We present the list of winners and a final report on the 22nd Busan International Film Festival that took place from October 1th – 21st in Busan, South Korea.
After ten exciting days the 22nd Busan International Film Festival come to a close. This year 300 films from 76 countries were screened in 5 Theaters and 32 Screens. The organizers estimated that the total attendance was 192,991. The festival screened 99 World Premieres and 31 International Premieres.
After so many difficulties the festival had in the past few years, political pressure from the government and cuts in the budget the festival successfully recuperated its position as one of the most important festivals in the region. The audience this year responded very well to the program presented, there was an increase number of CineKids group as well as the increase ticket sales of the retrospective and special program films.
Other achievement this year was the launch of “Platform BUSAN” that provided a networking platform for independent filmmakers. The Asian Film Market 2017 was also another success. With 14% more participants compared to last year.
New Currents Award
After my death by Kim Uiseok – Korea | 2017 – 113 min.
A girl goes missing. Suicide is suspected, but nothing is certain, as no body, suicide note, or evidence is found. When she arrives at school, Yeong-hui discovers that she was the last one to spend time with the missing girl. Amid wild conjecture Yeong-hui is suspected of having goaded the girl into killing herself. Yeong-hui denies the accusation, but still feels guilty somehow, and the dead girl’s mother follows Yeong-hui. After My Death shows the madness that does not stop until someone is punished as an assailant. Unable to accept her daughter’s death, the mother suspects Yeong-hui to be the bad guy, and her friends, teachers and police come to the same conclusion. Yeong-hui’s guilt does not stem from having done something wrong, but people are not interested in the truth–only in someone to condemn. Reason and tolerance have no sway in the world of After My Death. And school is the perfect place for a witch-hunt. Anyone can be a scapegoat. (NAM Dong-chul – BIFF Catalogue)
Blockage by Mohsen Gharaei – Iran | 2017 – 82 min.
Ghasem is a temporary worker who cracks down on illegal street stalls in Tehran. His hot temper always invites trouble, and recently, he was caught getting kickbacks from stall keepers, impeding his chance to resign the contract. His plan to get a truck with his wife’s share of an inheritance from her parents conflicts with her dream to move out of her parents’ house with the same money. One day, Ghasem argues with a stall owner. Deep in the night, the stall owner comes to Ghasem’s house and makes suspicious demands. He even comes to Ghasem’s office and threatens him with a lawsuit. Finally, Ghasem follows the stall owner to deal with him for good and finds an opportunity that will solve all his problems. Blockage follows a few confusing days in evil Ghasem’s life, who is good at making backdoor deals. It takes the audience’s breath away by chasing the struggles of the protagonist with the opportunity of a lifetime in his hands. Ghasem’s conflict against his wife reveals the currents flowing in Iranian society, its economic condition, and the reality that Iranians face today. (KIM Young-woo – BIFF Catalogue 2017)
What the jury said:
We the Jury recognize After My Death from Korea and Blockage from Iran as the two outstanding films of New Currents in 2017 Competition. All ten submitted films from these new directors have presented visions of difficulty and despair in societies that are either highly corrupt without a working system of legal justice, or soul sick despite an abundance of material prosperity.
In After My Death, we saw a cross section of Korean society wherein teenage schoolgirls are gripped with despair and a suicide mentality. In its details of everyday life, Blockage shocked us with its presentation of hardship in the working class of Teheran. Both films are tightly scripted and display vivid detail and excellent craftsmanship.
The Jury notes that the cinema today seems headed towards visions of darkness and desperation. Perhaps this mirrors the world as presented by Media, but the Jury believes tomorrow’s filmmakers can find more hope and light in this life, and bring it to their films to encourage their audiences to see all kinds of life.
Kim Jiseok Award
Malila: The Farewell Flower by Anucha Boonyawatana – Thailand | 2017 – 94 min.
Director Anucha Boonyawatana’s lovers’ story unfolds with a perspective of karma and reincarnation. Shane is beautiful in body, but loved ones leave him one by one. Pich loves him, but also becomes terminally ill. Pich runs away to Bangkok when the villagers burn his mother, accusing her of being a witch. Then he finds out he has lung cancer and must undergo painful treatment. Meanwhile, Shane gets married to a woman and has a daughter. One day, a python kills the daughter, and when Shane starts drinking, his wife eventually leaves him. Pich ultimately quits treatment and returns to his hometown to spend his last days with Shane, and Shane decides to become a monk for Pich’s sake. Love makes the heart beat, but is fragile like baisri—decorated flowers to be offered to Buddha. It requires calmness to be made beautifully. Director Boonyawatana delivers a message through the director’s film that demands both time and effort, that sadly love and baisri never last forever. The completion comes when they are let go. (PARK Sungho – BIFF Catalogue 2017)
What the Jury said: Anucha’s film brings a Buddhist eye to the piercing theme of transience, using the metaphor of baisri flowers (which are sewn into elaborate flower sculptures and then allowed to decay) to stand for the impermanence of our lives and emotions. A man who has lost his daughter and driven away his wife rekindles an earlier romance with another man. But his lover is terminally ill, and the man becomes a monk in the hope that “making merit” will help to fend off the illness. With its exquisitely judged film language, Malila: The Farewell Flower seems a more than fitting film to win an award named in memory of the late Kim Ji-seok. All things must pass, but this sublime film makes a very real mark on its viewers in the here and now.
The Scythian Lamb by Yoshida Daihachi – Japan | 2017 – 126 min.
The lamb in “The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary” introduced in this movie is an animal fruit born in a plant stem similar to the umbilical cord. If the stem is cut, the lamb dies. This creature lives as part of a plant and of an animal. This movie poses a question about human life that can’t be answered decisively. Exconvicts are brought onto an island due to a government project. Some of them worry if their pasts will be revealed, while others reveal their criminal records freely. An old man from the Yakuza asks a young Yakuza to keep his hands clean. Some of them terrify themselves for what they did, while others stay true to their desires. We try to identify who they are, but there’s no definite answer. As the legend of the island says, between the two sacrifices offered to Nororo monster, only one can survive. Or as the story says, the wolf that has eaten up the vegetable lamb knows the taste, we never know what the taste of life is like. The movie shows we can’t discern good from evil easily. (CHAI Heesuk – BIFF Catalogue 2017)
What the jury said: Many of the films nominated for this year’s Kim Ji-seok Award explore the ways in which violence lies just under the surface of everyday social interactions. But there is a particular subtlety and ingenuity to The Scythian Lamb. With restrained but highly effective direction, the film depicts a seemingly peaceful seaside community that embarks on a laudable but poorly-executed social experiment. We applaud this film’s excellent ensemble acting, its well-crafted screenplay and the ease with which it pulls the audience into its world.
BIFF Mecenat Award
Soseongri by Park Baeil – Korea | 2017 – 89 min.
Nowadays, the only ones remaining in Korean rural villages are senior citizens, farming and living in harmony with nature. Although the rhythm of their lives differs from that of city dwellers, they do no harm, and yet the government decides to build an anti-missile system near them instead of showing its appreciation for them. Nothing can be done to reverse the placement of the THAAD missile system in their village, or to placate the villagers’ grievances. To the senior citizens who have already experienced how human life can be destroyed on the battlefield, this situation is unacceptable; they still remember the Korean War. Those who have lived for a long time also know how life goes on and their stubborn fight becomes part of everyday life—an ironic battle for peace in a peaceful village. Soseongri is directed by Park Bae-il, a member of “Act through Media.” He has made a number of documentaries. This particular film runs with the cinematic slogan “Go, THAAD and Come, Peace!” (LEE Seung-min – BIFF Catalogue)
What the jury said: We honor a film that introduced us to an extraordinary group of women and allowed us to join them on their journey. With careful balance of political action and rich, at times playful, character development, this film found its rhythms in the lives of its elderly heroines. Those rhythms – energetic activism balanced with work and rest, reminds us of the power of community and inspires us with the example set by these wise and tough grandmothers.
Sennan Asbestos Disaster by Hara Kazuo – Japan | 2017 – 215 min.
Japan’s documentary master, Hara Kazuo, has now documented the lives of the victims of asbestos poisoning in the Sennan area of Osaka over ten years. Some victims and their families were Koreans conscripted for the Japanese workforce during the colonial period; the lethal nature of asbestos is common knowledge but the government still failed to employ the necessary safety measures. Hara Kazuo filed a lawsuit against the government for damages, leading to eight years of legal dispute. The director enlightens viewers on the situation rationally by maintaining the view of an observer rather than inciting the audience to rage, or to experience emotional elevation in feeling sympathy for the people, yet the film also leaves behind a deep resonance. This event shows that we’re not the only ones; there are many instances of compensation not meted out while people are dying from negligence: the Sewol Ferry Disaster, the case of toxic humidifiers, etc. Hara Kazuo is known for Extreme Private Eros: Love Song1974 (1974) and The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987). (Minah JEONG – BIFF Catalogue)
What the jury said: A masterwork from one of the true masters of the form. This film exhibits narrative patience while building to its emotionally devastating finale. It is a “document” in the truest sense of the word, but also supremely skilled storytelling that compresses events spread over ten years into a clear-eyed indictment of a system that failed its citizens. Ultimately, this film is a paean to patience and a case study of the real work of activism that perseveres long after many would have given up. We are honored to be able to present the BIFF Mecenat Award for best Asian film to Sennan Asbestos Disaster.
A hand written poster by Kwak Eunmi – Korea | 2017 – 25 min.
When a professor files a lawsuit against her over a hand-drawn poster, college student Hye-ri goes to the clubroom to see her friend Min-yeong, with whom she made the poster. Finding her there with a new member, Hyeri is caught up in an inner conflict. (BIFF Catalogue)
What the jury said: In this film, a young university student activist faces what is likely her first major crisis in life. Little details of her activism and the resulting turmoil are revealed. Instead, the filmmaker chooses to portray the emotional trajectory of the heroine over one political poster making session. Handheld close-ups of the character’s face and the relentless sound of a marker create an oppressive, suffocating sensation. The filmmaker demonstrates a clear creative strategy to effectively portray the experience of a young woman in emotional distress and her inner transformations.
Madonna by Sinung Winahyoko – Indonesia | 2017 – 14 min.
Working offshore in fishing, intensely homesick and depressed, siblings Melati and Ilalang slog through their days, coping as best they can. Melati releases young fish; Ilalang experiments with his sexuality. A brutal assault brings them closer together, leading them into the forbidden.
What the jury said: The winning film dazzles from the very first seconds. The visual style is exhilarating to experience. It is as though we could sense first hand the beating sun, the salty smell of the ocean, the unsettling wind, and the unmistakable violent undercurrent. The design of the imagery and the construction of the narrative leave a great deal of room for imagination. The director is unafraid of risks and demonstrates a remarkable command of the artistry. We see an auteurist voice fully and confidently on display. Here we have a young filmmaker to watch.
Actress of the Year Award
Jeon Yeobeen for After my death (Kim Uiseok) – Korea | 2017 – 113 min.
Actor of the Year Award
Park Jonghwan for Hit the Night (Jeong Gayoung) – Korea | 2017 – 85 min.
After meeting Jinhyeok once while having drinks, Gayeong visits him under the pretense of doing data research for her scenario. While asking him perfunctory questions, she discovers that he has a girlfriend, but Gayeong pays no mind. She asks him a series of hardcore questions about masturbation, and his first sexual encounter, and throws out a question showing her true feelings: “It would be impossible to sleep with you, right?” Jinhyeok does not answer, and Gayeong continues where they left off. Will she succeed in winning him over? As in her debut film Bitch on the Beach , director Jeong Gayoung plays the spunky and aggressive leading role herself. The man is thrown off, but the woman continues to be all over him. Their conversation lasts a long time, but filmic tension is maintained by something hard to see in other films: the characters conduct a candid conversation about sexual tastes and experiences, the two actors’ natural performances, and so on. Unlike in typical romantic comedies, her strong personality is clearly imprinted. (NAM Dong-chul – BIFF Catalogue)
End of Summer by Zhou Quan – China | 2017 – 102 min.
Soccer became popular in China thanks to the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Xiaoyang, who loves soccer, wants to get onto the school’s team, but his father doesn’t allow him, saying it’s more important for him to study. An old man next door, however, encourages Xiaoyang, and tells him that he will help. Xiaoyang’s mother is always busy as an actress in traditional Chinese drama. In the meantime, his father develops a crush on a temporary teacher at Xiaoyang’s school. Xiaoyang tails the two with suspicion in his eyes. End of Summer captures the father’s generation and his father’s generation through the eyes of fifth-grader Xiaoyang. With his friendship with an old man, lonely after fighting his children, and his excited father enjoying his late life romance, the film portrays the loss and growth of a soccerloving boy in the summer of 1998. This is the debut film for Zhou Quan, a Chinese director who studied at the AFI. Interestingly, Zhang Songwen and Zhou Tan from Lou Ye’s Spring Fever appear together as the boy’s parents. (KIM Young-woo – BIFF Catalogue)
Busan Bank Award
Pulse by Stevie Cruz-Martin – Australia | 2016 – 85 min.
Olly, a gay disabled teenage boy, feels devastated and isolated when his two straight best friends, Luke and Nat, start dating each other. Coupled with the news that he has to have a hip operation that would force him to be hospitalized, he decides to go one step further and receive an experimental full body transplant. Electing to change into the body of a beautiful woman, Olly discovers power & freedom he had never experienced before, and feels as if he might finally be able to achieve the thing he longs for most; requited love. Pulse is a deeply personal film, exploring thematic questions such as how much our bodies’ shape who we are, where is the line between compromising for love and changing yourself to be loved, and why we fall in love with the people we fall in love with. Pulse is a human drama that will touch your heart and remain in your memory for a long time, especially the powerful performance from Daniel Monks who also wrote and produced the film. (BIFF Catalogue)
Citizen Critics’ Award
Possible Faces by Lee Kanghyun – Korea | 2017 – 130 min.
Giseon works as an administrator at a high school. He begins to nurture an interest in Jinsu, a student on the soccer team. He asks him how his soccer practices are, and whether there are any problems in school. He even visits him at home. Giseon’s ex Hyejin quits her job and gets busy remodeling her mother’s small restaurant. The stories of Giseon and Hyejin run parallel, and they reappear after some time has passed. Giseon has quit working at the school and is writing for a private newsletter. He is writing a story on a delivery driver, Hyeonsu. Characters in the film each live their own times. The director says, “I remember the moments I saw a face. A face filled with a happy smile, a face twisted in anger, a face lifelessly looking around, and a face that is certainly devoid of any emotion.” Possible Faces is not a film tied to the development of a story. It is the story of three characters who are somehow connected, but without a clear cause and effect relationship. (NAM Dong-chul – BIFF Catalogue)
Vision – Director’s Award
February by Kim Joonghyun – Korea | 2017 – 112 min.
Min-gyeong is preparing for a public servant’s test by stealing lectures. She steals change from the dumpling restaurant she works at part time. Her father’s settlement costs and custody costs aside, she cannot even pay her overdue rent. She must look for a place to sleep. She goes to see her one-time roommate and college friend Yeojin, who suffered depression and had attempted suicide many times. Somehow, a happy Yeojin does not ring quite right with Min-gyeong, but having found a place to stay, she is relieved. Her stay does not last long, though. Having to find another place to stay, she gets help from a man with whom she had sex for money. His son Seonghun hopes that Min-gyeong becomes his mom, and Min-gyeong slowly begins to feel attached to him. February is a story about a woman who keeps making bad choices. Her crimes are not big, but morally condemnable, and she keeps running away from a chance at a fresh start. True, her surroundings are no help to that fresh start either.(NAM Dong-chul – BIFF Catalogue)
What the Jury said: February by Kim Joonghyun is a film that hardly greets Spring. That is why the film has succeeded in relating to Minkyoung who is colder and more desperate than others, yet at the same time keeping distance with the character. We considered the attitude that keeps aloof but also sympathizes at the same time with what we need at our current status, accordingly, we award Vision – Director’s Award to February.
Hit the Night by Jeong Gayoung – Korea | 2017 – 85 min.
What the Jury said: Hit the Night by Jeong Gayoung presents different views and perspective about sexuality and film. These views and perspective are hidden between the words, which nuance the director’s talent. For these reasons, we are awarding Vision – Director’s Award to Hit the Night.
CGV Art House Award
Microhabitat by Jeon Gowoon – Korea | 2017 – 102 min.
Miso is a 31-year-old housemaid making 45,000 KRW per day in Seoul. Her only joys in life are cigarettes, one glass of whiskey after work, and her poor boyfriend who dreams of becoming a webtoon artist. Though not rich, Miso is content until she reaches a crisis. Beginning on the first day of the year, the cost of cigarettes rises a whole 2,000 KRW! Such a rise in price is enough for a daily worker like Miso to have to decide to give something up. Unable to let go of either whiskey or cigarettes, she decides to give up her home. The price of housing in Seoul is, after all, the most expensive thing to her. After putting all her belongings in a backpack and a carrier bag, she begins searching out the five friends with whom she was in a band during her 20s. As she searches for her friends spread throughout Seoul, we meet normal people living normal lives. This is a story of today’s youths, poor but holding on to their self-respect. (NAM Dong-chul – BIFF Catalogue)
What the Jury said: Microhabitat is a story about a young woman, who keeps her dignity although of tribulations of everyday life, exploring and easing the others’ lives. We are awarding the CGV Art House Award to Microhabitat, which lasts long with considerate humor and compassion, hoping that more audiences discover precious moments watching this film.
Busan Cinephile Award
A Free Man by Andreas Hartmann – Germany, Japan | 2017 – 75 min.
Kei is a 22-year-old homeless roaming Kyoto with a backpack. Man is about the conflict between dreams and reality. This theme is still special, though, because of the leading character’s special charm and the stereotypical Japanese society enforcing loyalty to organization and advancement. Kei is mesmerized by the army after watching Top Gun as a child, and enlists as a career soldier, but drops out in search of his true dreams. He chooses to live alienated from society, leaving the comforts of his parents’ home. His search for freedom makes those who captured by society remember their forgotten dreams. Hence when Kei says that the day he loses his dreams is the sufferings will be over, some can worry that he will really end his wanderings as a “free man” and become a “member of society.” The scenery of the outdoors complements the calm in the “waves” of classical music, which has been Kei’s only comfort. His honest expressions linger deeply in this lyrical documentary. (RHEE Souewon – BIFF Catalogue)
What the Jury said: A Free Man by Andreas Hartmann won the Busan Cinephile Award at the 22nd Busan International Film Festival. A Free Man gained deep sympathy from many cinephiles with lateral view on concerns and worries of the contemporary young people on reality.
February by Kim Joonghyun – Korea | 2017 – 112 min.
What the Jury said: For its strongly directed, in-depth and imaginative observation of contemporary problems for lower socio-economic Korean youth.
Last Child by Shin Dongseok – Korea | 2017 – 123 min.
A couple that owns an interiors shop had a son, Eunchan, who died saving a friend, Gihyeon, from drowning during a trip six months earlier. The father is still suffering from the loss and is barely holding on. One day, he witnesses Gihyeon being bullied by a group of young people. Deciding to help out, the father teaches Gihyeon interior work, and his wife also opens up to Gihyeon. Soon the three become like family, but the closer they become, the more guilty Gihyeon feels. Unable to hold out, he finally confesses to them the truth about their son’s death. Last Child poses a different question at each half of the film. In the first half, the question is what to do with the boy that survived instead of their son. Later, the question becomes how to cope with the truth if the death of their son is not the noble sacrifice known to the world. Both questions present the survivors with a hard choice to make. (NAM Dong-chul – BIFF Catalogue)
Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award
Suzuki Seijun | Japanese Director
Suzuki Seijun was born in Tokyo in 1923. He enrolled in the film department of the Kamakura Academy in 1946 and worked as an assistant director at several studios. Debuted as filmmaker with Cheers At the Harbor: Triumph In My Hands (Minato no kanpai: Shôri o waga te ni) in 1956, he directed over 40 works until 1967 and named as a significant figure in Japanese New Wave. He also. Suzuki’s yakuza thrillers and pop-art cinematic style influenced future filmmakers including Wong Kar Wei, Quentin Tarantino and John Woo. His representative works includes Gate of Flesh (1964), Tokyo Drifter (1966), Branded to Kill (1967), Zigeunerweisen (1980). Princess Raccoon (2005) was screened at the 10th Busan International Film Festival.
Korean Cinema Award
Christoph Terhechte | Head of Berlin International Film Festival Forum
Christoph Terhechte was born in 1961, in the city of Münster, Germany. He studied political science and journalism at the University of Hamburg and started his career as a film journalist in 1984. After he worked as a writer of “taz”, a daily newspaper in Germany, Christoph moved to Paris, working as a freelance journalist. He also worked as a head editor in the film section at the Berlin city magazine “tip”. He promoted European cinema by working on the film selection and editorial work of the European Low Budget Film Forum in Hamburg. Christoph Terhechte has been a member of the selection committee of the Berlin International Film Festival Forum since 1997 and was appointed head of the Berlinale section in 2001. Working as a head of the International Forum of New Cinema of the Berlin International Film Festival, Christoph Terhechte has actively introduced Korean cinema to European audiences.
*Photo of Christoph Terhechte taken from phaidon.com