December 5, 2007 / 8:52 AM / 11 years ago

Cultural conflict films triumph at Asian festival

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - An Australian drama about a group of men abandoned in the desert tied with an Indian film on inter-faith adoption for the top spot at an Asian film festival dedicated to showcasing the region’s debutant talent.

The Asian Festival of 1st Films, which gave out awards late on Tuesday to first-time filmmakers in nine categories, saw over 500 submissions from 53 Asia-Pacific countries.

Two films tied for the top prize: “Lucky Miles”, an Australian film about a group of plucky Iraqi and Cambodian men abandoned in a desert in Western Australia, and “Dharm”, an Indian film about a high-ranking Hindu priest who faces internal conflict after adopting a Muslim child.

“It was an extremely hard decision to make this year, as the submissions were all top class,” said Sanjoy Roy, the festival’s director, in a statement on the double wins in some categories.

He told Reuters this year’s submissions revolved around conflict, the supernatural and historical dramas.

“Asian film makers tend to write films about cultural sensitivities, and that’s a huge difference between Asian films and Hollywood,” Dharm producer Sheetal V. Talwar told Reuters.

Australia’s Lesley Dyer, who picked up the award for best producer, said Lucky Miles was the first Australian film to feature Asian lead characters.

The best director award was handed to Kabir Khan from India, whose film about journalists seeking the ultimate scoop in Afghanistan highlighted its devastation after years of conflict.

Mamatha Bhukya from India won the best actress award together with Tsetsge Byambaa from Mongolia. Batzul Khayankhyarvaa won best actor for “Khadak”, which was set on the steppes of Mongolia and is about a nomad who becomes a shaman.

Festival organisers hope the festival, in its third year, will spin out from Asia to become a global by 2009 and give first-time filmmakers in South America and Africa a chance to showcase their films.

Festival director Roy, himself a filmmaker, had advice for budding talent.

“Don’t try and make a Hollywood film, don’t make a film that you don’t believe in, that you don’t come from — tell your own story.”

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