BUSAN, South Korea — “The Missing,” first feature by young Taiwanese actor Lee Kang-sheng, shared the top award at the 8th Pusan Intl. Film Festival, which closed Friday. Co-winner was “Tiny Snow Flakes,” a dour drama by Iran’s Alireza Amini that world preemed at the Locarno festival in August.
A dystopian study of two people looking for relatives in modern Taipei, Lee’s pic, originally planned as a featurette to accompany Tsai Ming-liang’s “Goodbye, Dragon Inn,” was expanded to feature length when Tsai decided to lengthen his segment.
Lee is best known for his leading roles in Tsai’s movies, and his own pic looks set to become a regular item on the festival circuit.
The jury of the New Currents Award, led by Swedish helmer Jan Troell, and including Iranian director Jafar Panahi, also gave a special mention to Afghani drama “Osama” by Sedigh Barmak. The lineup of 13 first and second features by Asian directors was heavy with pics on contempo alienation and loneliness.
Biggest unheralded surprise was Hong Ki-seon’s “The Road Taken,” a powerful drama centered on the real-life story of South Korea’s longest-serving political prisoner.
Fest opened Oct. 3 with Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s quirky other-worldly drama, “Doppelganger,” generally well received. Closer, ghost drama “Acacia,” by Park Ki-hyeong (“Whispering Corridors”), drew a blah response.
Though Pusan remains the region’s premier event, regular attendees noted that the selection of non-Korean Asian movies is becoming less broad, with lowbudget “indie” pics (especially from China and Japan) dominating, as in western events. Gone are the days when Pusan could be relied upon to come up with interesting, more mainstream Asian fare that gave the fest its unique character of discovery.
However, in another powerhouse year for local production, the Korean Panorama was adjudged one of the strongest ever, with the world preem of E J-yong’s (cq) “Untold Scandal,” a classy costume drama based on the classic French novel “Les Liaisons Dangeureuses,” topping most crix’s charts. Among pics already screened at other fests, “Memories of Murder” (San Sebastian), “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring” (Locarno, Toronto) and “A Good Lawyer’s Wife” (Venice) also drew major plaudits. “Spring” has already been picked up stateside by Sony Classics.
Fest registered an 83% attendance rate, with some 165,000 tix, about the same as last year. The move this year of most foreign guests and industryites to the beach resort of Haeundae, an hour up the coast from the downtown area of Nampo-dong, went smoothly, with increased synergy between the fest and its three-day industry confab, PPP.
However, a major snafu saw many press and industryites unable to get comp tickets to some screenings.
Fest director Kim Dong-ho told Daily Variety that next year the fest will provide separate P&I screenings in theaters at the Grand Hotel and Busan Cinematheque.
Other highlights included a first-time screening of seven North Korean movies, though without English subtitles and away in Nampo-dong. Iran helmer-producer Mohsen Makhmalbaf was honored with the new Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award.
From next year, the festival will have a fixed spot in the calendar, opening the first Thursday of October, per Kim. Previous editions have roamed between September and November.
Other main prizes:
Fipresci (intl. critics’ assn.) Award
“Deep Breath” (dir. Parviz Shahbazi, Iran)
Netpac (network for the promotion of Asian cinema) Award
“Untold Scandal” (E J-yong, S. Korea).
Special mention: “If You Were Me” (various, S. Korea)
Korean Cinema Award
Park Byeong-yang, Lee Bong-woo
“The Road Taken” (Hong Ki-seon, S. Korea), “Osama” (Sedigh Barmak, Afghanistan-Japan)
Wide Angle (docu) Feature Award
“And Thereafter” (Lee Ho-sup, S. Korea)