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The 23rd Busan International Film Festival concluded Saturday after a 10-day run, with the South Korean film Clean Up and the Chinese title Savage sharing the top New Currents prizes in the festival’s main competition section, organizers announced. A total of 10 films by first- and second-time Asian filmmakers vied for the honors this year.
Directed by Cui Siwei, Savage stars Chang Chen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Black Coal, Thin Ice actor Liao Fan (winner of the Berlinale’s best actor award) as a cop and a criminal, respectively. Clean Up, helmed by Kwon Man-ki, is a psychological drama about a woman who is forced to face her dark past when she meets a convicted criminal.
The New Currents jury praised Savage as “a strikingly accomplished and riveting first film, exhibiting a mastery of genre cinema, with multi-dimensional characters and thrilling action sequences,” while the judges noted that Clean Up was “original, surprising and deeply emotional, with detailed characterization, perfect control and masterful psychological development.”
The jury, headed by Korean director Kim Hong-joon, included Japanese actor Kunimura Jun, Macedonian actress Labina Mitevska, Sydney Film Festival director Nashen Moodley and Hong Kong producer Shi Nansun.
The Kim Jiseok Award was also shared, by Rona, Azim’s Mother, an Afghanistan-Iran co-production by Jamshid Mahmoudi, and The Rib, a Chinese film by Zhang Wei. The prize was launched in honor of the festival’s co-founder and head programmer, who died suddenly last year.
The Actor and Actress of the Year honors, given to talents in titles featured in the Korean Cinema Today–Vision section, went to two actresses this year: Lee Ju-yeong for her role in Maggie and Choi Hee-seo in Our Body.
This year’s event was also notable for re-attracting festivalgoers after a controversial government censorship scandal. South Korean filmmakers who had boycotted the fest in deference of its autonomy returned after its ousted co-founders, Lee Yong-kwan and Jay Jeon, were reinstated earlier this year.
A total of 324 films from 79 countries were screened at the event, according to organizers, drawing approximately 191,000 attendees. The Asian Film Market, held in conjunction with the fest, saw a 38 percent increase in participating countries this year, which reached 911. The project market hosted a record 743 meetings between producers and filmmakers pitching projects with potential distributors, financiers and sales agents.
“The festive mood has been perfectly revived,” said festival director Jeon. “We are seeking ways to engage participation from the older generations and return the love and support we have received from the Busan citizens.”
Among other prizes handed out, the BIFF Mecenat Award went to James T. Hong’s Opening Closing Forgetting (Taiwan) and Kelvin Kyungkun Park’s Army (South Korea), while special mention went to Lee-Kil Bora’s A War of Memories (South Korea). And the Sonje Award was given to Kwon Sung-mo’s Cat Day Afternoon (South Korea) and Ashish Pandey’s Nooreh (India).
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