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Indian, Australian flicks share top prize at 'first film' fest in Singapore

Update: December, 05/2007 - 00:00

Indian, Australian flicks share top prize at ‘first film’ fest in Singapore


by Mai Hien

Like a Virgin: China’s Hu Linping accepts the Best Cinematographer award. — AFFF Photo

SINGAPORE — The Indian film Dharm and Australia’s Lucky Miles were both named the Best Film at the Asian Festival of 1st Films in Singapore on Tuesday night.

Given the quality of the nominees this year, it was extremely difficult for the jury to choose only one winner for some categories, so in the case of the Best Female Actor category, Mamatha Bhukya from India and Tsetsge Byamba from Germany both won the award.

"It was an extremely hard decision to make this year, as the submissions were all top class and impressive in terms of film production, acting, script and cinematography," said festival director Sanjoy Roy.

"Asia’s diversity, daily complexities and visually spectacular locations dominated this year’s film festival," he said. "From the steppes of Mongolia to the depths of the Pacific Ocean, filmmakers struggled to capture the essence of daily life filled with trials and tribulations, sorrow and joy and did so with great skill. The awards are a tribute to their excellence in the craft of filmmaking."

Also at the awards ceremony was the Israeli film The Boy Who Died of Fear, which was named Best Documentary, and the Indian movie The Kabul Express, which won the Foreign Correspondents Association Purple Orchid Award and the Best Director award.

The film Dharm tells the story of Pundit Chaturvedi, a Hindu Priest who adopts an abandoned child. His life is filled with joy until the day the priest learns that Kartikey (the child) is the son of a Muslim. He then struggles with whether to keep the child despite their religious incompatibility or to save his social status and ditch the kid.

"Dharm means duty, not religion. There is no word like religion in Hindu," said Sheetal V Talwar, the film’s producer.

The Best Producer award went to Jo Dyer and Lesley Dyer, who produced Lucky Miles, a film about a group of Iraqi and Cambodian men who were abandoned by a fishing boat on a remote part of the Western Australian coast. While most of the men are rounded up, three elude capture and are pursued by an army reservist unit who are more concerned with playing sports and listening to music. Although many people had difficulties with the different languages and cultures, Lucky Miles was welcomed by most, said Lesley Dyer.

"It was so important that the actors were the right people for the script. The writers developed the script with these people in mind because it was based on a true story and it developed very organically over the past seven years," she said.

Taiwanese Fen Fen Cheng won the Best Screenplay award while mainland Chinese Hu Linping clinched the award for Best Cinematographer. Batzul Khayankhyarvaa from Germany won the Best Male Actor award. The Chinese mainland movie The Last Lumberjacks was named AFFF’s special citation for the Best Anthropological Documentary.

AFFF, the only festival in the world that celebrates 1st time filmmakers from Asia, is organised by Teamwork Productions as part of the Asia Media Festival 2007 in partnership with the Media Development Authority in Singapore. — VNS

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