PUCHON, South Korea — Paul Fox’s Canuck thriller “The Dark Hours” scooped two awards at the ninth Puchon Intl. Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan), which wrapped Saturday.
As well as winning the top prize, pic shared actress honors, with Kate Greenhouse lauded for her perf as a psychiatrist forced to take part in bizarre games by an escaped patient.
Jury prize, awarded by a panel including directors Brian Yuzna and Park Chul-soo, went to dystopian Belgian fantasy “Nuit noire,” first feature by writer-director Olivier Smolders.
Hindi road movie “Hari Om” copped the Audience Award.
Based in a thriving bedroom community an hour from Seoul, this year’s PiFan took place against vociferous opposition by a much smaller rival, the Real Fantastic Film Festival (Real Fanta), based in the capital. Guerrilla event, with the same dates (July 14-23). It’s headed by filmmaker-scholar Kim Hong-joon who, in a politically motivated decision, was fired from PiFan in December by Puchon’s mayor; he later was joined by his three main programmers.
PiFan was boycotted by most of the South Korean film industry, as well as Seoul’s two main film mags and university professors and students, shocking many international observers. Despite that, new PiFan head Zeong Cho-sin, a mainstream director, and his team managed to put together a full-service international fest that lacked only new Korean pics.
Backed by a $2 million-plus budget, PiFan’s program was reckoned to be at least on a par with last year’s event. In all, 90 features, including three retros, unspooled on eight screens.
Real Fanta, with 34 features on two screens, did include a sidebar of Korean pics from the past year; but the local industry’s backing did not extend to giving the fest any preems. On a shoestring budget of $170,000, Real Fanta managed to garner just over 11,000 admissions (43% occupancy) and will post a small loss, per insiders.
PiFan has not disclosed this year’s admissions but was reckoned by attendees to be considerably down from last year’s 60,000 tix, largely because of the student boycott.
In a humble closing-night speech that didn’t try to hide the difficulties, PiFan topper Zeong promised to return next year “with a better and livelier festival.”
Real Fanta is likely to remain a smallish alternative event in Seoul but with different dates, and a public discussion between the two sides is said to be in the cards.
PiFan winners were:
Best of Puchon: “The Dark Hours” (Paul Fox, Canada).
Jury award: “Nuit noire” (Olivier Smolders, Belgium).
Director: Joaquin Oristrell (“Unconscious,” Spain-Germany-Portugal-Italy).
Actor: comedy group Den-Der-Du-Dee (“Rahtree Returns,” Thailand).
Actress (shared): Kate Greenhouse (“The Dark Hours”), Orsolya Toth (“Johanna,” Hungary).
Short film: “Ryan” (Canada).
Audience award: “Hari Om” (India).