Indonesia's Donny Damara shines at the Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong. He won the Best Actor Award.
Donny Damara sprung up from his seat in shock, when his name was called out as the best actor for the role he played in Lovely Man, at the Asian Film Awards held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, on Monday last week. He proceeded to give a warm hug to Teddy Soeriaatmadja, the movie director, and said: "We did it finally." Donny played a transvestite sex worker confronted by his teenage daughter in a story that received lukewarm response from the world's most populous Islamic nation.
In the awards, which was organized by the Hong Kong International Film Festival and an event held annually since 2007, Donny beat four of his competitors, including the awards' starsChen Kun for The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, and Andy Lau, for A Simple Life. The other two were Park Hae Il, of War of the Arrows, from South Korea, and Yakusho Koji, who played in Chronicle of My Mother, an entry from Japan.
Donny acknowledged that when his name appeared in the list of prospective winners, he was aware that his competition was quite tough. "I did not feel discouraged, actually, but my competitors were pretty scary," he said. His competition was strong indeed. Andy Lau, for example, had been named best actor for his role in A Simple Life at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival 2011, and throughout his career has collected best actor accolades, including at the Hong Kong Film Awards, considered the most prestigious film awards in Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan. The awards show is aimed at showcasing the region's movie talent, and this year 32 films from across the region did battle for the 14 prizes.
This time, however, Andy Lau had to be content with the trophy of favourite actor chosen by the people. As for Park Hae Il, he had been named best actor for his role in War of The Arrows at a number of award shows in his country, including the Daejong Film Awards, in Korea.
In Lovely Man, Donny plays the role of Syaiful, a transvestite in Jakarta who each night satisfies the sexual needs of his customers. But one day he meets with Cahaya (played by Raihaanun), his daughter who he had abandoned in the village. Syaiful initially rejects Cahaya, but later is unable to deny his paternal instincts for a daughter.
Donny plays dual roles in this movieone of a father, and another of a transvestite. For the role, he shaved off all the hairs on his body. "The shooting took place every day, morning till night. If in the morning the hairs grew back again, I had to shave it all once again," he said.
John Badalu, a member of the jury from Indonesia, admitted that Donny's competitors were quite hard to beat. "But Donny played so well and coincidentally his role was unique and could not be compared to the roles of other actors in this category," said the former director of the Q! Film Festival.
Other than John, the judges this year came from various film institutions and countries, such as Christian Jeune from the Cannes Film Festival, Christoph Terhechte from the Berlin Film Festival, Cho Young Jung from Busan Film Festival, Kenji Ishizaka from Tokyo International Film Festival, and Jacob Wong from the Hong Kong Film Festival.
The others comprised Peggy Chiao, a Taiwanese film producer; Patricia Cheng, a Hong Kong producer; Kong Rithdee, film critic from Thailand; Xie Fei, lecturer at the Beijing Film Academy; and Ronald Arguelles, film producer from the Philippines. President of the jury was Eric Khoo, a renowned film director from Singapore.
This year Indonesia recorded important achievements in this event: two awards and three nominations. This is a noteworthy achievement considering that Indonesia had won only a single award before, when Rahayu Supanggah was named the best composer in 2007 for the score of Opera Jawa.
This year an award also went to the director of the film Kebun Binatang (The Zoo), Edwin, who won the Edward Yang New Talent Award. Teddy Soeriaatmadja was nominated as best film director, but was beaten by Iranian Asghar Farhadi for his movie A Separation, which also won the best film award.
From the film The Mirror Never Lies, the following nominations were securedGita Novalista as best newcomer and Rachmat Syaiful as best cinematographer. Donny hopes these achievements can become a turning point to fix the problems faced by Indonesian movies, especially on the matter of government policies facilitating the work of filmmakers.