We present the list of winners of the 23rd Busan International Film Festival that took place from October 4th – 13th in Busan, South Korea.
New Currents Award
Savage by Cui Si Wei – China | 2018 – 111 min.
Mt. Baekdu, heavy with snow in the middle of winter. It is said that many ethnic Koreans still live near the snow-covered mountain. A policeman waiting for his transfer and a group of criminals trying to escape from the area after finding stolen goods that were hidden will have a final showdown on the isolated peak. The movie starts with a typical confrontation between the police and the villain, but the confrontation becomes meaningless as the movie progresses. In this debut film, the director spends more energy directing the human instinct to survive in extreme situations than on showing who is good or bad. Chang Chen of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Liao Fan of Black Coal, Thin Ice, the winner of the best actor award at the Berlin Film Festival, appear as cop and criminal, creating characters transcending right and wrong through the frozen faces and the gestures like wild animals. Du Jie, one of China’s most talented cinematographers filmed the mountain covered with snow calmly, without excessive artistic self-consciousness. (Sung Jihae)
What the Jury said: For a strikingly accomplished and riveting first film, exhibiting a mastery of genre cinema, with multi-dimensional characters and thrilling action sequences, the jury unanimously awards the New Currents prize to SAVAGE.
Clean Up by Kwon Man-ki – Korea | 2018 – 104 min.
After losing her son, Jungjoo loses all hope in life, drinking and smoking her life away. She tries to overcome the pain by attending church and praying diligently to no avail. Then one day, she meets Mingoo, a convicted criminal, wearing dirty clothes that have not seen a washer in who knows how long. He carries all his belongings in a plastic bag. Seeing him reminds Jungjoo of an event 12 years earlier. Clean up is a film about a woman coming face to face with a past she wants to forget. She kidnaps a child out of desperation and meets that child again 12 years later. The problem is that the child is now poor, lonely and scorned. She can’t ignore him, and not remembering who she is the boy feels safe with her. Clean up is a film about salvation and forgiveness. Will the two be able to overcome their feelings of guilt, resentment, and anger? Rather than giving a hasty conclusion, the film advances slowly towards a faint glimmer of hope. (Nam Dong-chul)
What the Jury said: Original, surprising and deeply emotional, with detailed characterization, perfect control and masterful psychological development, the jury was completely engaged and impressed with Clean up and unanimously award it the New Currents prize.
Kim Jiseok Award
Rona, Azim’s Mother by Jamshid Mahmoudi
Afghanistan, Iran | 2018 – 89 min.
Azim, working as a janitor in Tehran City Hall, is an Afghan refugee. While helping his mother and his brother′s family plan to smuggle themselves into Germany, he feels betrayed by his brother when he abandons their mother. Nonetheless, Azim takes good care of his mother. One day, she ends up hospitalized in critical condition, and the only way to save her is through a kidney transplant. However, it is impossible for a foreigner to get a donor in Iranian society, so Azim tries to donate his kidney, but the doctor has him detained. Jamshid Mahmoudi has dealt with the struggles and difficulties of the Afghan people living in Iran. He attracted the attention with A Few Cubic Meters of Love (2014), inspired by a true story about an unwelcome love between an Iranian worker and an Afghan girl in Kabul. Jamshid is the brother of Navid Mahmoudi, who was invited to New Currents in 2016 with Parting. The brothers team up by changing roles such as a director, producer, and editor, and made very important and interesting works. (Kim Young-Woo)
The Rib by Zhang Wei – China | 2018 – 85 min.
Director Zhang Wei returns with another focus on China’s social issues in an exploration of life as a transgender person living in a changing Chinese society. Huanyu, who decides to undergo a sex-change, needs his father’s consent in order to go ahead with the medical procedures. His devoted Catholic father only sees transgender identity as a sin and sickness. The film examines the LGBT issue which remains a taboo in Chinese society in the way it depicts the relationship between the transgender-wishing protagonist and his family. The hand-held B&W camerawork which constantly emphasizes realism, is highlighted by one particular scene where his father finally recognizes his identity and they go out together, with his dress a bright red. The liveliness of the red dress in contrast to the tough stares directed at him within the B&W frame stresses the gap between social gaze and individual desire to create a dramatic antithesis. The film is structured around familial relationships, but also conveys the mutual support and advocacy coming from inside the transgender community as well as a sympathetic sensibility. (Hong So In)
What the Jury said about the movies: We proudly present the Kim Jiseok Award to two films from this year’s A Window on Asian Cinema section. Rona, Azim’s Mother, directed by Jamshid Mahmoudi, a stirring and beautifully acted drama about the plight of a family of Afghan refugees living in Iran, realized with great economy and emotional power. The Rib, directed by Zhang Wei, an empathetic and elegantly crafted portrait of the struggle for rights and recognition within China’s transgender community, told through a story of parents and children, faith and identity at odds.
BIFF Mecenat Award
Opening Closing Forgetting by James T. Hong – Taiwan | 2018 – 80 min.
Unit 731 of the Japanese Army, stationed in Harbin during the Sino-Japanese War, secretly carried out its duties related to the biological warfare. From Jilin to Zhejiang and Jiangxi, they injected deadly bacteria into the bodies of civilians. In this film, Opening Closing Forgetting, the director accompanies a fact-finding survey of survivors in Zhejiang area, recording their testimony. Survivors who were shot bacterial injection at a young age of 10 have lived in silence for decades, suffering from the aftereffects. Now the survivors pass away one by one, and their memories are fading. On the other hand, the film also attempts interviews with some of the 731 unit soldiers who are alive. They, much older than the victims but still healthily alive, are turning a blind eye to their responsibilities by making secret pledges and avoiding their testimony or saying they were not involved. What should we do in front of the victim′s increasingly worsening wounds, the mouth of the huddled assailant, and the memory of all those who are gradually forgetting? Regrets deepen. (Huh Kyoung)
What the Jury said: The Mecenat jury first of all would like to highlight the high quality of the Korean selection and its commitment towards past and future historical matters.
For the relevance and importance of its topic, as well as the deep research and profound dedication toward the unfolding of an unknown story, for its courage to explore a difficult human situation, the Mecenat Award for the best Asian film goes to Opening Closing Forgetting by James T. Hong.
ARMY by Kelvin Kyungkun Park – South Korea | 2018 – 89 min.
Korea is the only divided country in the world. Almost all men with South Korean nationality are required to serve in the military according to the military service law in Korea. The same applies to Woochul, the main character of this documentary, The Army. Woochul’s friend who has already been in the army makes fun of him when he goes to the training camp, saying, “The country owns you for two years now!” The film records the two years from Woochul’s joining to leaving the army. Woochul, who has never been in a group life, tries to adapt himself at first, but he seems to be struggling and finally refuses to shoot for a while. The director just watches Woochul in silence. The collectivism young Koreans learn in the army turns into the order to maintain the society as a whole. However, the film, Army, asks keeping the order by diluting the splendid individuals is how small but scary through a cynical but humorous depiction. (Huh Kyoung)
What the Jury said: For a strong cinematic approach, and an editing that allows to interweave both eloquently and subtly the personal with the collective perspectives in regard to the army, for its ability to reveal a phenomena that creates the roots of a society and of social relations that is profoundly influenced by its inherent violence, the Mecenat award for the best Korean film goes to Army by Kelvin Kyungkun Park. Finally the jury would like to encourage with a special mention Lee-Kil Bora to further pursue a brave political work and elegant formal approach.
A War of Memories by Bora Lee-kil – South Korea | 2018 – 88 min.
South Korea participated in the Vietnam War as an ally of the United States achieved the so-called “Vietnam Special” economic growth, which was the pride of the veterans. Behind it, however, there were the massacres of civilians conducted by Korean troops in many villages in Vietnam, but the South Korean government is avoiding comment. Director Lee-Kil Bora’s film, A War of Memories records Nguyen Thi Thanh, the only survivor of Phong Nhi Phong Nhat massacre, where civilians were killed during the Vietnam War. Having lost all of her family at the age of eight and survived by herself, she is an open witness to the massacre of Vietnamese civilians and demands an official apology from the Korean government. Until her testimony, Korean civic groups supported her and offered apologies on behalf of the government, but she is adamant. She says the perpetrator is responsible for the fault. Isn’t it so natural for her to attend Wednesday Rally when she visited Korea at the beginning of the film, asking what attitude we should show before the tragedy of this big war? (Huh Kyoung)
What the Jury said: The jurors would like to make a special mention of the film A War of Memories by director Lee-kil Bora. While dealing with the political issues in a confident and courageous way, she approaches it in an elegant manner simultaneously.
Cat Day Afternoon by Kwon Sungmo | South Korea – 25 min.
One summer day, a woman calls a repairman to fix her air conditioner. A cat appears, the heat is scorching, the perspiration never stops, and the repairman is allergic to the cat. In an instant, everything seems to go wrong.
What the Jury said: Cat Day Afternoon is a satire film, which portrays a fear and a threat that single women go through, the reality of customer service workers who work under heavy loads of work and forced kindness, and hierarchical work space. This film fills a tiny space with the mix of heat and humidity and portrays a confusing situation which comes from a gradually accelerating tension and fear through a gripping narrative. We the juries are really happy to award this filmmaker who knows how to make the audience laugh while dealing with this heavy theme.
Nooreh by Ashish Pandey – India | 2018 – 22 min.
Nooreh is an eight-year-old girl living in a village on the India-Pakistan border. She discovers that gunfights stop when she wakes up. When the crossfire becomes so bad that school closes, Nooreh decides to stay up all night. Will the gunfight really stop if she does not fall asleep?
What the Jury said: This story beautifully captures day and night with a captivating performance of the main character. An impressive track of light and darkness of the human nature that creates a folk sonata of the war reveals hope.
Actresses of the Year
Lee Juyeong for her role in Maggie by Yl Okseop – South Korea | 2018 – 88 min.
The discovery of X-ray photographs of sexual intercourse causes trouble at a hospital. The hospital administration is more interested in who might be in the x-rays than who took them. A nurse, Yeo Yoon-young, is writing her resignation because she thinks it might be her, but when she arrives at the hospital no one else is there except the deputy. While this hospital commotion is going on, strange sinkholes start to appear in Seoul. Young laborers, including Yoon-young’s boyfriend, are mobilized to fill these sudden sinkholes. Maggie is a film where one cannot easily summarize the plot. Since it does not confine itself to convention, the director’s unique imagination spreads everywhere. The director once expressed his intentions behind directing as follow: “I kept quiet even though I knew something was not true. Watching the growing misunderstanding, I felt that the world would adapt to that misunderstanding. Confidence is free from doubt, and so it can be very dangerous. My film describes the process of achieving confidence. But how should I behave after learning the truth?” (Nam Dong-chul)
What the Jury said: We selected Lee Juyeong from Maggie as the winner of Actress of the Year Award. We give director Yi Okseop a big applause and it was our big pleasure and honor to discover Lee Juyeong’s potential and enthusiasm for acting as simple and clear as it is. One of the quotes by Lee, ‘We’ve got to believe as we promised to do so’ was beautifully spoken in the film and touched our hearts; thus, we finally came up with a decision of granting her Rookie of the Year Award as we support her endless possibilities in the future. We also would like to highly appreciate actors who devoted themselves and showed fine performance in House of Hummingbird and A Boy and Sungreen as well as all professionals including child and veteran actors. Thank you!
Choi Hee-seo for her role in Our Body by Han Ka-ram
South Korea | 2018 – 96 min.
Preparing for the civil service exam for 8 years, Ja-young is getting exhausted by her continued attempts to pass it. After fighting with her mother who has been supporting her, she must stand on her own feet. Mentally and physically exhausted, Ja-young happens to meet a jogger full of vitality named Hyun-joo, and is tempted to be like her. Ja-young starts to run for the first time in her life. During the day, she works part-time at a company with her old friend Min-ji . At night she runs with Hyun-joo. Through this, she gradually regains her energy. She really admires Hyun-joo who has her own goals, dreams, and a good figure, but as Ja-young gets to know her better, she suspects Hyun-joo is harboring some secrets. One night while running together, Hyun-joo dies in a sudden accident and Ja-young enters into shock. Without knowing it, Ja-young soon develops a good figure that others envy, and her life still seems to be in place. After watching the movie with its impressive depiction of women’s’ physical and sexual fantasies, I think the audience will remember Our Body over Anarchist from Colony’s Choi Hee-seo. (Nam Dong-chul)
What the Jury said: Thanks to the tendency of prominent selection of female actors this year, we have inevitably decided to award another female actor instead of male actor. The winner is Choi Hee-seo of Our Body. Her stealing performance and perfect psychological development in all aspects of body, mind and expression have left us a long afterglow. A big applause goes to many talented nominators besides Choi and thank you for all of your great performances.
KNN Audience Award
House of Hummingbird by Kim Bora – South Korea | 2018 – 139 min.
House of Hummingbird is about 14-year-old Eunhee. In 1994, when Seongsu Bridge collapsed, Eunhee lives with her parents and older siblings in Daechidong. Her family doesn’t seem to be particularly caring, and Eunhee and her best friend Jisook go on shoplifting sprees and frequent a famous karaoke bar that all juvenile delinquents go to. She dates a boy from a neighboring school, as well as a girl from her school, floating about on a quest for love. Then finally, an adult that actually understands comes into her life – her teacher, Kim Youngji. A hummingbird is a tiny bird that flies long distances in search of honey. The director likens Eunhee to a hummingbird. Just as a hummingbird beats its wings endlessly in search of honey, Eunhee is endlessly searching for love. There are many Eunhees in the world. We all want to be loved by our family, friends, classmates and teachers. Yet the world is at times violent and cold, ignoring inconsequential little girls. House of Hummingbird reminds us of our youth, bitter failures, and broken hearts. (Nam Dong-chul)
BNK Busan Bank Award
The Little Comrade by Moonika Siimets – Estonia | 2018 – 98 min.
Leelo is a cheerful and lovely young girl who is smothered with love by her teacher parents. One day, the Federal Security Servicemen arrest her mother, Helmes, for resisting Russian rule and supporting Estonia’s independence. Her father Feliks tries to get his wife released, but to no avail. Feliks, as a former Estonian sports hero, is under Russian government surveillance whereby the Russian police attempt to placate him with promises of a better life if he divorces his wife. While set in the dark, post-World War II USSR ruled by Stalin, the film presents bright and beautiful imagery in warm pastel tones. The filmmaker captures the mood of this particular era through the gaze of the young Leelo, who sees warm-hearted Russians instead of Stalinist rule and oppression of Estonians. The father and daughter endure grueling hardships in yearning for the absent Helmes. Freedom finally comes with Stalin’s death in 1953, and mother returns from her Siberian exile. Based on the autobiographical novel by Leelo Tungal, this is Moonika Siimets’ feature debut film. (Erica Nam)
Citizen Critics’ Award
Maggie by Yl Okseop – South Korea | 2018 – 88 min.
What the Jury said: This year’s Citizen Critics’ Award goes to Maggie by Yi Okseop. Yi solves ubiquitous and common worries that today’s young people hold inside in sensuous style. The way Yi depicted the music, colors/illustration and characters in response to narratives was superb that deserves the winner of 2018.
DGK (Directors Guild of Korea) Award
Bori by Kim Jinyu – South Korea | 2018 – 110 min.
Bo-ri, an 11-year-old girl in a seaside village, is the only family member who can hear. As an elementary school student, Bo-ri becomes more and more accustomed to talking with her friends while finding it hard to communicate with her family in sign language. “Why am I the only person born different from my family?” The more she thinks about it, the more she feels alienated. Wishing to be deaf, Bori sees an old woman diver on the TV deafened by a long-term diving. Bo-ri jumps into the sea and loses consciousness. Waking up in the hospital, she pretends she can′t hear. Bori is a heartwarming movie. Not only does Bo-ri have no ill will, but all of her family members actively express their affection for each other. It is a movie starring deaf people, but it shows the bright side of life without using disability as a tragic element. Bo-ri’s intentions are pure, but we cannot support her self-inflicted disability. The movie makes us eager to see things in a positive light where the innocence of childhood and family love meet. (Nam Dong-chul)
What the Jury said: It was successfully wiped out a long-lasted stereotype which a theme of people with disabilities is a tragic topic.
Sub-zero Wind by Kim Yuri – Korea | 2018 – 109 min.
Twelve-year-old Young-ha has been living with her divorced mother, but goes to live with her father so her mom can make a new start. However, when her father suddenly disappears, Young-ha has to return to her mom. Now 15, Young-ha has a new father from her mom’s second marriage. Mom works hard to support the family and keep up appearances. Meanwhile, Mi-jin, Young-ha’s best friend and cousin, is sent away to an uncle after losing all her family. Young-ha has nothing to do but pity her. At 19, after finishing the college entrance exam, Young-ha spends many hours with her new dad since mom is so busy. One day, while alone with her step-dad an unexpected event occurs. She tells her mom about it. Sub-zero Wind is a film about a girl’s growth. The series of trials Young-ha experiences make her realize she is alone in confronting the world. Meanwhile, from the mother’s perspective, her struggle to make a new family is falling apart. For the characters in this film, life’s failures throw them into a world of loneliness. (Nam Dong-chul)
What the Jury said: We wish to encourage and console at the same time to the filmmaker who didn’t give up the theme for the last.
CGV Art House Award
Maggie by Yl Okseop – South Korea | 2018 – 88 min.
What the Jury said: Maggie well portrays the anxiety, contradiction and uncertainty that Korean youth generation has to endure both in private and public spheres with imagination and uniqueness. This is a kind of work that has its own incomparable unique color and style that deserves to be drawn by large audiences and won CGV Art House Award.
Busan Cinephile Award
Bruce Lee and the Outlaw by Joost Vandebrug
UK, Netherlands, Czech Republic
A street kid, Niku, lives under the protection of the king of Bucharest’s underground world, who calls himself Bruce Lee. He propagates a strange philosophy by applying silver paint to his hair that homeless street boys sniff instead of expensive drugs. He gives Niku the name “the Outlaw”, becoming both father and mother. An underground tunnel is an extreme environment, but Niku finds fun and family love there with his friends. One day, Niku gets very sick and goes to the hospital with Raluca, an NGO activist. Will Niku seek a new life with the help of Raluca, or return to the free life of the tunnel? The movie does not judge Niku’s choices or Bruce, observing at a distance. The tunnel is the basis of a community for street boys addicted to the life. However, the camera actively intervenes for the first time when Niku’s disease worsens, and there are other options for Niku. This is the cinematic moment that forces documentary cameras to respond when faced with other people’s lives. (Cho HyeYoung)
What the Jury said: The winner of this year’s Busan International Film Festival Cinephiles Award is Bruce Lee and the Outlaw by Joost Vandebrug. It’s a very impressive work that the positive change in the main character, Nikus, is revealed by director’s intervention. To add, the problem within Romanian society in the film is not simply portrayed by the criticism on the regime but conveyed through the lives of children on the street which touched audiences with a lot of empathy, resulting in the winner of the award.
KTH (KT HiTel) Award
Clean Up by Kwon Man-ki – Korea | 2018 – 104 min.
What the Jury said: A piece with a strong message of forgiveness and salvation with outstanding performance.
A Boy and Sungreen by Ahn Ju-young – Korea | 2018 – 99 min.
Bo-hee is a sensitive boy. His mother named him Bo-hee for certain reasons, even though he gets teased at school for the girlish name. In contrast to Bo-hee, there is a girl who is likely to survive the collapse of the world. Her name is Nok-yang and she is Bo-hee′s best friend. One day, Bo-hee finds out not only that his mother has a boyfriend but that his father is not dead. Upset with his mother, Bo-hee runs off to find his father with Nok-yang’s help. Bo-hee encounters his cousin, the cousin′s boyfriend, and his father′s friends. So many people rush into Bo-hee’s life, that it’s not easy to handle all the changes stemming from his curious whim. This film deals with a boy’s journey to find his father, but it narrows in on the distinctiveness of its characters rather than on solving mysteries. Bo-hee, far from masculine as his suggests, is a boy who can′t help but cry when he sees a sad movie, so he is a sensitive and naive boy. Bo-hee takes a step forward in the search for his father. (Nam Dong-chul)
What the Jury said: Robbing empathy from audiences with cute and vivid characters that portrays in different point of view.
KBS Independent Film Award
Maggie by Yl Okseop – South Korea | 2018 – 88 min.
What the Jury said: In the 1st KBS Independent Film Awards, 13 excellent films were nominated. Among the winners of this year, we unanimously award the prize to Maggie, which reminds us of the spirit of independent film that has been forgotten yet glows in the stranglehold and the stubbornness of an author. Thanks to its great direction, we will support all 13 directors and look forward to the next film.
NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) Award
House of Hummingbird by Kim Bora – South Korea | 2018 – 139 min
What the Jury said: NETPAC Award goes to House of Hummingbird by Kim Bora for: Citation: For its multilayered treatment of Coming of Age theme through depicting complex relationships of a teenager with her traditional Korean family and evolving modern socio economic environment.
The Red Phallus by Tashi Gyeltshen – Bhutan, Germany, Nepal
Sangai, a teenage girl living with her father in a village of inland Bhutan, is not happy with her father, who makes wooden phalluses, believed to have mysterious power, and playing a festival clown with a red mask at a local festival. She reluctantly delivers the phalluses to neighbors but she is followed by dozens of men with red masks and costumes when walking through the hill. Conflict and tension grows between the father, who has concerns about his successor, and Sangai, who has a clandestine relationship with a married man. Set in the great mountains of inland Bhutan, the film is full of stunning images and mysterious symbols and metaphors. And trees with hanging phalluses and the men in red masks following Sangai might deliver quite a violent and strange impression on the audience. The film creates a unique space/world by combining reality and fantasy, and it contrasts the image of phallus and a little girl Sangai with calm but when she reveals her violent nature hidden in her silence, the moment is quite toppled over. It also questions the human nature and primitive instinct, illusions created by red masks and costumes, and the boundary between the illusion and the reality, the duplicity of human being. (Kim Young-Woo)
What the Jury said: The international critics prize FIPRESCI is for The Red Phallus directed by Tashi Gyeltshen. The juries appreciated this film for its strong portray of powerful woman, beautiful landscape, original style and modern film language.
Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award
Ryuichi SAKAMOTO (Musician, Artist, Producer / Japan)
Special Honorary Award
The late HONG Young Chul / Director of Korea Film Institute
Busan International Film Festival Association of Supporters awards Special Honorary Award to the late Hong Young Chul to honor his lifetime contribution to local cinema. Mr. Hong made extraordinary achievement by discovering and organizing the history of Busan theaters.
Korean Cinema Award
Martine Therouanne – Festival Director and Co-founder of Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinemas / France
Jean-Marc Therouanne – General Manager and Co-founder of Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinemas / France