One of the first projects supported by the MPA APSA Academy Film Fund, Nader and Simin: A Separation by acclaimed Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi, has won the Golden Bear Award for Best Film at the Berlin Film Festival.

Nader and Simin: A Separation also won the Silver Bear Awards for Best Actor and Best Actress, awarded to the actress ensemble and the actor ensemble in the film.

Farhadi received a US $25,000 grant through the MPA APSA Academy Film Fund, a total of US$100,000 in development grants supported wholly by the Motion Picture Association (MPA) and available exclusively to the members of the Academy of the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA).

Asghar Farhadi is a member of the APSA Academy, a growing body of Asia Pacific’s most influential names in film, made up of past APSA Winners, Nominees, International Jury and Nominations Council members.

Nader and Simin: A Separation charts the unravelling of a marriage, examines the conflict between strict religious observance and the shifting values of the educated urban elite in Iranian society. It is Farhadi’s fifth feature film.

Farhadi’s previous film Darbareye Elly (About Elly), won the Silver Bear in 2009 and won the APSA Grand Jury Prize and Best Screenplay Award in 2009. It was the Islamic Republic of Iran’s official submission in last year’s Academy Awards.

Four projects received funding through the inaugural MPA APSA Academy Film Fund and Nader and Simin: A Separation is the first of these to be completed. The other recipients were Sergey Dvortsevoy (Kazakhstan), Peng Tao (People’s Republic of China) and three-time APSA Winner, Lee Chang-dong (Republic of Korea).

APSA Chairman Des Power said: “This is tremendously exciting news for Asghar Farhadi, who is undoubtedly one of Iran’s finest filmmakers, and I am particularly pleased that APSA, through the MPA APSA Academy Film Fund, contributed to the development of the this wonderful film.”

“The development of the film fund was an important step for APSA. Not only are we acclaiming and promoting the outstanding work of the Asia-Pacific region through our Awards Ceremony and documentary programs, we are now making a tangible contribution to the region’s production slate at a crucial stage of development.”

Mike Ellis, President and Managing Director Asia Pacific for the MPA said: “We were delighted to hear news that Asghar Farhadi and his creative team had won the Golden Bear Award and Silver Bear Awards for Best Actor and Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival. Nadir and Simin: A Separation is the first of the MPA APSA Academy Film Fund projects to have been completed and screened to an audience, and we could not be happier with the achievement. This is a spectacular acknowledgement of the work of our Academy members, and we are thrilled that our partnership with APSA has contributed to the development of such wonderful projects.”

In solidarity with jailed Iranian director Jafar Panahi, the Berlin Film Festival presented a special tribute with his films showing in four different sections of the program. Jafar Panahi is also a member of the APSA Academy and sat on the inaugural Jury of the Asia Pacific Screen Awards in 2007. The Berlin Film Festival had invited Panahi to participate on its 2011 jury shortly before his sentencing in December 2010 when he and fellow filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof (Director/Producer of 2010 APSA official entry The White Meadows) were sentenced to six years in jail for a charge of making films against the Iranian regime.

Asghar Farhadi also paid tribute to Jafar Panahi in his acceptance speech.

“I would like to take this opportunity to think of the people in my country, the country where I grew up, where I learned history,” he said.

“This is a great people, a patient people, a good people. I want to think of Jafar Panahi. I really think his problems will soon be solved and I hope he will be standing here next year.”

The following films from the Asia Pacific also received prizes and special mentions at the 61st Berlin Film Festival:

Best Short Film: Night Fishing (Paranmanjang) by Park Chan-wook and Park Chan-kyong (Republic of Korea)

Special Mention Generation Kplus Children’s Jury: The Flood (Mabul) by Guy Nattiv (Israel, France, Germany, Canada)

Special Mention Ecumenical Jury (Panorama Section): Invisible (Lo Roim Alaich) by Michal Aviad (Israel, Germany)

FIPRESCI Prize (Forum section): Heaven’s Story by Zeze Takahisa (Japan)

CINEMA fairbindet Prize: Wind and Fog (Bad o Meh) by Mohammad Ali Talebi (Islamic Republic of Iran)

APSA is an international cultural initiative of the Queensland Government, Australia and a unique collaboration with UNESCO and FIAPF-International Federation of Film Producers Associations. APSA acclaims films from more than 70 countries and areas; one third of the earth; and half the world’s film output.

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The Asia Pacific Screen Academy expresses its respect for and acknowledgement of the South East Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners of country, including the custodial communities on whose land works are created and celebrated by the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. We acknowledge the continuing connection to land, waters and communities. We also pay our respects to Elders, past and emerging. We recognise the integral role Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and First Nations peoples continue to play in storytelling and celebration spaces.

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