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APSA and BIFF get shotgun wedding

The Brisbane International Film Festival has been canned in favour of a new event, the Brisbane Asia-Pacific Film Festival (BAPFF) which will become the screening room for titles nominated for the city’s Asia-Pacific Screen Awards (APSA).

Backroom politics abound in the desision-making and, while there’s an unusual amount of common sense in the outcome, rumours suggest there are a number of noses left out of joint by the process.

The proof of the plan’s viability or success will come later in the year at the inaugural event and in whether the key personnel decide to stick around.

The announcement (here in full) notes that Brisbane will host “a 16-day international film festival featuring the screening of around 60 films from the Asia Pacific”. It also lays out in general terms the ties that will bind APSA and BPAFF together.

Bringing the two events to the altar has been a slow dance. Originally APSA ran on the Gold Coast as a standalone awards bash before moving to Brisbane. APSA has been criticised for the lack of screenings of nominated films, a situation which was addressed in part last year when BIFF screened a selection of nominated titles. To be fair, neither of the region’s other major awards, the Asian Film Awards and Asia-Pacific Film Festival, present much in the way of public screenings.

The marriage of APSA and BIFF/BPAFF ensures that such screenings will be delivered going forward and that there will be much closer alignment between the two events.

BPAFF will be part-funded by the annual AU$700,000 grant from Screen Queensland, which the funding agency confirmed earlier this month when it announced it was getting out of the film festival business.

Respected BIFF programmer Kiki Fung will move from Screen Queensland to Brisbane City Council to programme the rebranded BPAFF, taking on what appears to be a somewhat simpler job. In what has turned out to be its last hurrah, the 2013 BIFF programmed 137 feature films. If the new BAPFF intends to screen c60 features including the APSA nominees (of which there were 39 last year), Fung should have less work on her plate.

The BAPFF programme need not be exclusively drawn from the APAC region, APSA executive chairman Michael Hawkins has confirmed. Some titles from elsewhere would be accepted. That would sit neatly with APSA’s own selection policy, which last year saw it hand out gongs to films listing Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, the Russian Federation and the UK as their countries of origin.

What has enabled the deal to be done over APSA and BPAFF has little to do with culture and a lot to do with Brisbane’s political ambitions to be considered “Australia’s world city” and to target much stronger business relationships in Asia.

The announcement promises the Council will strive to deliver APSA and BPAFF-related opportunities for the corporate sector to “meet the stars and filmmakers of their countries of origin”. This would mark a significant change from last year’s event, which saw only one individual prize winner in attendance (Best Director Anthony Chen, Ilo Ilo). The London-based Chen was the first juror to be named for the 2014 APSAs, shortly after the confirmation of Iranian director Asghar Farhadi as jury president. Farhadi, an Oscar and three-time APSA winner, will also be the subject of a BAPFF focus.

BAPFF will run 29 November – 14 December. The APSA ceremony will run 11 December.

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