‘Mother’ wraps Busan festival

'Mourning,' 'Nino' share top award

SEOUL — The 16th Busan Film Festival wrapped Friday with a screening of Japanese helmer Harada Masato’s “Chronicle of My Mother,” as organizers pronounced themselves pleased with the upgraded fest.

A highlight of this year’s Busan was the newly constructed Busan Cinema Center, which was praised by cineastes and auds alike for its design and facilities. However, the pressure to finish the event in time for the opening meant the building sprung a few leaks in heavy showers on closing day.

Cinemagoers were undeterred — average attendance at the 300 films screened was estimated at 83%, with 196,177 tickets issued.

The fest’s top New Currents award was shared by Iranian filmmaker Morteza Farshbaf’s black comedy “Mourning,” which also took the Fipresci critics’ award, and “Nino,” Filipino helmer Loy Arcenas’ portrait of the decline of a wealthy family.

“I feel relieved the festival received positive responses from the audiences, by going well without any big accidents or technical hitches,” newly appointed fest director Lee Yong-kwan told Variety.

A major part of the upgrade was moving the Asian Film Market from its slightly scattered venue at a Hyundai beach resort hotel to the Bexco exhibition space.

The move succeeded in terms of scale, with an increase of 113% in the number of exhibition booths and a 38% rise in the number of participants. In all, a total of 109 booths from 177 companies in 28 countries were gathered to meet film industry professionals.

The total number of badge holders was up to 1,080 from 789 last year, and there were 585 orgs from 42 countries at Busan. An average of 2,800 people visited the market every day.

There was a political edge to the fest this year as organizers issued a statement expressing “serious concern” about the recent arrest of six Iranian filmmakers on espionage charges and called for their swift release.

French helmer Luc Besson and Malaysian thesp Michelle Yeoh, who were in Busan to promote “The Lady,” a biopic of Burma democracy activist and Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, welcomed news that the Burmese military regime was freeing a number of dissidents.

Fest took a few notable steps, launching the Busan Cinema Forum as well as making a new start on the Restoration Project Commission of Asian Classical Cinema and World Documentary Exchange (WDE).

WDE is co-founded by Hot Docs, the largest doc fest in North America, and Intl. Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. The WDE network offered meetings with an expert group of Asian documakers and various Asian markets.

Formerly known as the Pusan Promotion Plan, the Asian Project Market upped its number of meetings to 670 from the previous year’s 400. The event also featured the Asian Producers’ Network Round Table, Korea Contents Fund Showcase and Talent Meeting in Busan.

Among prizes, Italian Guido Lombardi’s “LA-Bas. A Criminal Education,” about an African immigrant in Italy who becomes a drug dealer, won the Flash Forward award. The fest’s Mecenat Award for docs went to Korean helmer Park Bae-il’s “Sea of Butterfly,” about a young Korean couple with brain lesion syndrome, and Japanese director Ide Yoko’s “Shoji and Takao,” probing flaws in the criminal justice system that saw two men serve 40 years for a murder they didn’t commit.

The Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (Netpac) award went to Korean Yeun Sang-ho’s toon tale of teen violence, “The King of Pigs.”