Japanese films have taken top honours at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) on the Gold Coast, with Wim Wenders’ Perfect Days and Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Evil Does Not Exist awarded Best Film and the Jury Grand Prize, respectively.
Wenders’ comedy-drama stars Kōji Yakusho as a toilet cleaner in Tokyo who finds happiness both in and outside of his work, which he balances with his passion for books and music.
The German-Japanese co-production opened Tokyo International Film Festival last week and is also Japan’s submission to the 2024 Academy Awards in the Best International Feature category.
In accepting the award via a video message, Wenders, who produced Perfect Days with Takuma Takasaki and Koji Yanai, said it was with “great pleasure and pride” that he received the accolade.
“Wow, what an honour, especially for a German director,” he said.
“The film was, in many ways, a dream come true for all of us, especially the fact that nobody less than the great Koji Yakusho played the leading role, the humble public servant, Hirayama.”
In Evil Does Not Exist, a talent company proposes to develop a glamping site near a small Japanese village, threatening nature and the community.
It’s the second time in three years Hamaguchi has been recognised at the awards, following a Best Film win in 2021 for Drive My Car. Evil Does Not Exist producer and APSA Academy member Satoshi Takata was on hand to accept the Grand Jury Prize on the film’s behalf.
Outside of Japan, the Republic of Korea was also well represented on the winners’ list, with Celine Song named Best Director for her story of romance and emigration Past Lives, while Anthony Shim received Best Screenplay for Canada-Republic of Korea co-production Riceboy Sleeps, about a single mother raising a son in Canada in the ’90s, whose lives are changed when they travel back to South Korea and reconnect with family.
The APSA for Best Performance went to Palestinian performer Mouna Hawa for her role as the mother of a young daughter whose life is upturned by harsh local inheritance laws in the Jordanian film Inshallah a Boy (Inshallah Walad), the debut feature from Amjad Al Rasheed.
In a video message, Hawa thanked Rasheed for trusting her to “life the Nawal he has been dreaming of for years”.
“Inshallah a Boy raises moral questions by telling a story of a woman who fights for her basic human rights, not being displaced, not being separated from her own child, demanding recognition, seeking justice and liberation,” she said.
“In these times, a film like Inshallah a Boy that dares to question our entire reality is essential not only for educating people and making them think, but also for giving us a voice in times when we simply can’t speak. Thank you.”
Rounding out the awards determined by the international jury was Best Cinematography, which went to Azamat Dulatov for Kazakh film Qas, with the jury adding a Special Mention for Krum Rodriguez for Georgian film Citizen Saint (Mokalake Tsmindani).
Unfortunately, there was no joy for the Australian nominees this year, with Richard Cussó and Tania Vincent’s animated fantasy feature Scarygirl losing out to Sepideh Farsi’s The Siren in the Best Animated Film category, while Robert Connolly’s Blueback was beaten by Askhat Kuchinchirekov’s Bauryna Salu for Best Youth Film.
Speaking about this year’s winners, APSA international jury president Clara Law said the cultural diversity in this year’s short-listed selections was “truly amazing”.
“I fervently hope that this will inspire upcoming and younger filmmakers to be brave, to not be afraid to break new ground in their pursuits so that the art and cultural diversity of our region will reverberate in many beautiful films in the years to come,” she said.
The full list of APSA winners is below:
Perfect Days Japan Directed by Wim Wenders Produced by Wim Wenders, Takuma Takasaki, Koji Yanai
JURY GRAND PRIZE
Evil Does Not Exist (Aku Wa Sonzai Shinai) Japan Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi Produced by Satoshi Takata
BEST YOUTH FILM
Bauryna Salu Kazakhstan Directed by Askhat Kuchinchirekov Produced by Askhat Kuchinchirekov, Anna Katchko
BEST ANIMATED FILM
The Siren (La Sirène) France, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium Directed by Sepideh Farsi Produced by Sébastien Onomo
BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM
Against the Tide India, France Directed by Sarvnik Kaur Produced by Koval Bhatia, Sarvnik Kaur
Celine Song for Past Lives Republic of Korea, United States
Anthony Shim for Riceboy Sleeps Canada, Republic of Korea
Azamat Dulatov for Qas Kazakhstan
Special Mention for Cinematography
Krum Rodriguez for Citizen Saint (Mokalake Tsmindani) Georgia, France, Bulgaria
Mouna Hawa for Inshallah a Boy (Inshallah Walad) Jordan, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar
BEST NEW PERFORMER
Aibar Saly and Alisher Ismailov for Brothers (Bratya) Kazakhstan
CULTURAL DIVERSITY AWARD
Rapture (Rimdogittanga) India, People’s Republic of China, Qatar, Switzerland, Netherlands Directed by Dominic Megam Sangma Produced by Xu Jianshang, Eva Gunme R Marak, Anu Rangachar, Sun Li, Harsh Agarwal, Aditya Grover, Stephen Zacharias
YOUNG CINEMA AWARD
Phạm Thiên Ân for Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Bên Trong Vỏ Kén Vàng) Vietnam, Singapore, France, Spain
FIAPF AWARD for Outstanding Contribution to Asia Pacific Cinema