Opening Night: BAPFF Brisbane 2016

Now in its third year, Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival (BAPFF) is a prestigious 16-day showcase of creative cinematic works representing the cultural breadth of Asia and the Pacific. Last night we attended the official opening at the Palace Barracks Cinema.

Hoping to rub shoulders with the legendary Jack Thompson and writer-director-producer Leena Yandav, we drifted around the resplendently decorated spaces of the cinema surrounds.  In honour of the festival’s opening night film, India’s Parched (2015), attendees were invited to lounge and enjoy the vibrantly lush sofas, scattered with beaded cushions in turquoise, emerald, saffron and ruby colours. Tea lights twinkled, and to the beat of a Bollywood DJ, guests were fed street-style spiced dhal and chicken dishes which were enjoyed on tabletops alongside delicate blooms in tinted glass bottles.

Home to over 4 billion people across 70 different countries, the Asia Pacific region is the fastest-growing for film production anywhere in the world. Vast and varying widely in both cultures and traditions, the region itself extends from Egypt in the west to the Cook Islands in the east, and from Russia in the north to New Zealand in the south.

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The film Parched, itself, has won 18 international awards and toured 24 film festivals.  With a crew boasting Academy Award-winning cinematographer Russell Carpenter (Titanic) and Academy Award-nominated editor Kevin Tent (Nebraska), Leena Yadav’s film is full of music and movement, and is both emotionally and visually vibrant.  Set in a traditional Rajasthan village where gadgets like mobile phones and TVs are still a novelty, Parched examines disturbing themes of patriarchal oppression, physical abuse and forced marriages, as well as the ensuing shame and desperation of the female characters.  Cinematically, the scenes are breathtaking, such as the vividness of intensely-coloured saris, flowers and neon lights set against the dusty backdrop of the Northern Indian plains.  As the film goes on this contrast works perfectly, especially as each of the women reach self-realisation and finally, liberation. Parched has been nominated for Asia Pacific Screen Awards Best Screenplay.  The APSA Awards Ceremony takes place tomorrow night at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.

BAPFF’s full program which runs until 3 December celebrates cinematic excellence and aims to honour films that best reflect their cultural origins.  Audiences will be offered a selection of films, documentaries and cinema classics that articulate the Asia Pacific region’s concerns, turmoils and hardships in ways that thrill, evoke and enthrall.  Featuring 80 films from over 30 countries, it will include Australia, New Zealand, China, Korea, Japan, Iran, Turkey, Russia and many more.

Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk says: “The festival’s third year will be its best yet, featuring 31 Australian premieres and 33 Queensland premieres in just 12 days … These films represent the exceptional talent from a region that encompasses 70 countries and areas and includes award-winning films, independents, restored classics and genre favourites.”  Support from Screen Queensland of festivals like BAPFF has enabled the showing of many non-mainstream films which otherwise would not be available, in turn giving a boost to local industry, tourism and  economy.  The festival has also included for the first time films from Europe and the Americas with many of the filmmakers attending the screenings to host Q&A’s with the audiences.

BAPFF is officially associated with the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA), a unique international collaboration with UNESCO and FIAPF-International Federation of Film Producers Associations, that celebrates the best in Asia Pacific cinema.

Pictured at top: Opening night decor. Photo credit: Casey Gillard.

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