Iranian, Filipino get top Asian awards Busan festival highlights politics, pizzazz

BUSAN, South Korea, Oct 14, (Agencies): An Iranian film that reveals the “heart and soul” of its director has shared the top award with a production from the Philippines at Asia’s largest cinematic event Friday.
Morteza Farshbaf’s “Mourning” was handed one of two US$30,000 prizes given in the New Currents award at the 16th Busan International Film Festival and the first-time director said he hoped his film revealed something of the life of common people in his homeland to the world.
“Mourning” follows the story of a deaf-mute couple who left to care for a young boy after his parents are killed in a car accident.

“It took a lot of people a lot of time to make this film and I am just thankful to everyone who helped me along the way,” said Farshbaf.
“There is a lot of myself in this film — my heart and my soul — so I am honoured by the fact that this festival chose my film to be in this competition.”
New Currents jury head Yonfan, the veteran Chinese director noted for such productions as the arthouse hit “Prince of Tears”, said the 13 films representing 12 countries that made it into the final field were so good they had presented unique problems.
“After the first round of selections the jury had only narrowed that field of 13 down to 10, so I think that shows how strong this year’s selections were,” the director said.

Shared
The award — which hands out two US$30,000 prizes to first- or second-time Asian directors — was shared by first-time Filipino director Loy Arcenas with his family drama “Nino”, which focuses on how people are pulled apart by greed.
An acclaimed New York-based production designer and theatre director, Arcenas said he had turned to cinema because the medium allowed him to explore the nature of human relationships.
“I have always been interested in chronicling human relationships and that is what I have tried to do with this film,” he said. “I think it is a very small, quiet film but I have tried to show how we as people relate to each other.”

The Busan festival’s other main prize — the US$30,000 Flash Forward prize for young non-Asian filmmakers — was taken by Italian director Guido Lombardi who presented the gritty drama “La Bas — A Criminal Education”.
The nine-day Busan festival closes Friday.
Meanwhile, a wealth of content from countries such as Iran and Myanmar made the nine-day festival a more politically charged event than in previous years.
Organisers issued a statement expressing “serious concern’’ about the recent arrest of six Iranian filmmakers on espionage charges, calling for their swift release.
Farshbaf welcomed the move, saying similar pressure had persuaded the Iranian government to release artists in the past.
“These (statements) are I think the only way that people can help, because if (filmmakers) speak about the situation we cannot work,’’ he told Reuters this week.
“We have to wait for other people living in freer countries to express something about it.’’
Luc Besson and Michelle Yeoh, director and lead actress respectively of “The Lady,’’ a biography of Myanmar democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi that was another highlight of the festival, praised the Myanmar military regime’s recent mass release of dissidents, calling it “joyful news.’’
Myanmar was also featured in “Return to Burma,’’ one of the films that had been nominated for the New Currents prize, which incorporated footage shot secretly in the country by Myanmar-born, Taiwan-based director Midi Z.

Stunning
This year’s festival, the 16th, was also notable for a stunning new venue and was hailed by organisers as the most successful ever, with its 300-plus films drawing almost 200,000 theater visits. There were 89 world premiers.
The associated Asian Film Market, designed to link Asian filmmakers with global distributors and buyers, also racked up a record number of participants and screenings, organisers said.
Industry participants rated the event highly.
“The film industry is truly global and the (festival) brings a vast variety of quality international films to an eager audience,’’ Mike Ellis, president, Asia-Pacific for the Motion Picture Association, told Reuters.
“The opportunity to meet leading filmmakers and discuss how to promote and protect the film industry could not be done in a more relaxing venue.’’
In a related story, a mother’s love was the closing theme for this year’s Busan International Film Festival.
The nine-day festival kicked off last Thursday closes with a Japanese movie about a mother who is forgiven by her son after she was forced to abandon him during wartime.
“The movie is about a mother’s love for her son even as she suffers from dementia,” Japanese director Masato Harada told reporters Thursday as he spoke of his 2011 movie, “Chronicle of My Mother.”
The film has drawn acclaim at several other international film festivals. Busan festival organizer Lee Yong-kwan praised Harada for his mastery in depicting a relationship that can be as complex as it is universal.

Motherhood is a theme increasingly attracting South Korean audiences and artists. In the 2009 thriller “Mother,” South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho portrays a woman who hunts down a murderer that she believes framed her son. Shin Kyung-Sook’s novel, “Please Look After Mom,” also became a best-seller in South Korea and went on to make a splash in the United States.
Describing South Koreans’ attachment to maternal love as “especially strong,” Harada said he hopes his movie will help “confirm the great love of mothers.”
“Chronicle of My Mother” features “Shall We Dance” star Koji Yakusho and award-winning actresses Kirin Kiki and Aoi Miyazaki. It is based on an autobiographical novel by Japanese writer Yasushi Inoue, but Harada said his own mother was another inspiration behind the movie.
The Busan film festival rolled out the red carpet to a cast of A-list stars and showcased more than 300 productions from all over the world — but it has been the local films that have left cinema-goers buzzing.
“The standard of productions we have seen here this year has been outstanding,” said Chinese director Yonfan, in town to head the jury for the festival’s main New Currents award.
“It is an indication that Asian cinema is very healthy and there is a vast collection of very talented people out there making films today.”
Away from the main award, Korean cinema was out in full force, with a wildly diverse collection of productions.
They included everything from the local box office smash “Sunny” — a reflection on chances missed and taken in life — to the bleak-but-brilliant animation “The King of Pigs”, a nasty look at troubled modern youths that shows the genre can be worked for more than just light entertainment.

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