Vietnamese director Pham Nhue Giang's The Deserted Valley (Thung Lung Hoang Vang) from Vietnam has won the 51st Melbourne International Film Festival's first FIPRESCI (Federation Internationale de la Presse Cinematographique) and FCCA (Film Critics Circle of Australia) Prize.
The film was included in the International Forum of this year's Berlin Film Festival. "This film was selected for its compassionate, poetic, evocative portrayal of an isolated community coming to terms with modern society," said the judging committee, which was lead by FIPRESCI vice president Ronald Bergan.
The film is about two young teachers and a janitor who struggle to keep open a local school for the children of ethnic minorities living in Vietnam's remote provinces. In line with one of the festival's major commitments, only first, second and third films from Asia were eligible. This one was included in a program titled "Discovering the new generation of Asian women filmmakers."
The judges also awarded a citation to the documentary feature A Wedding in Ramallah. The portrait of ordinary lives during wartime in Palestine was directed, produced, written and shot by one-time journalist Sherine Salama, who was born in Cairo and moved to Australia when she was a child.