gold-Laden Sheep and the Sacred Mountain (Sona Dhwandi Bhed Te Suchha Pahad), is nominated for best feature film and for the feature debut of cinematographer Saurabh Monga. 

Japan and the Republic of Korea received three nominations for three films each. 

Japan’s Oscar submission Weathering With You (Tenki no Ko) marks the fourth APSA nomination for director Makoto Shinkai. Also nominated for Best Animated Feature Film from Japan is Hiroyasu Ishida’s adaptation of a famous Japanese science-fiction novel, Penguin Highway

Cannes-winning and APSA-nominated Ayka actress Samal Yeslyamova received her second APSA nomination for the Kazakhstan-Japan co-production The Horse Thieves,  Roads of Time, which opened the Busan International Film Festival. 

Young Korean actress Ji-hu Park has been nominated for her breakthrough performance in House of Hummingbird (Beol-sae), in which an isolated girl forms an unlikely friendship, while the puppy road-trip animation Underdog, directed by Lee Choon-baek and Oh Sung-yoon, is also a nominee.

Kazakh filmmaker Adilkhan Yerzhanov is nominated for best direction for his film-noir A Dark, Dark Man.

Australian films received two nominations, with Australia’s Oscar submission Buoyancy, a thriller shot in Cambodia by writer/director Rodd Rathjen, receiving a best youth feature mention, and The Australian Dream, Daniel Gordon’s personal exploration of race, identity and belonging in the aftermath of the racist backlash against footballer Adam Goodes, snagging a best documentary nod.

Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman was nominated twice, for his direction of Palestine’s Oscar submission, It Must Be Heaven, in addition to contention for the Cultural Diversity Award under the patronage of UNESCO. 

Films from Israel received two nominations.  Actor Eran Naim, a retired Israeli army paratrooper and police detective, is nominated for his fourth collaboration with director Yaron Shani in Chained (Eynayim Sheli). Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaïche’s documentary Advocate, an intimate portrait of legendary and controversial human rights lawyer Lea Tsemel and fighter for the Palestinian people, is also nominated.

Two films from the Philippines received nominations. Lav Diaz is nominated for best direction for The Halt (Ang Hupa), while rising star Max Eigenmann is nominated for best actress for Raymund Ribay Gutierrez’s Verdict

Afghan director Shahrbanoo Sadat and her producer Katja Adomeit, nominated in 2017 for best youth feature film for Wolf and Sheep, have been nominated in the same category this year for the film’s follow-up, The Orphanage (Parwareshgah), focusing again on Afghan youth.

Films from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Georgia, Indonesia, New Zealand and Thailand received one nomination each. 

Female Bangladeshi director Rubaiyat Hossain is nominated for UNESCO’s Cultural Diversity Award for Made in Bangladesh, a story of women working in textile factory who attempt to unionize to improve conditions, despite threats and opposition. 

Bhutan received its second APSA nomination with Tashi Gyeltshen's feature debut The Red Phallus, a teenage girl’s coming-of-age story set in a society dominated by repressive men for best youth feature. 

Georgian writer-director Tamar Shavgulidze is nominated for best screenplay for her second feature, Comets, a multi-layered relationship drama set in the Georgian countryside.

Malaysian cinematographer Teoh Gay Hian received his first APSA nomination for Indonesian director Yosep Anggi Noen’s The Science of Fictions (Hiruk-Pikuk Si-Alkisah), while Anocha Suwichakornpong and Ben Rivers, the two helmers of the Thai film Krabi, 2562, have been nominated for best direction. 

“The spread of nominees encompasses some of the region’s most acclaimed auteurs and outstanding emerging voices and APSA is proud to foster their development and opportunities through the Asia Pacific Screen Forum and their induction to the Asia Pacific Screen Academy,”  said Michael Hawkins, the chair of the Asia Pacific Screen Awards and its Academy.

APSA represents the 70 countries and areas of Asia Pacific, covering one third of the globe and half the world’s film releases. 

APSA, now in its 13th year, has established the APSA Screen Forum, which will take place in Brisbane over two days leading up to the awards. It will have a variety of functions and sessions, including celebrating 100 years of Korean xinema and a focus on central Asian director Adilkhan Yerzhanov.