Simon Baker in 'High Ground'.

Stephen Johnson’s High Ground earned a special mention from The Young Cinema Award jury at this evening’s Asia Pacific Screen Awards, held on the Gold Coast.

Set in 1930s Arnhem Land, High Ground follows young Aboriginal man Gutjuk (Jacob Junior Nayinggul), who in a bid to save the last of his family teams up with ex-soldier Travis (Simon Baker) to track down the most dangerous warrior in the Territory – his uncle.

The APSA jury praised the assured direction of Johnson, noting his film gave “voice to the issue of brutal colonisation.” Jack Thompson, APSA president and star of the film, accepted the honour on behalf of the director.

High Ground premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and also stars Callan Mulvey, Witiyana Marika, Caren Pistorius and Ryan Corr. Madman Entertainment will release the drama, written by Chris Anastassiades and produced by David Jowsey, Johnson, Marika, Maggie Miles and Greer Simpkin, in cinemas January 28.

Held at Home of The Arts (HOTA), this year’s APSAs were a smaller affair given COVID-19, with just two main awards presented by Leila McKinnon.

Thai creative producer Soros Sukhum took out the 2020 FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers Association Award) for Outstanding Achievement in Film in the Asia Pacific region.

Sukhum is the co-producer of Cambodia’s Diamond Island by Davy Chou, Singapore’s Pop Aye by Kirsten Tan, and the anthology Ten Years Thailand made between Hong Kong, Japan and Thailand and showcased at the Cannes Film Festival. His latest film is the Colombia-set Memoria, the English language debut for director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, starring Tilda Swinton.

The Young Cinema Award was won by Indian filmmaker Akshay Indikar for Chronicle of Space (Sthalpuran).

Presented by NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian and Asia Pacific Cinema) and Griffith Film School (GFS), the award recognises the abundant emerging talent of the Asia Pacific.

Sthalpuran, which also premiered in Berlin, is director Indikar’s sophomore feature, which he also co-wrote, edited and did sound design on. It follows a young boy’s story as told through his diary entries, as he copes with change and loss in his new life immersed in the natural world on India’s Konkan Coast.

The jury said: “Akshay Indikar has a real and rare cinematic vision. Using breath-taking imagery and intricate soundscapes, his film took the jury on a multi-layered journey of discovery evolving through the perspective of sublime innocence. We congratulate him on this incredible achievement and look forward to what comes next.”

The evening also saw the four recipients of the MPA APSA Academy Film Fund unveiled, with each to receive $US25,000 for early script development.

They include Bianca Balbuena (Philippines) for her project Việt and Nam (Vietnam), a collaboration with Vietnamese writer-director, Minh Quy Truong; Guillaume de Seille (France) for A Kid on the Block (Japan), the magical realism feature debut of documentary filmmaker Kyoko Miyake; Annemarie Jacir (Palestine) for All Before You and Ridham Janve (India) for his project The Sacrifice (Ashwamedh).

APSA chair Tracey Vieira said: “In a year that has seen the world of cinema put on dramatic pause, it was thrilling to see the APSA 2020 award presentation andforum reinvigorate filmmakers right across our region. The creative energy, diversity and dynamism of all involved demonstrated that the future of screen stories in our region will continue to shine brighter and brighter.“

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  1. From the trailer High Ground looks like a really good Australian film. It’s great to see Jack Thompson but also to see Simon Baker in a film about Australia’s history. I’m sure it’s a welcome relief for him to be acting in an Australian film about Australian history in his own country away from pretentious Hollywood. Even though Hollywood did take him to the top. It’s always good to come home & be very appreciated by your own people/clan/fans/Australian actors. It’s also good to see the film is about the Aboriginals in Arhnam land & their story. Can’t wait to see it & the Australian scenery of the NT. Jenny

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