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The Locarno Film Festival will pay tribute to leading South Korean actor Song Kang-ho, marking the first time this prestigious prize has gone to an Asian film personality.

Song, 52, who made his big screen debut at 29 in Hong Sang-soo’s edgy “The Day a Pig Fell into the Well” (1996), has since “never stopped experimenting,” said the Swiss fest dedicated to indie cinema in a statement.

The fest also underlined the versatile talent’s masterful turns in works by South Korean filmmakers such as  Bong Joon-ho, Hong Sang-soo, Jee- woon Kim and Park Chan-wook that have propelled him to top star status at home and made him an international name.

His standout roles include turns in big-budget blockbuster “Shiri” (1999) directed by Kang Je-gyu; Kim Jee-woon’s wrestling comedy “The Foul King” (2000); Park Chan-wook’s “Joint Security Area” (2000); “Sympathy for Mr Vengeance” (2002) and “Thirst” (2009), Bong Joon-ho’s “Memories of Murder” (2003) and “Snowpiercer” in 2013, just to name a few. 

Song is at Cannes this year as protagonist of Bong’s “Parasite,” which is world premiering in competition.

“So far the recipients of this prize have all been American or European; but for me it was important to open it up to Asian cinema,” Locarno festival artistic director Lili Hinstin, who is at her debut edition, said in the statement.

She described Song as the “peerless interpreter of the variety and intensity of emotions generated by Korean cinema,” emphasizing the diversity of his work.

Song will receive the award on August 12 in Locarno’s Piazza Grande. He will also be holding a panel discussion the next day.

Previous Excellence Award recipients include, Ethan Hawke, Mathieu Kassovitz, Edward Norton, John Malkovich, Juliette Binoche and Isabelle Huppert. 

The 72nd edition of Locarno Film Festival will run August 7-17.