Remarkable stories from Asia Pacific’s most talented filmmakers were featured in Scene by Scene – Films of Asia Pacific, a four-part documentary series airing globally on CNN International in the lead up to the 2009 Asia Pacific Screen Awards.
Hosted by CNN’s Anna Coren, the four half-hour documentaries celebrate the cultural diversity and outstanding quality of the films being produced in the region. From Turkey to India, Kazakhstan to the Philippines, Korea to Australia and the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea, Scene by Scene explores the film industry in the vast Asia-Pacific region and hears from the directors, producers and stars about the challenges they face making films.
EPISODE ONE: INDIA / AUSTRALIA / KUWAIT
We meet Anil and Sonam Kapoor, members of one of Bollywood’s most famous filmmaking families. A major figure in Indian cinema for over thirty years, Anil’s performance as the menacing host of Who Wants to be a Millionaire in the worldwide smash hit Slumdog Millionaire catapulted him onto the global stage. Despite her father’s initial reluctance for her to follow in his footsteps, Anil’s daughter Sonam is now embarking on her third film – a Hindi re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Emma which she describes as “the role of a lifetime”. The Kapoors speak candidly about their relationship and enduring work ethic, “It’s like we breathe films, and we eat films, and we drink films,” says Anil.
Next, we look at the storytelling heritage of Australia’s indigenous people and how this translates to the big screen. We hear from three of Australia’s hottest properties for 2009: Warwick Thornton, Rachel Perkins and Ivan Sen who have all completed feature-length films this year. From the red dirt of Alice Springs to the red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival, Thornton tells the incredible journey of his Camera D’Or winning film, Samson & Delilah, “It’s a black story but if we get rid of those walls between black and white, it’s an Australian story”.
In Kuwait, we speak with Sheikha Al-Zain Al-Sabah, a prolific member of the nation’s ruling family who has her sights set on the challenge of having Arab films and filmmakers recognised worldwide. “… really this is my social service to my country. This is the way I’m going to leave my mark on my society,” says Al-Zain.
EPISODE TWO: PHILIPPINES / AUSTRALIA / TURKEY / INDIA
The Philippines is still a developing nation but its filmmakers are already in the realms of the greats, one of them winning the supreme award for directing at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Scene by Scene takes a look at the country’s thriving independent filmmakers and speaks with Brillante Mendoza shortly after his Cannes win about being at the forefront of the Filipino new wave. According to Brillante, “you can never go wrong with reality, you can never go wrong with being truthful.”
In Australia, a film that formed the cornerstone of Australia’s movie making resurgence in the 1970’s has been rediscovered, restored and re-released almost 40 years after it was made. Marking the first screen role for legendary Australian actor Jack Thompson, Wake in Fright shocked audiences when it hit screens in 1971 with its portrait of the savage side of mateship in the harsh Australian outback. Long thought lost, the last remaining print of this iconic film was recently discovered after a tireless search by the film’s editor Anthony Buckley. We hear about the extraordinary story of finding and reclaiming the print from a Pittsburgh film vault, filed under its American title Outback and marked “for destruction”.
Next, we explore the Turkish box office boom where local productions are taking more than 60 percent of revenue reflecting a growing trend for local cinema-goers’ to see their own stories and actors on screen.
Finally, we catch up with two of Bollywood’s hottest young actresses, Konkona Sen Sharma and Neha Dhupia, as they play a delicate balancing act between their latest movie roles, star-studded film premieres, media commitments and television commercial shoots. On the subject of her new role in US mini series Bollywood Hero, Dhupia confesses to channelling her inner diva, “I’m a brat when I wanna be”. It’s all in a day’s work for a Bollywood star …
EPISODE THREE: KAZAKHSTAN / PHILIPPINES / MIDDLE EAST / PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Scene by Scene visits Kazakhstan – one of the five “~stan” countries of Central Asia’s legendary Silk Road and meets filmmakers carving out the country’s new indigenous imagery post Soviet collapse. In 2008, Kazakhstan was the first Central Asian country nominated for an Oscar in the history of the Academy Awards for the epic Genghis Khan biopic, Mongol. Scene by Scene talks with producer Gulnara Sarsenova about the internationally awarded Mongol and Tulpan and about becoming the first female recipient of the 2008 Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award. We also speak with two-time Academy Award nominee Sergei Bodrov (Prisoner of the Mountains, Mongol) who has worked extensively in Kazakhstan in a career spanning more than thirty years as a director, writer and producer.
Removed from office in a bloodless coup amidst massive protests in 2001, former Philippine president Joseph Estrada, once an action movie star, returns this year to the big screen with his first film since his ousting over allegations of incompetence and corruption. Estrada starred in 120 movies in a 26 year acting career and used film as launching pad for his political ambitions. Scene by Scene visits Estrada on the set of his new comedy where he plays a minibus driver trying to deal with his daughter’s plans to marry her Filipino-American boyfriend. At 72 years of age, Estrada is poised for a star comeback – in both film and politics…
Next, Scene by Scene focuses on three filmmakers pursuing their craft in the Middle East where two factors dominate all other issues – politics and religion. We meet Palestinian helmer, Najwar Najjar and discuss her feature debut, Pomegranates and Myrrh, a heartfelt drama that sparked a hate campaign and fierce public debate about culture and the role of filmmaking between Palestinian conservatives and liberals. We speak with award-winning Lebanese documentarian Mai Masri and also take a look at Defamation, an Israeli film about modern anti-semitism that is stirring up passions and dealing with topics that filmmaker Yoav Shamir says have become taboo.
Papua New Guinea’s exotic landscapes and indigenous people have drawn interest from international filmmakers for decades but there’s never been a focus on a home-grown industry until now. ‘Yumi Piksa’ is pidgin for ‘You Me Pictures’. Scene by Scene takes us into the classroom as Australian filmmaker Verena Thomas teaches filmmaking to students of the University of Goroka in PNG’s Highlands. We see some of the fruits of their labour including a film that archives the important work of a man making clay flutes used by the women to call their men.
EPISODE FOUR: AUSTRALIA / INDIA / REPUBLIC OF KOREA
The world’s most loved children’s art form – animation is all grown up and now tackles the bigger issues. 2009 has seen Australia at the forefront of the intricate art of stop-motion animation, with two feature films hitting cinema screens in 2009. Mary & Max and $9.99 are the first feature length stop-motion animation features ever to come out of Australia and $9.99 marks the first ever co-production between Australia and Israel. Taking an epic five years from script to screen and requiring a production crew of 50 people to create an average of 2.5 minutes of footage per week, seeing a stop motion feature through to completion is no small feat. Scene by Scene speaks with the creators of both films about the painstaking yet magical process of creating another world.
India’s prolific film producers are best known world-wide for their bright and colourful Bollywood or Hindi musicals. Scene by Scene takes a look at a group of more thoughtful filmmakers delving into the subject of what makes us human.
The program also travels to South Korea to the small rural town of Hanul-ri in Sangun-myeon to investigate the surprise success of Old Partner, a documentary about an old Korean farmer, his wife and his trusty ox. The sleeper hit has set the record for the highest grossing independent film in Korean history and has been embraced by millions the world over, confirming the universal appeal of this poetic love story.