Busan: New Currents Awards Go to Iranian, Kazakhstani Rookie Directors

Immortal Still 2 - H 2015
Courtesy of Busan International Film Festival

The South Korean festival's top awards for rookie Asian filmmakers went to 'Immortal' by Hadi Mohaghegh and 'Walnut Tree' by Yerlan Nurmukhambetov.

This year's New Currents awards went to rookie directors from Iran and Kazakhstan, organizers of the 2015 Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) announced on Saturday.

Immortal by Hadi Mohaghegh and Walnut Tree by Yerlan Nurmukhambetov picked up the two $30,000 grand prizes that are annually given to first-or second-time directors from the Asian region.

Judges called Immortal "an extraordinary feat of visual storytelling, filled with emotion, that's partly about how to die but mostly about how to live, and how to keep our dignity as human beings," and praised Walnut Tree as "a film that shows a way of life that's unfamiliar to most of us but proves how humor, kindness, and forgiveness connect us all."

Taiwanese actress-director Sylvia Chang led this year's jury, which included Indian filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, Korean auteur Kim Tae-yong, German actress Nastassja Kinski and U.S. film critic Stephanie Zacharek.

The actor and actress of the year, chosen by two veteran Korean cineastes to support indie film talent, were also announced.

Lee Ju-won was named actor of the year for the lead in Alone, which actor-director Park Joon-hoon called "an impassioned performance with incredible energy" that shined in a long take in which he showcased "an emotional rollercoaster without running out of breath." Actress Moon So-ri praised Jang Sun for her role in Communication and Lies, saying, "Despite playing a character who is difficult to empathize with, she communicated with the audience with her powerful yet subtle performance."

Busan festival organizers also announced other winners of its 20th anniversary edition:

BIFF Mecenat Awards

-Korea Category: Boys Run by Kang Seokpil (Korea)

"The film provides valuable perspectives on alternatives to the current system of Korean education and invites the viewers to reflect on their own past and the education of their children. Furthermore, the sensitive camera work creates a very fascinating story by accompanying the two teenagers on their way to adulthood," said jury members.

-Asia Category: Look Love by Ye Yun (China)

"Look Love depicts in very moving, unvarnished images the struggle of two kids for love and recognition in completely different surroundings, yet unbearable for the two of them. The film gives an upsetting insight in the conditions of modern day Chinese family, questioning the neglect of the true values of love and human relationships these days. The excellent camera work provides unforgettable images and enables close access to the protagonists without touching their dignity."

-Special Mention: Still and All by Kim Youngjo (Korea)

"The film reveals people’s language and existence as a unique tool and as a synonym of Busan's Yeongdo Bridge to understand a sense of historical modern space."

Sonje Awards

-Korea Category: Shame Diary by Lee Eunjeong (Korea)

"Directly focusing on modern and universal theme of poverty, love, and sin, the film strongly, but delicately depicts the wavering emotions accompanied by desperation with the cooperation of the actor."

-Asia Category: Nia’s Door by Lau Kek Huat (Taiwan)

"The winning short immediately struck the jury with its compelling portrait of a complex, yet recognizable main character, told with great directorial vision. As emotionally resonant as it is socially charged, this film represents another major development for this talented emerging filmmaker, and a gripping showcase for a truly powerhouse central performance by a promising young actor."