The visionaries behind some of the Asia Pacific’s finest cinematic works of the past year feature in the last of the Meet the Filmmakers Profile Series – Best Achievement in Directing…

Im_Kwon-taek_photoIM KWON-TAEK for REVIVRE
Veteran auteur Im Kwon-taek (pictured, above) was mentored by the great Chung Chang-hwa in the vibrant filmmaking centre Seoul through the late 1950’s. For the next 15 years, his films populated the domestic box office, the wildly prolific director’s consummate understanding of his craft fully utilised on such box office hits as Nilniri (1966), Return of the Left-handed Man (1968), Yogeom (1971) and Wives on Parade (1974). His output became more focussed and personal by the 1980’s with Ticket (1986), the Golden Bear nominated Gilsoddeum (1986), Golden Lion nominated The Surrogate Woman (1987) and Aje aje bara aje (1989) all earning raves outside of his homeland. The end of the 2000s confirmed his status as a director of global standing and Korea’s finest modern filmmaker confirmed, thanks to works such as Taebek sanmaek (1994), Chunhyangdyun (2000) and Low Life (2004). With a Cannes Palme d’Or (for perhaps his finest work, 2002’s Painted Fire) and a Berlinale Golden Bear Lifetime Achievement Award to his name, Im Kwon-taek is a giant of world cinema.

ZvyagintsevHailing from the frozen landscapes of Siberia, Andrey Zvyagintsev impacted the world of film and theatre as an actor, a craft that he honed under Russian acting great Eugene Lazarev at Russian Academy of Theatre Arts. Turning to directing for a multi-episode arc of the TV series The Black Room, his talent behind the camera announced itself with his triumphant debut, The Return; epic in scope yet intimate in emotion, the film earned awards the world over including five at the Venice Film Festival. His follow-up, The Banishment, earned lead actor Konstantin Lavronenko a Best Actor prize at Cannes 2007; in 2011, his drama Elena earned him his first APSA for direction (as well as a Best Actress nod for Nadezhda Markina) and the Un Certain Regard honour at Cannes. Returning to Cannes in 2014 with Leviathan was a warm experience; the haunting drama took home Best Screenplay honours.

Charlie's CountryOne of the most enigmatic filmmakers in international cinema, Dutch-born, Tasmania-based Rolf De Heer has amassed one of the most eclectic, idiosyncratic bodies of work of any living director. Debuting with the much-loved family classic Tale of a Tiger in 1984, the prolific De Heer crafted beautifully intimate, slightly offbeat works that often played to far more receptive audiences beyond his adopted homeland. Films such as Incident at Raven’s Gate (1988), the cult classic Bad Boy Bubby (1993), The Quiet Room (1996), Dance Me to My Song (1998; with cerebral palsy sufferer Heather Rose unforgettable in the lead role), The Old Man Who Read Love Stories (2001; with Richard Dreyfuss) and domestic drama Alexandra’s Project (2003). However, it will be collaborations with the iconic indigenous actor (and fellow APSA nominee) David Gulpilil for which De Heer will be remembered – The Tracker (2002), Ten Canoes (2006) and Charlie’s Country (2013). “David Gulpilil is a friend, and he began to get himself into deeper strife with alcohol. I thought I better find out what could be done, if anything, and the one thing that David really wanted to do was make another film together,” de Heer has said.

Nuri-Bilge-Ceylan-2Born in Istanbul, Nuri Bilge Ceylan grew into a young man in the midst of turbulent social unrest while attending the city’s Technical University in the late 1970’s. While trying to forge different professional interests (chemical and electrical engineering, amongst them), Ceylan attended screenings at the Taksim Cinematheque and soon his passion for cinema was in full flight; a film course at Mimar Sinan University and the acceptance of his first short, Cocoon, into the Cannes Film Festival began what would become one of Turkey’s most celebrated directing careers. Brazenly taking on a thematic trilogy with his first features The Small Town (1997), Clouds of May (1999) and Cannes Grand Prix winner Distant (2002), Ceylan was soon after a sought-after international force. His follow-up, Climates (2006), in which Ceylan also acted, won the Cannes FIPRESCI Jury Prize; in 2008, Three Monkeys earned the filmmaker the Cannes Best Director honour; in 2011, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia earned Ceylan his second Grand Prix trophy at Cannes. The two-time APSA-nominated Winter Sleep would continue the director’s love affair with the Croisette; this year, it earned Ceylan the coveted Palme d’Or and a second FIPRESCI honour.

tales-1From the training ground of Tehran’s College of Dramatic Arts, Rakshan Bani-etemad forged a career for herself that has seen 60 year-old emerge as one of Iran’s most revered filmmakers. She hinted at a strong voice for social justice with her early documentaries produced for local television, with titles such as ‘Economic Measures at the Time of War’ and ‘Consumer Culture’. Her debut feature, the big business satire Off The Limits (1986), proved a blockbuster hit, as did her follow-ups, the dark comedy Canary Yellow (1988) and bourgeoisie send-up, Foreign Currency (1989). The critics, who had been unkind to her early work, and international audiences, starved of access to her films, were awakened by 1992’s Nargess, a powerful piece of social commentary that earned Bani-etemad the Best Film of the Year honour from the Iranian Film Critics body and the Fajr Film Festival Best Director award – the first ever bestowed upon a woman. From this point, the honours for her subsequent work became constant – a Locarno Bronze Leopard for The Blue Veiled (1995); the FIPRESCI Prize at Montreal for The May Lady (1999); the Netapac honour at Karlovy Vary for Under the City’s Skin (2001), the top-grossing Iranian film of its year; her second Fajr Film Festival directing nod for Gilane (2005); an APSA for Best Directing in 2007 for Mainline. Known as ‘The First Lady of Iranian Cinema’, Rakshan Bani-etemad brings to Brisbane her latest, Tales – a film that was shelved under the Ahmadinejad rule until a more culture-friendly government was in place – with a Venice Best Screenplay honour attached.

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