Asia Pacific Screen Awards

Asia Pacific Screen Award was established in 2007 with UNESCO’s support. The first anniversary of the award was held during the Cannes International Film Festival on the 16th May 2008. Speaking on UNESCO’s behalf I underlined the importance of the Asia Pacific Screen Award as a shared commitment by UNESCO, to foster a greater understanding of the Asia Pacific’s multiple identities, diverse cultures and their mutual enrichment through promotion of Cinematic Excellence.

Cannes International Film Festival, May 16th 2008

His Excellency the Ambassador Mr. Des Powers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Representing the Director-General of UNESCO Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura,  it is an honour for me to be here today at the launch of the second annual Asia-Pacific Screen Awards, and I would like to thank the Australian Film Commission for organising today’s event . 

The Asia Pacific Screen Awards acclaim the Cinematic Excellence of Asia-pacific films that best reflect the cultural origins and the rich diversity of this important region, where 2/3 of the world population lives..

The Asia-Pacific Screen Awards is a shared commitment by UNESCO, to foster a greater understanding of the Asia Pacific’s multiple identities, diverse cultures and their mutual enrichment through promotion of Cinematic Excellence, commending local productions that reflect cultural origins within our unity in diversity. It is by drawing on this diversity as humans we can better understand the present, and thereby shape a clearer vision for the future.

Today, cultural expression is increasingly transmitted through audiovisual production and distribution, transcending language and national boundaries, and appealing immediately to the eyes and ears of both the literate and the illiterate.  As film draws on the roots of cultural traditions, it is considered an important vehicle not only of culture of a given society but also a mutually enriching contemporary cultural experience for other societies.  

The need for cultural diversity on-screen as a way of fostering  multiple identities and social bonds within communities and beyond cannot be overlooked, as cultural understanding and exchange remain an essential platform for building peace in the minds of men and women.   Fostering cultural diversity, their mutual enrichment and the free flow of ideas by word and image are indeed central features of UNESCO’s activities, and Article 1 of UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (adopted in 2001) deems cultural diversity as “as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature”, andthe plan of action clearly stresses the importance of encouraging the production and dissemination of diversified and quality content in the media, including cinematic productions.  The domestic production of films not only fosters a home-grown perspective, by promoting the use of local languages and strengthening identities, but it also provides new opportunities for dialogue among cultures civilisations and people. 

The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, adopted by UNESCO in 2005, aims at managing these unbalanced flows by supporting dissemination of cultural products, particularly from developing countries. By focusing on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions, the Convention takes into account the fact that, in an increasingly interconnected world, each individual should have a freer and more immediate access to a rich diversity of cultural expressions.

It is within these current global contexts that the Asia-Pacific Screen Awards can be viewed as unique in its contribution to the promotion of  cultural expression and diversity, focusing on a region which is perhaps the most diverse in the world in terms of ethnicity, belief systems, language and development levels.   The awards bring a multitude of cultural expressions to the forefront, covering over 70 countries, from Lebanon to Japan and from Antarctica to Aortic, and recognising a wealth of talent shaped by various belief systems and civilizations.  Given the radical change in the modes of creation and consumption of culture, the question arises as to whether everyone has the opportunity to enrich themselves through diverse cultural experiences expressed through moving images in the screen, unless we consciously promote and acclaim quality cultural products by recognising their merits and excellence.

Asia Pacific Screen Awards thereby work to achieve the empowerment of local, independent producers through recognition, and enable film distributors and broadcasters to identify good content, keeping creativity and local cultures alive in this region.

In a world in need of greater solidarity, it is has become increasingly important to redefine the relationship between culture and development and the Screen Awards clearly serve as a step in the right direction, recognising, both off-screen and on-screen, the dynamic role that individuals can play in building a continuously flowing and unifying peaceful dialogue through audio-visual media, towards the vital 3-D paradigm of diversity, dialogue and development.   

UNESCO re-affirms its commitment to support this important initiative, which in UNESCO’s view is a trailblazer in providing an inclusive opportunity for a dialogue among cultures and peoples in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.

Thank you

Wijayananda Jayaweera

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