Japan's 'Shoplifters' Wins Top Prize at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
'Shoplifters'

Japan’s official entry into the foreign-language film Oscar category won the prestigious Palme D’or at the Festival Du Cannes earlier this year.

Cannes Palme d'Or winner and Japan’s official foreign-language film Oscar entry, Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazoku), has cemented its awards credentials, winning the top prize at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) on Thursday. 

It’s the first time a Japanese film has won the APSA for best feature. The award was accepted by producer Taguchi Hijiri at the APSA ceremony in Brisbane, Australia.

Shoplifters, from director Kore-eda Hirokazu, follows a Tokyo family of small-time crooks that takes in an abused child found on the streets.

APSA International jury president Alexander Rodnyansky, the Russian producer of 2014’s critically acclaimed Leviathan, said, “We have had the great fortune to be presented with a unique lineup of films that represent the different countries, cultures and talents of our region. Shoplifters turns an intimate story about an unusual family into a metaphorical social analysis that is relevant not only for Japan, but everywhere, where we are faced with a frightening panorama of a family crisis and presented with a utopian alternative in which you can choose your relatives; where closeness becomes a conscious decision (even for children), not a predetermined fate.”

No single film dominated the 12th edition of the APSAs, with films from Australia, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, China, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Singapore and Turkey all taking home key awards. 

The jury grand prize was awarded to Lee Joon-dong and Lee Chang-dong for Burning (Republic of Korea). 

Nadine Labaki won best direction for Capharnaüm (Lebanon), having been nominated in the same category for the inaugural APSA in 2007 for her film Caramel. A special mention in the category went to Ivan Ayr for Soni (India).

Inida’s Nawazuddin Siddiqui won the best actor award for Manto while his director, Nandita Das, also won the prestigious FIAPF Award for Achievement in Film in the Asia Pacific region. 

The best actress award went to Chinese star Zhao Tao for Ash is Purest White

In a moving recorded acceptance Zhao Tao said “I was lucky to become an actress and have the opportunity to play different roles of ordinary Chinese women onscreen, to express their difficulties and emotions in a country of radical changes, to share their love and hope. Thank you for your acknowledgment of my performance. Thank you for your attention to those ordinary women. Love conquers all.”

Japanese cinematographer Hideho Urata was awarded the best cinematography prize for A Land Imagined (Singapore, France, Netherlands). Singaporean filmmaker Yeo Siew Hua was also awarded the 2018 APSA Young Cinema Award for the film, which won the Locarno Festival Golden Leopard (Best Film) this year, and was supported by the Asia Pacific Screen Lab. 

Dan Kleinman and Sameh Zoabi won best screenplay for Tel Aviv on Fire (Israel, Belgium, France, Luxembourg); Paul Damien Williams and producer Shannon Swan won Australia’s first APSA for best documentary feature for Gurrumul; and the best animated feature went to Russia’s Leo Gabriadze and Timur Bekmambetov for Rezo (Znaesh’ mama, gde ya byl).

The inaugural best original score award went to composers Hildur Gudnadottir and the late Johann Johannsson for Mary Magdalene (Australia, United Kingdom). The Music in Film International Jury included film luminaries, jury chair Ryuichi Sakamoto (Japan), Sneha Khanwalkar (India) and Nigel Westlake (Australia).

Sakamoto said “Mary Magdalene’s soundtrack is a meticulous work of art by the composers. The quality of craftsmanship and the depth of emotions are overwhelming.”

Another key award is the Cultural Diversity Award, which comes under the patronage of UNESCO. It went to Garin Nugroho and Ifa Isfansyah for Indonesia’s Memories of My Body (Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku). The winner was determined by the APSA Cultural Diversity International Jury comprised of jury chair Khadija Al-Salami (Yemen), Anthony Krause (UNESCO) and Mattie Do (Lao People’s Democratic Republic).

As the winner Nugroho will screen Memories of My Body on December 15 at UNESCO’s Paris Headquarters as part of the Intergovernmental Committee meeting on the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.