Bangkok's Kinaree nod goes to 'XXY'

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BANGKOK, Thailand -- "XXY," the debut film from Argentina's Lucia Puenzo, on Sunday won the best film award the fifth annual Bangkok International Film Festival came to a close. The special jury prize went to Chinese director Li Yu for "Lost in Beijing."

"XXY," a drama about the challenges faced by a young hermaphrodite, previously won the Critics Week grand prize at the Festival de Cannes. Receiving the Golden Kinaree award from Thailand's Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, Puenzo was jubilant.

"It's been a fantastic experience and I've been amazed with everyone. I got the chance to see seven movies, and I was moved by the very intelligent questions asked at the long Q&A session after the screening of 'XXY,' " Puenzo said.

"Before We Fall in Love Again," by Malaysian director James Lee, won best regional film award, and the Japanese film "Eternally Yours," directed by Atsushi Ogata, earned the Jameson short film award.

Producer Ray Harryhausen ("Jason and the Argonauts," "Clash of the Titans") received a lifetime achievement award but was unable to attend the 11-day festival because of a recent accident.

An estimated 20,000 people saw the almost 140 films that screened at the SF World Cinema, where occupancy rose to more than 40%, nearly doubling the theater's average attendance, a spokesperson said.

Underscoring the festival's organizational problems, however, theaters were half full for both the opening film, Hungary's "Children of Glory," and for the closing night's world premiere of the Thai action film "Muay Thai Chaiya."

A few movies sold out, like "The Rebel," which, with a budget of $3 million, is the most expensive Vietnamese movie ever made. The Weinstein Co. was said to be negotiating a purchase of home video rights to the film (HR 7/27).

In the wake of September's coup, festival organizers at the Tourism Authority of Thailand had a tough time getting the event off the ground. A spokesman said it was unlikely that the government agency would ever again plan the event but might continue in a supporting role.

Still, the festival's chief officer, Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, remained upbeat.

"I think there was enhanced audience enjoyment, more movies with Thai subtitles and a wider selection," he said. "There weren't many programming changes, and people had a fun time."
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