The nominees for the 13th Asia Pacific Screen Awards have been announced, revealing the 37 films from 22 countries and territories across the region in competition. Once again, five visually intriguing and thematically diverse pictures are in the running for the Best Animated Feature Film prize.
Mosley [New Zealand/China]
Dir. Kirby Atkins; Prod. Daniel Story, Bill Boyce
Mosley is the patriarch of a family of thoriphants – elephant-like creatures with facial features of a sheep – whose son discovers a collection of hidden, magical cave drawings. The pictures suggest that their breed once stood upright, had hands and were not just the servants to humans that they exist as now, performing back-breaking yard work and traded as cattle. Mosley decides to make the perilous journey to the land of Kinesareath to find the mysterious uprights and ask for their help to free his family, but his adventure only leads to disappointment while also being trailed by a brutal masked hunter toting a bow and arrow. Only then does Mosley realise his own strength, forcing himself to stand up to his family’s enemies and, in doing, so potentially unlock the secret of his race.
Penguin Highway [Japan]
Dir. Hioryasu Ishida; Prod. Yoko Matsuzaki, Koji Yamamoto
The mystery of the sudden appearance of penguins in a Japanese village will make fourth-grader Aoyama’s summer completely unforgettable. Aoyama is smart and studies diligently, writing down everything he learns, with dreams of winning his first Nobel Prize in just under 4,000 days. His intelligence and grown-up attitude allow him to make friends with “The Lady”, a young woman who works at his dentist’s office. But she has a special power involving the penguins and she gives the young man the opportunity to solve her strange and magical abilities. What is her relationship with the penguins, why do they appear and disappear as if by will, and what will Aoyama learn about himself in the process? Penguin Highway is an adaptation of a 2010 Japanese science-fiction novel, written by Tomihiko Morimi.
Underdog [S. Korea]
Dir. Oh Sung-yoon, Lee Choon-Baek; Prod. Oh Sung-yoon
Moong-Chi has lived a happy life with his owners ever since he was brought home as a puppy. However, when he is taken on what he thinks is just another car ride, Moong-Chi is abandoned in the middle of a forest. Unable to believe it at first, Moong-Chi soon meets a group of dogs that have also been abandoned by their owners and he must accept his new reality. As their story of survival begins, the dogs become accustomed to the street life. But soon they hear about a potential paradise where every dog can live happily away from the demolition and brutal dog hunters and they all head north to find their new home. Oh Sung-yoon previously directed 2011 APSA-winning animated feature Leafie.
The Unseen (Kaghaz-Pareh Ha) [Iran]
Dir./Prod. Behzad Nalbandi
When Tehran hosts visiting foreign dignitaries, the local authorities clean up the city’s image through the controversial process of “urban beautification.” Those who are deemed unsavory are rounded up – drug users, prostitutes and the homeless who sleep in cardboard boxes on sidewalks and who they would rather remain unseen on the arrival of international politicians and VIPs. But what happens when these very important people have left? The men are released after a few days, but the women are kept as wards of the state in perpetuity. An animated documentary made using hand-crafted cardboard miniatures and the voices of women to tell their story, one that has been five years in the making. A story that shows how the face of a city can change, but what is underneath often does not.
Weathering with You [Japan]
Dir. Makoto Shinkai; Prod. Genki Kawamura
It is the first year of high school for Hodaka and he runs away from his home on an outlying island of Japan and goes to Tokyo. He falls into poverty quickly, but after some days of solitude he finds work as a freelance writer for a suspicious occult magazine. As if taking a cue from his own life, it rains day after day. And then one day, Hodaka meets Hina, a girl that catches his attention among the hustle and bustle of the big city. She is cheerful and strong-willed, but an orphan who lives with her little brother. She also has a strange power: the ability to change the weather around her so the rain can stop, the clouds part and the sun shines through. Makota Shinkai directed Your Name., which is the highest-grossing anime movie of all time in Japan.
The 2019 APSA Youth, Animation and Documentary International Jury is comprised of award-winning Berlin-based Syrian filmmaker Diana El Jeiroudi (Silvered Water), Animal Logic (Australia) founder and MD Zareh Nalbandian (exec producer Happy Feet, The LEGO Movie, Peter Rabbit) and Asia Pacific Screen Awards Chair Garin Nugroho (Indonesia).
Winners will be announced live from the APSA ceremony on November 21 in Brisbane, Australia. See asiapacificscreenawards.com for more information.