Taipei Hosts Asia-Pacific Film Festival, Showcasing Asia's Best New Movies

Taipei Hosts Asia-Pacific Film Festival, Showcasing Asia's Best New Movies
Actress Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, who won Best Newcomer for her performance in the Thai film ‘Bad Genius.’ | Credit: CNA
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Taiwanese films scooped up two awards, including Best Director, and the event spotlighted Southeast Asian hits like 'Bad Genius' and 'Respeto.'

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The 58th Asia-Pacific Film Festival (APFF) awards ceremony took place on Sept. 1 in Taipei. Taiwan’s Chao Te-yin (趙德胤) took home Best Director for “The Road to Mandalay,” while Taiwanese film “The Tag-Along 2” won Best Sound Effects. The Australian biographical drama “Lion,” starring Dev Patel and Rooney Mara, won Best Picture.

However, Southeast Asia was the star of the night. Nine of the 16 awards were won by Southeast Asian movies. The Thai film “Bad Genius,” which reeled in two awards for Best Newcomer and Best Film Editing, and the Filipino hip-hop drama “Respeto” (Respect) drew considerable attention.

Taiwan claims Best Director prize

Chao Te-yin (also known as Midi Z) won Best Director for his work on “The Road to Mandalay.” The drama, which won the Feodora Award for Best Film at the 2016 Venice Film Festival, follows a young Burmese girl who smuggles herself into Thailand in search of work. But its Myanmar-born Taiwanese director, also known for the critically acclaimed 2014 film “Ice Poison,” could not make it to the ceremony as he was abroad at the time.

His Taiwan cinema business partner Lin Sheng-wen (林聖文) received the award and gave an acceptance speech on his behalf. “I’m grateful for the contributions of Wu Ke-xi (吳可熙) and Ko Chen-tung (柯震東), both of whom are highly talented and diligent actors,” said Lin. “I thank my family. I thank the entire film crew and investors. This award belongs to every crew member of ‘The Road to Mandalay.’”

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Credit: Taiwan Cinema and Flash Forward Entertainment
Ko Chen-tung (L) and Wu Ke-xi, co-stars of 'The Road to Mandalay.'

Along with Chao Te-yin, this year’s Best Director nominees were Nattawut Poonpiriya (“Bad Genius,” Thailand), Garth Davis (“Lion,” Australia), Arnel Barbarona (“The Right to Kill,” Philippines) and Mouly Surya (“Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts,” Indonesia).

“The Road to Mandalay,” which received eight nominations, was a big winner on the night. Ko Chen-tung, who was nominated for Best Actor, said he was not nervous at all prior to the ceremony and joked about his slimmer figure, saying he had been “self-indulgent for too long” and had started working out and getting back in shape.

The 27-year-old Penghu native took the opportunity to give a shout-out to directors, saying “You can cast me this year or next year!” His co-star, Wu Ke-xi, revealed that Ko was undergoing “secret training” to get prepared for his next film.

‘Bad Genius’ actress takes Taiwan by storm

Thai film “Bad Genius,” which has been a smash hit in Taiwan, scooped up two award wins out of seven nominations. According to SET News, it is the highest grossing Thai film in Taiwan to date.

Lead actress Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, who plays “Lynn” in “Bad Genius,” walked the red carpet at the ceremony with lead actor Chanon Santinatornkul, who plays “Bank,” and director Nattawut Poonpiriya, with Chutimon winning the Best Newcomer award.

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Credit: CNA
Director Nattawut Poonpiriya (L), lead actress Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying (M) and lead actor Chanon Santinatornkul (R) from Thai film 'Bad Genius' walk the star-studded red carpet at the 58th Asia-Pacific Film Festival in Taipei.

“Bad Genius” stars Chutimon as a straight-A student who devises a scheme to cheat on exams which spreads internationally. Released in 2017 and starring mostly newcomers, the heist thriller was a major hit throughout Asia, reeling in over US$30 million (NT$924.9 million) in China and becoming Thailand’s most internationally successful film of all time.

At the ceremony, she gave an acceptance speech in Chinese, saying: “I’m super happy. Thank you!” She thanked the APFF and said she felt honored to receive her first award in Taiwan. She joked that she felt a bit of pressure to have starred in “Bad Genius” and received so many awards. She also revealed that she had just finished shooting her second film, a Chinese movie set to be released next year.

Southeast Asia wins the night

Filipino films “Respeto” and “The Portrait” made a powerful impression at the ceremony. “The Portrait” pulled in Best Original Music Score and Best Art Direction, while Dido de la Paz won Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Respeto.”

“Respeto” is a film about a youth named Hendrix who dreams of becoming a hip-hop star. However, he is trapped in crime and poverty until he meets an elderly poet named Doc, who is haunted by past nightmares. Doc and Hendrix subtly transform each other’s destiny. In the Philippines, long scarred by violence and poverty, this film eulogizes the power of poetry and rap.

The Epoch Times reported that Mai Ruoyu (麥若愚), who was one of the judges, praised the unique story arc of “Respeto.” He lauded Dido de la Paz for delivering a brilliant performance and celebrated how he uses his knowledge of literature and hip-hop to become the film’s hero.

Two Vietnamese films also claimed award wins: “The Tailor,” which won Best Costume Design, and “The Way Station,” which won Best Creative Story.

“The Tailor,” directed by Vietnamese directors Trần Bửu Lộc and Nguyễn Lê Phương Khanh, talks about the highly Westernized big city that is 1960s Saigon. As the daughter of a tailor renowned for making traditional áo dài Vietnamese long dresses, the lead female character is fixated on opening a boutique shop that sells Western-style garments, despite the disapproval of her mother. Refusing to compromise and learn, she, following an accidental encounter, winds up on a perspective-widening “journey of the future.”

Best Creative Story went to “The Way Station,” whose director, Hong Anh, based the film on a best-selling novel by the author Do Phuoc Tien. The Epoch Times reported that the lead actress, rising star Ngoc Thanh Tam of Hanoi, attended the APFF awards ceremony on behalf of the film crew.

The Indonesian film “Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts” won Best Cinematography, while the Malaysian fantasy crime thriller “Interchange” earned Best Visual Effects. Taiwanese actress Puff Kuo (郭雪芙) and actor Yen Cheng-kuo (顏正國) served as presenters for the latter film, but they hesitated after opening the envelope – possibly because the card only printed the English name of the film. Yen even whispered: “I don’t know how to read it.” The duo refused to budge for over 20 seconds before Kuo eventually read the name of the film.

58th Asia-Pacific Film Festival Winners List
  • Best Newcomer: Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying / “Bad Genius” (Thailand)
  • Best Documentary: “Demons in Paradise” (Sri Lanka)
  • Best Film Editing: “Bad Genius” (Thailand)
  • Best Supporting Actress: Soraya Ghasemi / “Villa Dwellers” (Iran)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Dido de la Paz / “Respeto” (Philippines)
  • Best Original Music Score: “The Portrait” (Philippines)
  • Best Sound Effects: “The Tag-Along 2” (Taiwan)
  • Best Visual Effects: “Interchange” (Malaysia)
  • Best Art Direction: “The Portrait” (Philippines)
  • Best Costume Design: “The Tailor” (Vietnam)
  • Best Cinematography: “Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts” (Indonesia)
  • Best Screenplay: “Lion” (Australia)
  • Best Creative Story: “The Way Station” (Vietnam)
  • Asia-Pacific Historical Contribution (Lifetime Achievement Award): Sir Cai Donghua (蔡東華)
  • Best Director: Chao Te-yin / “The Road to Mandalay” (Taiwan)
  • Best Actress: Teresa Mo (毛舜筠) / “Tomorrow is Another Day” (Hong Kong)
  • Best Actor: Amirali Danaei / “Appendix” (Iran)
  • Best Picture: “Lion” (Australia)

Read Next: The Worrying Cross-Strait and Linguistic Messages of 'Crazy Rich Asians'

This article originally appeared on the Chinese-language ASEAN edition of The News Lens. The original can be found here.

Translator: Lin Ying-jen

Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)

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