'Parasite,' 'Give Me Liberty' Among Winners at Macao Film Festival Awards

Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival
'Parasite'

The fourth edition of the Asian fest also honored Australia's Oscar entry 'Buoyancy,' while 'Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains' was named best Chinese feature.

Bong Joon Ho's Parasite on Tuesday night added yet another trophy to its ever-expanding haul this awards season by picking up the Asian Blockbuster Film prize at the 4th International Film Festival and Awards Macau (IFFAM).

In a taped message, Bong thanked the organizers for the honor and said, "I have never directed a blockbuster film. To be honest, I'm not too familiar with the word 'blockbuster.'" He added that "when I think about why you're giving me the award named 'blockbuster,' it might not be referring to the general American term of 'blockbuster' ... but it means to be loved not only by Asian audiences but by a worldwide audience. I would assume this award is for Parasite as a blockbuster in the audience's mind, not in box office gross."

The award was presented by IFFAM talent ambassador Juliette Binoche, which was accepted by Parasite producer Sin-ae Kwak.

IFFAM's international competition category saw Give Me Liberty win best film honors. Directed by Russian emigre writer-director Kirill Mikhanovsky, the film, which bowed in January at the Sundance Film Festival, drew inspiration from Mikhanovsky's experience as a Milwaukee medical transport driver.

The best director prize went to U.K.-based helmer Fyzal Boulifa for his debut feature Lynn + Lucy. The pic also bagged a best actress nod for Roxanne Scrimshaw.

Sarm Heng picked up the best actor trophy for the Cambodian human trafficking drama Buoyancy, which is Australia's submission for consideration in the international feature film Oscar category. Buoyancy also won the audience choice award, and director Rodd Rathjen was on hand to accept the prize.

Best screenplay honors went to the New Zealand-set Bellbird by writer-director Hamish Bennett, while the Chinese drama To Live to Sing by Johnny Ma won the NETPAC award for best film.

This year's international jury was headed by Hong Kong director Peter Chan Ho-sun (The Warlords), with jury members including British actor Tom Cullen (Downton Abbey), U.S. producer Ellen Eliasoph, Indonesian actress Dian Sastrowardoyo (Aruna and Her Palate) and filmmaker Midi Z (The Road to Mandalay) from Myanmar.

The festival's New Chinese Cinema section awarded best film honors to Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains from debutant filmmaker Gu Xiaogang. The pic, which bowed at Cannes, tracks a Chinese provincial family's transformation across four seasons.

Anthony Chen was tapped as best director for Wet Season, which revolves around the relationship between a teacher and a student in a Singapore school. The second film from Chen following his 2013 debut Ilo Ilo, which won him a Camera D'Or at Cannes, Wet Season also took home the Cinephilia Critics award.

Best actress honors went to Zhou Dongyu for Better Days, while Wu Xiaoliang was named best actor for Wisdom Tooth.

To Live to Sing also picked up a second honor for best screenplay. The best Macau film award went to Years of Macau.

The New Chinese Cinema jury was headed by director Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), consultant and former San Francisco Film Society executive director Noah Cowan, Qiu Yang (A Gentle Night), Kirsten Tan (Pop Aye) and BFI Festivals director Tricia Tuttle.

The 4th edition of IFFAM opened with Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit, while Hong Kong director Hing Fan Wong's debut feature I'm Livin' It was the closing film.

Meanwhile, IFFAM's Industry Hub named its winners on Sunday, awarding them a total cash prize of $40,000. The winners were selected from the market's 14 projects which were introduced to potential partners.

Dear Wormwood, a supernatural horror project from Filipino director Dodo Dayao, was judged the best project; South Africa-based Indian helmer Sheetal Magan's The Day and Night of Brahma bagged the creative excellence award; Uk Kei from director Leonor Teles picked up the Macao Spirit Award; and another horror project, Drum Wave from helmer Natalie Erika James, took home the co-production award.

In addition to acting as a networking event for delegates from various countries, the Industry Hub also discussed some issues pertaining to the film business in closed-door roundtables, which were moderated by industry figures. U.K.-based documentary producer Dogwoof founder Andy Whittaker hosted discussions on "Future of Cinema: Keeping Theatrical Alive"; Ivanhoe Pictures head of Asian production and distribution Winnie Lau hosted "Female Power: Is It Here to Stay"; and Magnolia Pictures executive vp Dori Begley hosted the topic "Subscription Mentality — Is Independent Film the Natural Victim?"

The general findings of these discussions were shared Sunday at a presentation in which the hosts noted how the three topics resonated with participants. When asked by The Hollywood Reporter as to how the sessions led to a cross-cultural exchange of ideas between Western and Asian delegates, the moderators offered their perspectives on the two-way learning process.

Lau said in regards to the #MeToo movement, "it is substantially quite different in the U.S. and in Western culture in how the approach to the movement has been. Absolutely, there are lessons to be learned. But what we have discussed in this part of the world [Asia] is that patriarchal society is very much controlling and limiting the changes we are seeking for, despite public outcry amplified through social media." She pointed out that in the Hong Kong industry there is now awareness about seeking a "favor for a favor. Now you can't get away with that anymore. So that is progress, maybe a small step." Lau alluded to her opening comments, in which she shared that there was a "heated discussion" among panelists when the issue of seeking favors was discussed "when two people were in unequal positions."

But she also pointed out that Asia still has a long way to go in terms of hiring more women and adding more diversity and representation of minorities. "That is not the case yet and we need more time to achieve that," Lau said while also noting, "The Western industry is also going through a time of transformation in how companies are going to change and find their own way and how to adjust."

Moving on to more business-related topics, Begley said that there was a common consensus between Western markets and Asia about distributors being "squeezed by marketing costs. But that gave me hope in how people can collaborate in sharing these costs." As for differences, she noted that "a lot of territories have to wait so long to release their films, both because of holdbacks of not even being sure if the film is going to work in their territory and waiting for the buzz to be created maybe in the U.S." or other Western markets. "I found that really interesting and eye-opening and it will maybe help me negotiate actors' fees — I don't know," Begley said.

As for the current hot-button topic of the very survival of the theatrical experience, Whittaker said that participants went into detail about various Asian markets such as Japan, Thailand and India, and "every country was different. This perception in the West that China, a country of over a billion people, is one demographic [is misleading]." He pointed that "you have to target your marketing according to age groups." Whittaker particularly highlighted how Indian films have smashed records in China often outshining the appeal of U.S. stars. "That's a real driver for changing growth," he concluded.