Held on the sandy shores of the Queensland Gold Coast in Australia, the inaugural Asia Pacific Screen Awards (Apsas) aims to celebrate and promote some of the region's leading films and film-makers to the international industry.
'There is a marketing push behind all of this,' says Apsa chairman Des Power. 'I am not suggesting the awards will bring about radical change, but I hope that every time we give an award, it will grow the audience and the appreciation of films from this part of the world.'
'This part of the world' includes nominated films from nearly 20 territories outside western Europe, North and South America and Africa, including Armenia, Australia, China, Egypt, India, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kurdistan, Malaysia, the Philippines, the Russian Federation and Sri Lanka. More than 70 countries are eligible. 'The region covers one-third of the earth's surface and has 60% of its population,' says Power.
The standard is high. The nominees for the four main awards categories of best feature film, animation film, children's film and documentary include three foreign-language Oscar submissions: Nadine Labaki's bittersweet Lebanese romantic comedy Caramel; Korean director Lee Chang-dong's Secret Sunshine, which won Jeon Do-yeon the best actress prize at Cannes this year; and Ozer Kiziltan's Turkish drama Takva: A Man's Fear Of God.
Other competitors include Kiumars Purahmad's Iranian war film Night Bus and Garin Nugroho's Indonesian musical Opera Jawa, winner of the Silver Screen Award for best film at the Singapore International Film Festival.
A nominations 'council', led by chairman Kim Hong-joon, director of Korea's Chungmuro International Film Festival, considered more than 100 films from 30 countries. Their brief was to use their contacts to include films from around the region; some were submitted, others invited. The remaining awards categories are best director, actor, actress, screenplay and cinematographer.
Around 500 members of the international industry and more than half of the nominees are expected to attend the ceremony, which has been initiated and principally funded by the Queensland government. There will be support from CNN International, Unesco (which is presenting its own award for outstanding achievement in film in the Asia Pacific region), and the Paris-based International Federation of Film Producers Associations (Fiapf), which is presenting an award for outstanding contribution to the promotion and preservation of cultural diversity through film.
An international jury will decide the winners, including the prize for best film. They will also have the opportunity to learn to surf. Surfing and exploring the great outdoors is a big part of Gold Coast culture, and culture is one of the distinguishing factors underpinning the Apsas.
Cinematic excellence is a key measuring stick too, of course, but the extent to which the films help people understand and respect each other's cultures is a key factor that Power hopes will bring more recognition to films from the region.
A former head of the Brisbane International Film Festival board, Power is chair of Apsa through his chairmanship of Queensland Events Corporation, and his passion and commitment to international film-making is never far below the surface.
'At the moment we have a global industry but not global audiences,' he says. 'I hope the market - exhibitors and distributors - will also be influenced by the event. I am keen to see the playing field of cinema habits become a lot more inclusive and truly international.'
The awards have been a principal focus for Power over the past four years; since announcing the details earlier this year he has been particularly spurred on by the reaction. 'I was prepared to deliver a boutique event that did not have great carriage in terms of a media response and recognition from practitioners, but the response has been well beyond our expectations,' he says.
CNN International, one of the event's key sponsors, will be broadcasting two programmes to coincide with the awards, which take place at the Sheraton Mirage resort on November 13. They are Scene by Scene - Films Of Asia Pacific, which will screen on November 10 and include stories and interviews about film industries throughout the region, and Scene By Scene - Best Films Of Asia Pacific, which will include clips from the awards ceremony and interviews with winners and will air on November 17.
The awards show will be followed by the annual Screen Producers Association of Australia conference, taking place over three days from November 14 (see Australia Film Hub, p18).
Shabana Azmi, actor and humanitarian, India
Kim Dong-ho, founding director of the Pusan International Film Festival and vice chair of the Network for Promotion of Asian Cinema, South Korea
Jafar Panahi, director, Iran
Nik Powell, producer and director, National Film and Television School, UK
Tian Zhuangzhuang, director, China
NOMINEES FROM SELECTED CATEGORIES
Night Bus (Iran)
Opera Jawa (Indon)
Secret Sunshine (S Kor)
Takva: A Man's Fear Of God (Tur)
Best animated film
The Big Fighting Between Wukong And God Erlang (Ch)
5 Centimeters Per Second (Jap)
Summer Days With Coo (Jap)
Beirut Diaries: Truth, Lies And Videos (Leb)
A Great Master Recaptured (Ch)
The Lost Land (Iran)
A Story Of People In War And Peace (Arm)
Village People Radio Show (Mal)
Best children's film
The Bicycle (Phil)
Denias, Singing On The Cloud (Indon)
Mother Nanny (Phil)