'River' wins at Chungmuro

Third edition of festival closes with Seoul ceremony

HONG KONG -- The third edition of the Chungmuro International Film Festival in Seoul, Korea wrapped Tuesday with Chinese film "Red River" named as the top prize-winner. And organizers gave a stout defense of the competition section in a festival originally established as one focusing on older classic titles.

"The festival has grown and has to take account of changing audience tastes, which are becoming more those of a multiplex audience," said Charles Kim, programmer.

"We have to reinvent Chungmuro, to help people rediscover older titles. That's also why we've added the competition for new film-makers and included a section of student films, they draw in audiences."

Other prizes went to Andres Waissbluth, named best director, for his "199 Tips to be Happy," to Zachary Baharov who was named best actor in Bulgaria's "Zift," and to Karena Lam as best actress for her part in Hong Kong's "Claustrophobia."

"River," which was directed by Zhang Jiarui and produced by IDG Media, is a love story set on the Chinese-Vietnamese border shortly after the end of the U.S.-Vietnam War.

The festival jury also named "Overheard," a Hong Kong crime story directed by Alan Mak and Felix Chong, as the best action film. It made a special mention of "White Butterfly," a new take on the film within a film theme from South Korea's Kim Sam-ryeok.

While the festival was started as a collection of classic films – Chungmuro district is the old heartland of Korea's film industry – it has been criticized by the local press for diversification into new directions and that the number of classic films has been reduced.

"This year's festival has screened 50-60 classics of world cinema including those by Robert Bresson and Joseph Mankiewicz. These have been organized in three main retrospectives including a tribute to Shin Seong-il, an actor who rarely won many prizes but whose career mapped that of Korean cinema, a section on Korean urban action movies and a tribute to Marilyn Monroe," said Charles Kim, programmer.

The festival (Aug. 24 – 1 Sept. 1, 2009) wrapped with a world premiere screening of "Where is Jung Seung-phil?," a comedy by Kang Suk-bum about a financial whiz-kid who goes missing just days before his wedding. Organizers argue that the competition section is intended to discover future cineastes who bring new style and originality to world cinema.