The four successful recipients of the 2015 MPA Academy Film Fund grant were announced tonight at the 9th annual Asia Pacific Screen Awards ceremony in Brisbane, Australia.
Cliff Curtis (New Zealand)
With over 20 years experience in the film industry, Cliff Curtis has established himself as one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most successful actors and producers.
Curtis made his feature film debut in a small role in The Piano (1993), before exploring a wide range of genres in NZ films including Desperate Remedies, Jubilee and River Queen. But it was Once Were Warriors (1994) and Whale Rider (2002) that brought him to a wider audience.
Curtis won early attention in the US working with director David O. Russell in 1999’s Three Kings alongside actors George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, whilst simultaneously working with director Martin Scorsese and actor Nicolas Cage. In this same year, he worked with director Michael Mann and actors Al Pacino and Russell Crowe in The Insider. Since, Curtis has worked steadily internationally, taking a pragmatic approach to his Hollywood career to strengthen his craft and enhance his passion for producing.
In 2004 Curtis formed Maori film production company Whenua Films with cousin Ainsley Gardiner. The pair produced Taika Waititi’s WWII short film Tama Tū (2005), debut feature, geek comedy Eagle vs Shark (2007), and Boy, the feature inspired by Waititi’s Oscar-nominated short Two Cars, One Night. Accumulating a cache of local and international acclaim and awards for each project it was Boy that became the highest grossing local film in NZ history (2010). Whenua Films also ran an NZFC Short Film scheme executive-producing a number of successful shorts, including Hawaikii, Coffee & Allah and Taua.
Other independent producing opportunities came with the UK feature Great Expectations (2012) and US feature Green Card Warriors (2013). In 2013 Curtis created production company Arama Pictures to continue his commitment to indigenous storytelling inspired by the work of mentors Merata Mita, Don Selwyn and Barry Barclay. Arama Pictures has executive produced feature The Dark Horse and short Ahi Ka, a story about Curtis’s grandmother as a child. In 2015 Arama Pictures is set to produce a documentary feature about filmmaker Merata Mita.
Curtis continues to alternate producing local stories with acting roles in Hollywood counting over 50 credits to date between producing and acting in TV, theatre and film.
Ami Drozd (Israel)
Annemarie Jacir (Palestine)
Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir has written, directed and produced over sixteen films. One of Filmmaker’s 25 New Faces of Independent Cinema and Variety’s “Arab New Wave”, two of her films have premiered as Official Selections in Cannes, one in Venice and one in Berlin. Her short film like twenty impossibles (2003) was the first Arab short film in history to be an official selection of the Cannes Film Festival and continued to break ground when it went on to be a finalist for the Academy Awards.
Her second work to debut in Cannes, the critically acclaimed Salt of this Sea (2008), went on to win the FIPRESCI Critics Award and garnered fourteen other international awards including Best Film in Milan. It was the first feature film directed by a Palestinian woman and Palestine’s 2008 Oscar Entry for Foreign Language Film.
Her latest film When I Saw You won Best Asian Film at the Berlin Intl. Festival, Best Arab Film in Abu Dhabi and Best Film in Amiens, Phoenix, and Olympia, and garnered a nomination at the Asian Pacific Screen Awards. It was also Palestine’s 2012 Oscar Entry. Notably, the film’s production was entirely Arab-financed with all Palestinian producers marking a new trend in Arab cinema. Founder of Philistine Films, Annemarie teaches screenwriting and works as an editor and film curator, actively promoting independent cinema, training and working with fellow filmmaker
Surabhi Sharma (India)
Surabhi Sharma studied film direction at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune.1998 She completed a BA in Anthropology and Psychology from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai University. 1991
She is a guest lecturer at Film, Design and Media Schools in the country. She also works as a curator of films programmes. She was the guest festival director of VIBGYOR, 2014, Kerala. She has received the Majlis Fellowship in 2002 and was awarded the Puma Catalyst Award in 2011 by the Britdoc Foundation.