We present the list of winners of the 21th Busan International Film Festival that took place from October 6th – 15th in Busan, South Korea.
New Currents Award
Knife in the clear water by Wang Xuebo – China | 2016 – 93 min.
Wang Xuebo’s debut feature film focuses on the mutual understanding between a man and a cow. In a mountain village in Ningxia, China, where the Hui people live, old man Majishan’s wife passes away, and his family decides to do a purification ceremony called Nazer, which, following the tradition of Hui people, should happen 40 days after the funeral. In order to do this, they have to kill a cow, but Majishan doesn’t want to because the cow is almost one of his family. For the dead mother, Majishan’s son continues to insist on killing the cow as she is old now anyway. The cow stops eating as if she understands the situation or has foreseen her death and Majishan is sad to see this. During a hailstorm, he takes the cow to his wife’s grave and Majishan’s eyes, filled with sympathy and sadness, deliver stronger emotions than any spoken line. He relieves his sorrow and agony by reading the Koran for the cow. (KIM Ji-seok BIFF Catalogue 2016)
What the jury said: The extremely photogenic environment of the Hui steppe serves as a backdrop to a poetic parable on grief and freedom that plays on the wind-sculpted faces of the protagonists as they relate to ever-pending death through a simple but harsh life of rituals.
The Donor by Zang Qiwu – China | 2016 – 105 min.
The Donor describes the dark side of modern Chinese society by telling a story where the good will to protect a family brings about tragedy after all. Yang Ba is not able to give financial support to his family and decides to sell a kidney to Li Xhaohui, Li Daguo’s sister. But when Xhaohui’s life is at stake from adverse reaction of the kidney transplant, Daguo demands Yang Ba give him his son’s kidney. Yang Ba refuses this demand and tries to protect his son. Director ZANG Qiwu reveals the social absurdities generated by the gap between rich and poor and talks about moral issues. He casts a question as to whether the good will that can be bought with money is genuine in its nature or not, even though the “father’s love for his son and family” is an unquestionable value. When the results are not satisfactory, it becomes an evil trade that reveals the selfish nature of human beings. This paradoxical situation brings a shocking ending (BIFF Catalogue 2016).
What the jury said: With a serene maturity the filmmaker creates a portrait of humanity and sacrifice that is restraint yet boiling with underlying emotion. 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.
Parting by Navid Mahmoudi – Afghanistan, Iran | 2016 – 78 min.
Having moved from Afghanistan to Iran with his family at the age of six, Parting is Navid Mahmoudi’s debut feature film, which explores the ongoing tragedy of illegal immigrants from Afghanistan. Nabi and Fereshteh are in love but due to Afghanistan’s instability, Fereshteh’s family moves to Iran. Five years later Nabi manages to smuggle himself into Iran to be with Fereshteh.
Throughout the 78 minutes of running time, the film depicts the tense process Nabi experiences in illegally entering Iran to reconnect with Fereshteh, and attempting to take her to Europe, also illegally. The reality Nabi experiences in Iran is grim, with hostility between immigrants and exploitation for little money. Eventually, Nabi decides to leave Feresheteh in Iran go to Europe alone, hoping for something better in the future. Will there be a future for them? In the end credits, the director’s message, “I am devoting this film to my parents who are immigrants,” confirms the film’s sincerity. (KIM Ji-seok BIFF Catalogue 2016)
What the jury said: The jury would like to give a Special Mention to the director Navid Mahmoudi of “Parting”, to recognize his courage of realizing as an Afghani Irani Filmmaker his debut film about Afghani refugees in Iran.
BIFF Mecenat Award
Neighborhood by Sung Seungtaek – Korean | 2016 – 82 min.
This film tells a story of the House of One Heart, a nursing center for mentally challenged people. The director moves to the center’s neighbourhood and records the life of the people living there. His camera becomes a mediator to help him enter this space and a friend to understand its residents. The film observes them as they deal with their symptoms with the help of medication, repress their anger for fear of being sent back to a hospital, bear with unfair payment for their work and an inability to to choose their own places to live. The director, as I, narrates in the film in the way that sounds more like a private confession rather than an explanation. This film is especially notable as it approaches the mentally challenged people not as an anonymous group but as independent individuals with their own names and pays attention to their lives and voices. It sees them not as a bunch of Alices in Wonderland but as neighbours living next door. It observes and records them closely with warm and intimate eyes. (BIFF Catalogue 2016)
What the jury said: Neighborhood drives us in a way of tenderness with curiosity to discover a world remain hidden with prejudice and fear. The director offers the motion that there is no better solution to overcome the unknown fear than bravely go over the fence.
The Crescent Rising by Sheron Dayoc – Philippines | 2016 – 78 min.
Christians constitute over 90% of the population of Catholic Philippines. Historically, however, an Islamic dynasty had settled in the Philippines long before the Spanish invasion, which pushed the Muslims to Mindanao, in the southern part of the country. This documentary vividly shows the conflict area of the Philippines, little known to the outside world. The Muslims had demanded independence for Bangsamoro for 40 years before they opened peace talks with the Philippine government in 2012. The Crescent Rising was filmed while the Bangsamoro Basic Law was being considered in the Philippine parliament. The film focuses on four people, each in a different situation: a middle-aged man who, as a soldier of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), has devoted his whole life to teaching Islam; a young man who had joined the MNLF as a boy and became a Jihad warrior; a woman who lost her husband to the war and seven children to disease, and now lives as a refugee; and a teenaged girl who fights for the innocence of her sister, accused of being a sniper for the MNLF and is in prison. Both the people of Mindanao, who have suffered decades of war, and the government claim and undivided Philippines wants peace, but in reality the road to peace is narrow and much of it is winding.
What the jury said: Addressing the on-going conflict in the Philippines society, ‘The Crescent Rising’ sends out a message of human dignity and equality. With remarkable use of archive footage and new materials, the director conveys the powerful story of human endurance.
Viewer by Kim Soyoun – South Korea | 2016 – 19 min.
The owner of a laundry watches a boy dancing late at night through its CCTV. Noticing he is wearing a hearing aid, the owner assumes the boy has hearing impairment, and begins to imagine his life.
What the jury said: 19 minutes for showing excellence in unraveling both a grippingly complex and always surprising narrative, which also mirror the personal situation of the young author herself.
Off-season by Yelzat Eskendir – Kazakhstan | 2016 – 20 min.
An elderly shepherd and his wife are at the center of this tale of winter survival and disconnection, unfolding over the course of one fateful day and night, swirling around a group of solitary characters that only ever cross paths physically.
What the jury said: Fragile, soulful, honest, touching, and complex as well. This author shows an original approach in dealing unique issues set in a remote country.
The Doomed Way by Guo Sanpi – China | 2016 – 29 min.
Liang is the breadwinner of his family by transporting coal. Wang is a boss of a local mine with a beautiful wife who is pregnant. Chang is running a small restaurant along the road to serve the passing-by driver. Everything seems to be on the right track, but something is looming ahead.
What the jury said: For a surprisingly accomplished work whose creator, in our opinion, has a great future ahead.
Actor and Actress of the Year Awards
Actress of the Year
Lee Minji for her work in Jane by Hyunhoon Cho – South Korea | 2016 – 100 min.
Sohyun, a runaway, is left alone after her close friend Jungho disappears. By accident, she gets to know a transgender woman named Jane. She joins Jane and her close-knit community of runaways, who are as comforting and loving as a real family. Sohyun feels happy and at peace. But her happiness does not last long. There is something wrong with Jane’s health.
What the jury said: Lee Min-ji has created Sohyun who is afraid of being ostracized. Sohyun hides her true self by fiting into her surroundings and living like a shadow. Dynamic actions are anticipated from Actress Lee Min-ji
Actor of the Year
Gu Gyohwan for his work in Jane by Hyunhoon Cho – South Korea | 2016 – 100 min.
What the jury said: I would like to dedicate the Actor of the Year Award to actor Gu Kyowan, who starred as Jane in the film Jane. He blissfully acted out Jane, who is a mysterious yet warm-hearted transgender. Also, he made me realize how important it is to listen and ponder than to talk. Of course, there are many other up-and-coming actors in the field of cinematography; however, based on his performance in the film, this actor has moved my heart the most.
Ki Ju bong for his role in Merry Christmas Mr. Mo by Lim Dae Hyung
South Korea | 2016 – 101 min.
What the jury said: He has shown a great presence in various stage productions and screen appearances. He again, has shown an unequaled performance in Merry Christmas Mr. Mo. I happened to realize that his class is far beyond most other actors’ abilities. However, since the original purpose of this award is to be given to a new face, I feel sorry. I hope he will graciously understand that we must call upon the name of another actor.
In Between Seasons by Lee Dong-eun – South Korea | 2016 – 115 min.
Meekyung lives apart from her husband and raises Soohyun, her high school-aged son. One day, Soohyun brings home his friend Yongjoon to stay. A few years later, after completing his military service, Soohyun gets into an accident while on a trip with Yongjoon and is hospitalized in critical condition. Soon after, Meekyung discovers a secret her son and Yongjoon have been keeping from her.
Busan Bank Award
Night of a 1000 Hours by Virgil Widrich – Germany | 2016 – 92 min.
As members of the wealthy Ullich family gather at the family mansion, their deceased ancestors resurrect one by one. Through swirling secrets, lies, and immorality, this family gathering turns into a tumult of murder and surprise. The film constructs a story of comedy, history, and investigation, where even death doesn’t mean the end.
Citizen Critics’ Award
Jamsil by Lee Wanmin – South Korea | 2016 – 138 min.
Meehee meets a high school girl. She follows the girl and ends up at the house of Cho Sungsook. Although it’s the first time they’ve met, Meehee insists that they were once actually close friends. Sungsook accepts Meehee’s claim and treats her like a friend. Sungsook talks to the man she lives with about Meehee. The man visits Meehee and the two end up having sex. With Sungsook unaware of their relationship, the man and Meehee grow closer. And when the man is not around, Sungsook and Meehee grow closer together.
What the jury said: Jamsil illustrates a consideration for modern times and seeks a way of solidarity between individuals with a creative composition, showing great potential.
Vision Director Award
Autumn, Autumn by Jang Woojin – South Korea | 2016 – 78 min.
Jihyun attends an interview in Seoul before taking a train back to his hometown of Chuncheon. On the way he sits next to a middle-aged couple. The film soon separates into two stories, one following Jihyun and the other following the couple.
What the jury said: This year’s jury determined the following two films as the winner of this year’s Vision Award. There is coexistence between artificial composition and the natural liveliness in the film, Autumn, Autumn. Such coexistence was possible because of the characters, the scenery, and the understanding of the distance between the elements and the camera that gazes into the varied components. We anticipate director Jang Woojin’s continuous development in his cinematic mystery that creates tension among audiences throughout the film.
Hyeon’s Quartet by Ahn Seonkyoung – South Korea | 2016 – 119 min.
After watching the play The Quartet, Heon, Eun, Jun, and Kyeong decide to join an acting workshop. The one month-long class is led by Mirae, an actress. Heon, as the youngest employee of a theater company, is assigned only chores. Eun spends tedious hours tidying up in a secondhand bookstore. Jun spends most of his time acting in short films, and Kyeong is a photographer who aspires to be an actor. Mirae thoughtfully considers each of their motivations for acting, the deep emotions they might be hiding, and the self-image they are trying to project, believing that their acting is a mirror of their inner self. As part of a character-building session, Mirae shows them the diary of an anonymous person. She instructs each of them to read the diary, imagine the person writing it, and then do their best to act out that person. How different will each of their interpretations be?
What the jury said: Director Ahn Seonkyung’s Hyeon’s Quartet is a film where the director’s profound observation towards the object brings the dialogue and action flow to life. We were able to see the reason why humans act and why acting is one of the ways to love life.
Daemyung Culture Wave Award
Yongsoon by Shin Joon – South Korea | 2016 – 104 min.
Yongsoon, an 18-year-old high school student, is a daring, fearless girl who falls in love with the coach of her school’s athletics team. When she discovers that he has a lover, the pain is almost too much for her to bear. To make matters worse, her father brings home a new wife. In an effort to bring about a resolution, Yongsoon tells the coach that she is pregnant with his child and decides to meet his lover to finally settle things. They meet in a classroom, together with the coach and Yongsoon’s new stepmother. Can Yongsoon win back her love?
What the jury said: The film skillfully features the emotions of an adolescent girl who finds immature love and consequently grows up because of it.
CGV Art House Award
Jane by Hyunhoon Cho – South Korea | 2016 – 100 min.
What the jury said: Jane ingeniously depicts a story of a runaway girl’s experience with tender comfort and embittered violence in an alternative family. Director Cho Hyunhoon, presents a direction going back and forth between a dream and reality. The director Cho’s such characterful direction and the young performers Lee Min-ji, Gu Gyohwan, and Lee Juyoung’s outstanding actions enable us to anticipate the future of Korean cinema’s with excitement. The film leaves us with afterimages that are unlikely to be forgotten; we award the CGV Art-house Award with the hope that such a film will be introduced to more audiences.
Busan Cinephile Award
The Apology by Tiffany Hsiung – Canada | 2016 – 104 min.
The Apology follows the personal journeys of three former “comfort women” who were among the 200,000 girls and young women kidnapped and forced into military sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. Some 70 years after their imprisonment in so-called “comfort stations”, the three “grandmothers—Grandma Gil in South Korea, Grandma Cao in China, and Grandma Adela in the Philippines—face their twilight years in fading health. After decades of living in silence and shame about their past, they know that time is running out to give a first-hand account of the truth and ensure that this horrific chapter of history is not forgotten. Whether they are seeking a formal apology from the Japanese government or summoning the courage to finally share their secret with loved ones, their resolve moves them forward as they seize this last chance to set future generations on a course for reconciliation, healing, and justice.
What the jury said: This film strives to bring dignity to the introduction of the international human rights issue of wartime “Comfort Women” through the voices of 3 elderly women from the Philippines, China, and Korea who exist in the boundaries of history.
Merry Christmas Mr. Mo by Lim Dae Hyung – South Korea | 2016 – 101 min.
What the jury said: Promising new director Lim Dae Hyung, ingeniously harmonizes classical silent film with intense acting, delightful humor, gloominess in loneliness, and captivating love. The jury especially highly acclaims the director’s minimalistic approach towards independent film production and the serious crisis of the emotional connections within a family.
White Ant by Chu Hsien-che – Taiwan | 2016 – 95 min.
The debut feature film by Chu Hsien-Che, who made several documentaries, White Ant is a psychological drama that tells a story about sexual fetishism. Bai Yide is a young man living alone. He works at a bookstore and derives sexual pleasure by stealing and wearing women’s underwear. One day, he receives a DVD in which his activities have been recorded and he becomes anxious. The DVD was sent by Junhong, who happened to know about Bai’s psychological trauma steming from working at Bai’s mother’s wedding dress shop. The director shows deep interest in Bai’s anxiety and the emotional change in Junhong. Junhong sends the DVD as a message of warning but, ironically, it works as a way to harass the weak at the same time. This implies the dual face of power. We are all subject to power relations in our daily lives. White Ant, therefore, has both nature of a psychological drama and a social drama. (BIFF Catalogue 2016)
What the jury said: This year’s Busan International Film Festival’s FIPRESCI Award Jury decided that the award must be handed to a film with creativity and a bold visual style that enables audiences to immerse into a characters’ psychology and feel the hurt at a more profound level.
Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award
Abbas Kiarostami (Director) from Iran
Korean Cinema Award
Laurence Herszberg (General Director of Forum des Images) from France