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AWARD WINNING AUSTRALIAN FILM AT TELLURIDE
5 September 2011
The Palace, a multi-award winning Australian short film has just enjoyed its US premiere to a sell out audience at the Telluride Film Festival, the week after being nominated for both an Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Award (AACTA) and Best Screenplay in the Australian Writer’s Guild Awards.
Set during the opening moments of the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus (a small island in the East Mediterranean), The Palace details the heart wrenching true story of a Greek-Cypriot family struggling to survive, and a young Turkish Cypriot soldier trying to retain his humanity amidst the bloodshed. The film was shot on location in the battle scarred streets of Nicosia, Cyprus – along the United Nations Green Line that still cuts the bitterly divided island in two – between the ‘Greek’ Cypriot south, and Turkish north.
The Palace is one of a handful of shorts selected for Telluride, held in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The festival is seen by many as an indicator of possible success at the Academy Awards.
Anthony Maras, director of The Palace says, "It really is like a dream come true. So many of my favorite films, from Blue Velvet to The King’s Speech, have premiered at Telluride. It is a real honour."
The Palace has won top honours in every competitive festival at which it has screened – taking out Best Short Fiction Film at the Sydney Film Festival, Best Australian Short Film at the Melbourne International Film Festival, and the Audience Award at the Adelaide Film Festival. As a result of these wins the Australian-born, Cyprus-shot production is eligible for consideration for the 2012 Academy Awards.
On The Palace’s Oscar’s chances, Maras remains hopeful but reserved.
"Going to these festivals has made me realize just how many breathtaking short films are being made out there, and what a long road lies ahead before even thinking about the Oscars. We’re just so happy and honoured to be a part of Telluride!" says Maras.
Maras’ recent nomination in the ‘Australian Academy Awards’ (AACTA Awards) is somewhat of a milestone - his third nomination in a row (for the awards formerly known as the Australian Film Institute Awards). Maras won the AFI Award for Best Short Fiction Film with his short film Spike Up in 2007, and was nominated for the same award with his debut film Azadi in 2005.
Preparations with international partners are now underway to host a series of screenings at some of the world’s most well-known conflict zones, including the Berlin Wall and along the UN Green Zone in Nicosia, Cyprus - the world’s last divided capital city.
"We hope the impact of the film will be felt way beyond Australia and Cyprus, beyond film festivals and cinemas" says Maras.
Starring Erol Asfin, Tamer Arslan and Kevork Malikyan (Midnight Express, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), The Palace is based on interviews and factual accounts by both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, large numbers of whom remain in exile in Australia. With strict attention to detail, the production team scoured Cyprus for genuine locations, uniforms, props and weapons used in the 1974 war.
"The bunker in which the family is hiding during the opening scene is the real thing. We found it intact in a small run-down hotel near the Ledra Street border checkpoint. The sandbags and gun turrets haven’t moved an inch since 1974," says Maras.
By the end of the intense two-month Cyprus conflict, hundreds of thousands were made refugees, thousands killed, and more than 1600 civilians were missing – the bones of many still being dug up to this day by the United Nations Committee on Missing Persons.
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