Having already announced its dates for 2017, Brisbane has now pulled the plug on city’s Asia-Pacific Film Festival (BAPFF), which took over from the Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF) three years ago.
When the change from BIFF to BPAFF was announced, it was justified as a move to provide better support for the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA). The change from BPAFF to no festival is now also being justified as providing better support for the APSAs.
Brisbane stepped in to rescue the APSAs when the original sponsors (and Gold Coast location) withdrew their support for the event. The APSAs have always struggled to form a connection with the local community because it’s been so difficult to access (legally) many of the titles competing. The change from BIFF to BAPFF was supposed to help improve that access, but it hasn’t been overly successful.
The marriage of the APSAs and BPAFF was never an easy one, with the festival programme built around titles from the Asia Pacific – but not necessarily those which were represented at the APSAs, and not necessarily those APSA-nominated titles which audiences might expect to see. As any festival programmer knows, attracting higher-profile festival titles to non-competitive festivals can be hard yakka. Australia has a couple of much higher-profile festivals in Melbourne and Sydney. Although both festivals run earlier in the year than the APSAs and BAPFF, the higher profile titles from the APAC region often try to do whatever theatrical business they can as close to MIFF as possible.
The APSAs have long been criticised for a leaning towards European arthouse sensibilities, rather than Asian film, and the fact that they’ve survived for a decade is impressive in itself – all the more so in a state not often celebrated for its love of multi-culturalism.
Brisbane will continue to support and present the APSAs, which is the good news out of the announcement. The city will also continue to promote APSA titles by presenting titles at other events during the year rather than via a dedicated festival. A smaller number of screenings will be presented to coincide with the APSAs, which this year will run on 23 November.
Top image: 2016 APSA Best Film winner and BAPFF selection Cold of Kalandar