The 2016 New Currents Awards, the Busan International Film Festival’s top honors given to rookie Asian filmmakers, went to two Chinese titles, Knife in the Clear Water by Wang Xuebo and The Donor by Zang Qiwu, organizers of the South Korean event announced on Saturday.
The two New Currents prizes are given to first or second feature films by up-and-coming directors from Asia. The jury, headed by Mali director Souleymane Cisse, also gave special mention to Afghani filmmaker Navid Mahmoudi‘s Parting, a tale about the plight of Afghani refugees in Iran.
“We are very enthusiastic to have watched these films, which were all very ambitious and captured the passion of the young directors,” said Cisse. Other judges this year included Indian producer Guneet Monga, Rotterdam Film Festival director Bero Beyer, Korean-Chinese filmmaker Zhang Lu (whose A Quiet Dream opened this year’s fest) and Iranian director Mahmoud Kalari.
Knife in the Clear Water, Wang’s first feature film, is about a man living in a mountainous Chinese village who feels torn about carrying out a local tradition of killing a cow due to his familial attachment to the animal. “The extremely photogenic environment of the Hui steppe serves as a backdrop to a poetic parable on grief and freedom that plays on the wind-sculpted faces of the protagonists, as they relate to ever-pending death through a simple but harsh life of rituals,” said the judges.
The Donor spotlights the dark side of modern Chinese society as a man, unable to financially support his family, tries to sell a kidney but things go awry. “With a serene maturity, the filmmaker creates a portrait of humanity and sacrifice that is restraint yet boiling with underlying emotion. The excellently scripted film plays as much on the images as on the immaculate timing and superb acting. The conclusion is heartbreaking: When you fight destiny, you will lose,” said the judges.
The actor and actress of the year honors, chosen by two veteran Korean actors to support indie film talent, also were announced. Both of this year’s prizes went to the lead actors of Jane, actor Gu Gyohwan and actress Lee Minji. Actor Kim Uiseong said Gu’s delivery “deeply moved” him, while actress Cho Min-su (Kim Ki-duk’s Pieta) said she looks forward to seeing more dynamic performances from Lee. The film by Cho Hyunhoon — the story of a runaway girl who joins a close-knit community of outcasts through a transgender woman — also won this year’s CGV Art House prize in the New Vision awards section.
Busan festival organizers also announced other winners:
BIFF Mecenat Award
Korea category: Neighborhood by Sung Seungtaek
Asia category: The Crescent Rising by Sheron Dayoc (Philippines)
Korea category: Viewer by Kim Soyoun
Asia category: Off-season by Yelzat Eskendir (Kazakhstan)
Special mention: The Doomed Way by Guo Sanpi (China)
In Between Seasons by Lee Dong-eun (Korea)
Busan Bank Award
Night of a 1,000 Hours by Virgil Widrich (Germany)