Jang Kun Jae wins Vancouver fest Asian award

His drama 'Eighteen' scoops the Dragons and Tigers Award

VANCOUVER -- South Korean director Jang Kun Jae's coming-of-age drama "Eighteen" took home the Dragons & Tigers Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival Thursday night.

The Asian director's debut feature about an illicit seaside romance by two young Koreans beat out seven other films for the top honor for emerging East Asian filmmakers in Vancouver.

Jurors Noel Vera, Johnny Ray Huston and Ikeda Hiroyuka praised the film, which had its world premiere in Vancouver, for its seamless structure and strong camerawork.

Vera, a Manila-based film critic, said Jang "took an old, old, old story -- your classic boy-meets-girl, boy- loses girl -- and made it feel fresh by the strength of his direction."

The announcement was greeted by whoops of delight from the films' Vancouver contingent, which included producer Kim Woo-ri and lead actors Seo Jun-Yeong and Lee Min-ji.

Jang, dressed in jeans, sneakers and a baseball cap, was more diminutive when accepting the Dragons & Tigers award.

"I don't know how I won -- it's all a mystery. None of my friends ever believed I could become a director," Jang said, letting the honor sink in.

The Dragons & Tigers jury also offered a special mention for the Filipino film "Bakal Boys," a portrait of Manila scrap-metal collectors from director Ralston Jover.

Also contending for the top emerging Asian director award in Vancouver was Bui-Thac Chuye's "Adrift," from Vietnam, Kim Ji-Hyun's "Cats," from South Korea, Malaysian director Chris Chong-Chan's "Karaoke," Chinese filmmaker Wu Haohao's "Kun 1: Action," which received a world premiere in Vancouver, and two Japanese pictures, Sasaki Omoi's "Left Out" and Tetsuya Mariko's "Yellow Kid."

Dragons & Tigers co-curator Tony Rayns said emerging South Korean filmmakers like Jan "have grown more sophisticated, both technically and in creative terms" in recent years.

He noted that Mr. Jang was a cinematographer-turned-director, which was evident in the smooth self-assured camera work in "Eighteen."

The Vancouver festival, which wraps Oct. 16, annually unspools a range of Asian titles to cater to that city's growing Asian-Canadian community.

Adele Weder reported from Vancouver, Etan Vlessing from Montreal.