Busan International Film Festival winners

Source:AFP Published: 2018/10/14 17:48:40

Chinese actresses Bai Baihe (left) and Sammi Cheng arrive for the opening ceremony of the 23rd Busan International Film Festival in Busan, South Korea, on October 4. Photo: IC

A thrill-a-minute actioner from China and a moving South Korean drama about a unique family reunion have taken the top prize at Asia's largest film festival, with judges lauding both for their "original" takes.

Savage, from first-time Chinese director Cui Siwei, pits a forest ranger against gold thieves in a snowy mountain range and won praise from the New Currents award jury at the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) for being "strikingly accomplished and riveting."

South Korean production Clean up, from debut feature director Kwon Man-ki, charts the tale of a struggling woman who is offered a salvation of sorts when she meets someone from her past.

It is a film with "perfect control and masterful psychological development," the jury statement read.

BIFF's New Currents award comes with prizes of $30,000 for the two most impressive efforts from first- or second-time Asian filmmakers and there had been a buzz around town after screenings of Savage in particular. The film now looks certain for wide commercial release in China and beyond.

Veteran South Korean director Kim Hong-joon, who led the New Currents jury, said the judges were unanimous in their decision to award Savage its prize.

"[It shows] a mastery of genre cinema, with multi-dimensional characters and thrilling action sequences," said Kim.

Other highlights of this year's BIFF included a documentary section that featured films that scratched away at the region's political and social scars.

The gripping Taiwan effort Opening Closing Forgetting, from director James T. Hong, looked at how Chinese farmers survived human experimentation by occupying Japanese forces during World War II, but have never really recovered from the horrors they were put through.

It took the BIFF Mecenat Award for best documentary - winning praise from the award panel for its "profound dedication to its story" - along with Kelvin Park's Army, which shed light on lives led by South Korea's military conscripts.

BIFF drew to a close Saturday night with the gala world premiere of martial arts master Yuen Woo-ping's Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy, a branch off from the franchise of Hong Kong-produced box-office hits centered around the life of the man famous for teaching Bruce Lee.

This time the story focuses on one of the men Ip Man fought, played in the film by rising martial arts star Max Zhang who must face off against an evil drug lord played by Hollywood's David Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy).

It was the first time in its 23-year history that BIFF has brought the curtain down with a martial arts or action film - a fitting tribute to the 73-year-old Yuen, the man who added the action to the likes of Oscar-winner Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and both The Matrix and Kill Bill franchises.

The Busan festival screened 324 films from 79 countries and regions across its varied programs and just over 195,000 people attended over the 10 days, a boost for organizers who came in to this year's event having shrugged off a few years of political pressure and controversy.

It all started in 2014 with the screening of a documentary about the Sewol ferry disaster of that year - which resulted in the deaths of more than 300 people.

It was critical of the then government and both funding cuts and sackings followed its screening but the air has now cleared under the government of President Moon Jae-in.


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