Last week, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), along with the Embassy of Australia, hosted a screening of the acclaimed Iranian drama film A Separation. The film was one of the first projects funded by the Motion Picture Association’s Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) Academy Film Fund—a program that provides four $25,000 grants each year to support the script development of new films across the Asia-Pacific region. Since its release, A Separation has won more than 100 awards worldwide, including an Academy Award, Golden Globe, Golden Bear, and Asia Pacific Screen Award.

Following the screening, MPAA Chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd moderated a Q&A with renowned film director Mostofa Farooki and APSA Chairman Michael Hawkins. Farooki, who won an Academy Film Fund grant in 2014 to develop his upcoming film No Land’s Man, started the conversation with a lighthearted reflection on how he got involved in filmmaking

Farooki didn’t grow up with ambitions to be a filmmaker, but recalled his instinct for storytelling as a kid. “I used to make up stories and tell lies to my friends,” he joked. “Maybe that’s how I started. I never went to any university, so that was my schooling of how to tell a story.”

As an adult, though, Farooki has a much greater appreciation for filmmaking and its impact on people. Reflecting on the power of film, he said they have a unique ability to make people question the world around them. “If you keep watching good movies,” he added, “it will change you in a good way.”


Pictured from left to right: MPAA Chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd, APSA Chairman Michael Hawkins, and director Mostofa Farooki. (Photo credit: Joy Asico)

Later in their conversation, Hawkins touched on the financial struggles that many filmmakers in the Asia-Pacific region face today, and explained how the Academy Film Fund was started as a result.

“We often talk about Hollywood films, Australian films, European films that don’t struggle for budget,” Hawkins said. “They can pull together $100 million to round out a film. But films of the Asia-Pacific region—Bangladesh, Indonesia—these films can be made on a budget of $10,000. And if you can award a filmmaker or someone $25,000, it can double their budget. It can allow them to promote their film throughout the region, throughout the world. And that’s one of our goals—it’s really to bring the films of this dynamic region to the global audience.”

Learn more about the MPA APSA Academy Film Fund here.