Chinese movies dominate Asia’s top film festival
Published: Oct 16, 2016 07:53 PM
Wang Xuebo (right) and two actors from <em>The Knife in the Clear Water</em> attend the Busan International Film Festival on Saturday. Photo: IC

Wang Xuebo (right) and two actors from The Knife in the Clear Water attend the Busan International Film Festival on Saturday. Photo: IC

Chinese movies have taken the two main prizes at Asia's premier film festival, with judges lauding their portrayal of two different versions of modern reality China.

Wang Xuebo's The Knife in the Clear Water and The Donor, from Zang Qiwu, were announced as winners of the New Currents award at the 21st Busan International Film Festival on Saturday morning.

The directors are set to collect the two prizes of $30,000 that come with the award when the festival officially closes on Saturday night.

"These films were incredible," said veteran African director Souleymane Cisse, New Currents jury head.

"They were very ambitious and out of the ordinary."

Wang's first feature presents a lyrical look at the often-stark realities of life in a mountain village and judges praised the debut director for his "extremely photogenic" production that "serves as a backdrop to a poetic parable on grief and freedom."

For what is also his first film as a director, Zang - who for a number of years worked alongside acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou (Curse of the Golden Flower) - turned his attention to the controversial issue of organ transplants.

"The filmmaker creates a portrait of humanity and sacrifice that is restrained yet boiling with underlying emotion," said Cisse.

"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."

The decision to hand the awards to two Chinese films comes as relations between Beijing and Seoul appear strained following moves in South Korea to set up a missile defence shield with the aid of the US.

South Korean television shows have since August vanished from broadcast in China while a series of K-pop events have been cancelled.

There were 11 films from seven nations and regions in the running this year for the New Currents award and Cisse said judges had been impressed by them all.

"We could really feel the passion of the directors," he said.

The strength of the main competition this year proved the perfect tonic both for the festival and thousands of film fans.

BIFF had arrived looking to rebuild its reputation after two years marred by accusations of political interference, and with former festival head Lee Yong-kwan facing sentencing for his charges of embezzlement on October 26.

There were shows of support throughout the 10-day event for the beleaguered Lee.

A photo wall in the main festival building displayed messages to him from around the world and many guests wore badges decrying what some in the film industry have labelled persecution following his decision to screen a controversial documentary about the Sewol ferry disaster in 2014.