Five extraordinary acting talents from the Asia Pacific sector are highlighted in the latest Meet The Filmmakers’ Profile Series – the 2014 Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role…
Ronit Elkabetz – Gett (Dir: Ronit Elkabetz, Shlomi Elkabetz; Israel, Germany France; pictured, above)
Ronit Elkabetz achieves a career highpoint with Gett, in which her character must struggle through a patriarchal court system to finalise a divorce in a culture where the dissolution of marriage means a labyrinthine judicial process. The Beersheba born actress has been a driving force in the Israeli film sector since her debut in Daniel Wachsmann’s 1990 critical hit, The Appointed. In addition to the global commercial success she enjoyed with Eran Kolirin’s 2007 charmer The Band’s Visit, she has been nominated six times for the Best Actress award at the Israeli Film Academy ceremony, winning twice (Hatuna Meuheret, 2001; Bikur Ha-Tizmoret, 2007); snared Best Actress trophies in Mexico (Or, 2004), Mons and Venice (Ve’Lakhta Lehe Isha, 2004) and Thessaloniki (Mabul, 2010; Hatuna Meuheret, 2001); and, was granted one of the Cannes Film Festival’s highest honours when it was announced she would be the 2010 recipient of the France Culture Award. Gett, which has already taken home jury honours from San Sebastian, Oslo, Jerusalem, Hamptons and Hamburg festivals, is the fourth film the actress has made with her brother, director Shlomi Elkabetz.
Nora Aunor – Justice (Dir: Joel Lamangan; Philippines; pictured, right)
The adoration that Filipino cinema audiences have for Nora Aunor is near impossible for western filmgoers to comprehend. Website IMDb lists 192 credits for the 61 year-old acting giant, with 61 international awards to her name (from 66 nominations, no less). Her career highlights include a Silver Bear nomination for Miracle, a 1982 drama that was the first Filipino film selected In Competition in the Berlinale; the ‘Bisato d’Oro’ Best Actress honour in venice for her Brillante Mendoza’s 2012 drama, Thy Womb; and, the ‘Movie Icon 2011’ and ‘Lifetime Achievement 2012’ honours at the prestigious Philippines industry event, The Golden Screen Awards. A rumoured romance with Hollywood star Don Johnson during the location shoot for the 1971 melodrama Lollipops and Roses made her tabloid target; in addition to her screen work, she fills stadiums as a musical superstar.
Tang Wei – The Golden Era (Dir: Ann Hui; China, Hong Kong; pictured, left)
As revered author Xiao Hong in the politically-charged biopic The Golden Era, Tang Wei commands the screen opposite charismatic actor Shaofeng Feng with the same sense of wavering self-worth that Diane Keaton drew upon opposite Warren Beatty in Reds, the 1983 epic historical romance that most resembles director Ann Hui’s film. Having stunned the world of international cinema with her brave and brazen scenes in Ang Lee’s 2007 sexually-explicit dram Lust, Caution, earning Cannes’ Chopard Trophy honours for her revelatory work, Tang Wei solidified her status in PRC cinema with well-chosen turns in popular hits (Ivy Ho’s Crossing Hennessy, 2010; Tae-yong Kim’s romance Late Autumn, 2011; Peter Chan’s actioner Dragon, 2011) before stepping into the coveted role of China’s greatest post-war female writer.
Merila Zare’i – Track 143 (Dir: Narges Abyar; Iran; pictured, right)
A graduate of the revered Ezatollah Entezami’s acting classes, Merila Zare’I made her debut deep within the support cast of Ali Azghar Shadaravan’s Counterattack in 1996, though would soon emerge as one of Iran’s most reliable and compelling young actresses with fearless roles in Tahmineh Milani’s controversial 1999 pro-feminist drama, Two Women; Milani’s equally headline-grabbing 2003 melodrama, The Fifth Reaction; and, Abbas Rafei’s 2006 hot-button religious allegory, The Sun Shines on All Equally. It would be two roles for the great Asghar Farhadi, in About Elly (2009) and A Separation (2011) that brought Zare’i international recognition. Track 143 has earned Merila Zare’i long overdue festival recognition, with the 2014 Fajr Film Festival bestowing Best Actress honours on the star.
Lü Zhong – Red Amnesia (Dir: Wang Xiaoshuai; People’s Republic of China)
One of the PRC’s most respected theatre and film character actresses, Lü Zhong brings a wealth of experience to the widow Deng, the ageing matriarch of a family that both displeases and neglects her. The role, similar in its rich complexity to the aged protagonists in Michael Haneke’s Amour with the added sting of the supernatural mixed in, provides for the actress one of international cinema’s strongest female perspectives of 2014; the review site Cine-Vue, reviewing the film after its Venice berth, said “the drama is sustained by a pitch perfect and award worthy performance by Lü.” Unforgettable as the stoic grandmother in Xiaogang Feng’s blockbuster 2010 hit, Aftershock, her versatility was first seen in Zhuangzhuang Tian’s 1993 festival favourite, The Blue Kite, ahead of memorable turns on-screen in Zhanjun An’s The Parking Attendant in July (2004), Christina Yao’s Empire of Silver (2009) and Wayne Wang’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2011)