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SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian movie highlighting the desperate state of many Aboriginal communities won top prize at the third annual Asia Pacific Screen Awards on Thursday in which 37 films from 16 countries were competing.
The movie "Samson and Delilah," directed by Warwick Thornton, won the Camera d'Or prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, and has done the rounds of international film festivals this year as well as being nominated for 13 Australian Film Institute Awards.
It tells the story of two Aboriginal teenagers living in squalor and highlights the desperate state of many Aboriginal communities where glue-sniffing, alcohol abuse and violence are common, although it ends on a more hopeful note.
Thornton, who was raised in Alice Springs in the heart of Australia, cast two non-actor children, Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson, in the lead roles.
It was the first time an Australian film was nominated in the best feature film category and it was up against four others: "Forever Enthralled" by Chen Kiage from China and Lu Chuan's war epic "Nanjing! Nanjing!," Iranian Asghar Farhadi's "Darbareye Elly (About Elly"), and Israeli Elia Suleiman's "The Time that Remains."
""Samson & Delilah" has a very special something - the integrity of the filmmaker, the passion and the sincerity of it is really beyond comparison," a member of the judging jury, South Korean writer/director Gina Kim, said in a statement.
Japan's Masahiro Motoki received the award for best actor for his role as a cellist/mortician in "Okuribito" (Departures) and the best actress award went to South Korea's Kim Hye-ja for "Madeo" (Mother).
China's "Nanjing! Nanjing!" (City of Life and Death) received two awards -- Lu Chuan for achievement in directing and Cao Yu for achievement in cinematography.
The Asia Pacific Screen Awards were presented on the Gold Coast in the state of Queensland with more than 800 guests from the Asia-Pacific film industry.
The finalists were determined by an international jury headed by Chinese director and producer Huang Jianxin.
The awards were set up as an international culture initiative by the Australian state government of Queensland with a record 212 entries from 43 countries this year.
Here is a list of the winners:
BEST FEATURE FILM - "Samson & Delilah," Australia
- Director of "The Time That Remains," Elia Suleiman, Israel
- Director of "Darbareye Elly," Asghar Farhadi, Iran
BEST PERFORMANCE ACTOR - Masahiro Motoki, "Okuribito," Japan
BEST PERFORMANCE ACTRESS - Kim Hye-ja. "Madeo," South Korea
ACHIEVEMENT DIRECTING - Lu Chuan, "Nanjing! Nanjing!," China
ACHIEVEMENT CINEMATOGRAPHY - Cao Yu. " Nanjing! Nanjing!"
BEST SCREENPLAY - Asghar Farhadi. "Darbareye Elly," Iran
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM - "Hashmatsa" (Defamation)
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM - "Mary and Max," Australia
BEST CHILDREN'S FEATURE FILM - "Ye Haeng Ja" (A Brand New Life), South Korea/France
UNESCO AWARD - "Sawan Baan Na" (Agrarian Utopia), Thailand
FIAPF AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT FILM - Isao Matsuoka
Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, editing by Paul Casciato