Top honors go to 'Flower,' 'Life Track'

See Winners

With a few notable exceptions, hardcore arty pics with social themes again went away the winners at the Pusan Intl. Film Festival, which ran Oct. 4 to today.

Of the 11 films in the fest’s only competitive section, New Currents, prizes of $30,000 were each awarded to Chinese-South Korean production “Life Track,” Malaysia’s “Flower in the Pocket,” and Thailand’s “Wonderful Town.”

“Life Track,” a static rural drama about an armless man and a mute woman on the run from police, and “Flower,” a slow-moving item centered on two schoolkids, saw many international crix bailing during the screenings.

Well-liked, however, was “Wonderful Town,” a beautifully modulated, slow-burning romance, set in a post-tsunami Thai village by writer-director Aditya Assarat

Iranian helmer Dariush Mehrjui headed the five-member jury, which also included directors Romania’s Cristian Mungiu, Serbia’s Goran Paskaljevic and South Korea’s Lee Chang-dong, plus mainland Chinese actress Yu Nan.

At the press conference today, Mehrjui made a point of mentioning three other movies that generated jury discussion: Filipino street-kid drama “Tribe,” Taiwanese criss-crosser “God Man Dog” and Japanese drama “Asyl.” The first and last of these had drawn positive reaction during the fest but won no prizes.

Ignored by the main jury was China’s “The Red Awn,” which won the Fipresci (international critics association) jury award. Well-mounted, professional helming debut by scripter Cai Shangjun pic generated positive response during the fest.

Netpac Award, focused on Asian cinema, was shared between accessible dramedy “Hello, Stranger,” centered on North Korean refugees in the South, and another South Korean pic, arty “With a Girl of Black Soil,” which earlier preemed at the Venice fest.

Fest reported a record attendance this year, at 198,603 admissions, up by some 35,000 on 2006’s total. Figure was marginally up on its previous record of some 193,000 at its 10th anni in 2005.

And the winners are…

NEW CURRENTS AWARDS
“Life Track”, Jin Guanghao, China-S. Korea
“Flower in the Pocket”, Liew Seng-tat, Malaysia
“Wonderful Town”, Aditya Assarat, Thailand

FIPRESCI AWARD
“The Red Awn”, Cai Shangjun, China

NETPAC AWARD, SHARED
“Hello, Stranger”, Kim Dong-hyun, S. Korea
“With a Girl of Black Soil”, Jeon Soo-il, S. Korea

AUDIENCE AWARD
“Flower in the Pocket”, Liew Seng-tat, Malaysia

SONJE AWARD, BEST KOREAN SHORT, SHARED
“Woong’s Story”, Lee Ha-song, S. Korea
“A Man under the Influence”, Jung July, S. Korea

WOONPA AWARD, BEST KOREAN DOCU
“Tear Drops”, Mun Jeong-hyun, S. Korea

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