Australian film industry looks to Asia

Actors Sam Neill and Rachel Griffiths joined Chinese film makers in Shanghai on Wednesday to launch a new award aimed at fostering greater ties between Australian and Asian cinema.

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Griffiths and actor Sam Neill unveiled the Asia International Engagement Program, which will include a best Asian film award, at a banquet in the city. 

The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) will present the inaugeral award later this year.

“It’s all about building a bridge between Australia and the great cinemas of Asia,” said Damien Trewhella, the chief executive of AACTA.

Ms Griffiths said she feels the future of Australian film lies more with Asia, rather than with the US.

“We are part of Asia. We have two million residents, citizens, who were born in Asia, they think in a very bi-city or intercontinental way,” she told SBS.

“They are both very Chinese and Australian, or feel very Indian and Australian and they are trying to reconcile the two cultures. So I think it’s incredibly important that our industry looks to that.”

AACTA held a ceremony in Shanghai to launch a new Asian Engagement initiativeSBS News

The foundation of the program is a new AACTA Award for Best Asian Film, which will be presented at the annual AACTA awards in Sydney in December.

Films from 19 countries in the region, including India, South Korea and Japan, will be eligible to compete.

“I think it’s a nod to the brilliance of Asian cinema which is diverse and powerful,” Mr Neill said.

Mr Neill starred in 2010’s The Dragon Pearl, one of the first China-Australia co-productions and AACTA hope the new award will lead to more films like it. 

“Film-making can now happen anywhere anytime, it can cross boundaries,” Mr Trewhella said. “We want to find out what’s possible.”

Ms Griffiths said the award will deepen exchanges between Asian and Australian film makers and encourage more hybrid or multicultural Australian stories.

“That’s going to be so important as our Australian next generation of film-makers come from where they perceive Asia differently to my generation and my parent’s generation,” Griffiths said.

The Best Asian Film award will be decided by a grand jury headed by actor Russell Crowe.