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Fest dangles coin for young filmers

Obviously, directors come to the Tokyo Film Festival to screen their films in the hopes of gaining worldwide recognition and good publicity. But you don’t need to be a genius to figure out that the event’s huge monetary award is a big draw on the international fest circuit.

Indonesian director Garin Nugroho may be the best example of how important the Young Cinema category’s prize money can be for young filmmakers. His film “Letter to an Angel” won the category’s Gold Prize at last year’s festival. Nugroho won about $200,000. The entire budget of the award-winning film was only about $180,000 – some of which Nugroho had to collect from students and staff.

With prize money equivalent to a feature film budget – as well as the prestige that comes with winning – the director was able to turn around another full-length feature film in a year with a budget of about $275,000. His next film, “… And the Moon Dances,” has been selected for the non-monetary Intl. Competition category at this year’s fest.

The Young Cinema competition, which carries the lucrative Gold, Silver and Bronze Prizes, is open to films by directors who were born during or after 1960, and who have three or fewer pictures commercially released, or any directorial debut.

In the past, the Gold Prize of $200,000 went to Harry Hook (U.K.) for “The Kitchen Toto” in 1987; Idrissa Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso/France/Switzerland) for “Yaaba” in 1989; Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro (France) for “Delicatessen” in 1991; Julio Medem (Spain) for “Cows” in 1992; Ning Ying (Hong Kong/China) for “For Fun” in 1993; and Nugroho last year. Until 1992, the festival was held every other year.

Probably no other winner was quite as drastically affected as was Nugroho. But for most, the money does provide a certain cushion while they work on new projects.

Medem, on the other hand, who won with “Vacas” (Cows) in 1992, turned around and produced another award-winning film in 1993, “The Red Squirrel.”

The Silver Prize of about $100,000 went to Steve Gomer (U.S.) for “Sweet Lorraine” in 1987; Shunichi Nagasaki (Japan) for “The Enchantment” in 1989; Yeh Hung Wei (Hong Kong) for “Five Girls and a Rope” in 1991; Stan Lai (Taiwan) for “The Peach Blossom Land in 1992; and Hal Hartley (U.S.) for “Amateur” in 1994. (It wasn’t awarded in ’93.)

After his 1992 win, Lai turned around a film in two years.

The Bronze Prize of about $50,000 was started in 1991 and has been given to Jocelyn Moorhouse (Australia) for “Proof,” Wolfgang Murnberger (Austria) for “Heaven or Hell” and Miguel Pereira (Argentina) for “The Last Harvest” in 1991; Tim Robbins (U.S.) for “Bob Roberts” in 1992; Gordian Maugg (Germany) for “The Olympic Summer,” Arto Paragamian (Canada) for “Because Why” and Tsai Minglian (Taiwan/China) for “Rebels of the Neon God” in 1993; and Boaz Yakin (U.S.) for “Fresh” in ’94.

Yakin entered “Fresh” in 1994’s Young Cinema category because he felt the fest was vital.

“Normally I don’t give a damn if (my film) wins…. Then I heard there was money; I thought maybe it would be $5,000 or something,” he says. “But when I heard the amount – $200,000, $100,000, $50,000 – I suddenly ran back to my room to look at what the other movies were…. (The amount) is kind of obscene, but I can’t complain.”

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