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22nd Asian Project Market – Awards 2019

apm2019We present the list of winners of the Asian Project Market (APM) that took place from October 6th – 8th at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea.

About the Asian Project Market:
Asian Project Market (APM) is a first launched co-production platform in Asia that offers emerging filmmakers the opportunity to meet international leading film professionals.

After launching in 1998 as Pusan Promotion Plan (PPP), it has grown into the biggest and most important pre-market in Asia. In 2011, it was renamed as Asian Project Market and has been successfully delivering its role as cradle of creativity.

Each year APM discovers fresh feature film projects ranging from big-scale commercial ones to low-budget indies to link them with global film investors, producers and distributors. Numerous APM projects have already made it through to completion and received positive responses from both film festivals and international audiences. As such, APM continues to earn greater interest from filmmakers around the world.

 

Busan Award

Topography of Solitude by Nakai Noemie – Japan
Producer: Watanabe Satch
Production Company: Triscope Pictures
Writer: Nakai Noemi
Genre: Drama, Mystery
Project Status: Script Development

Synopsis:
After her Brazilian boyfriend goes missing, Karen seeks emotional refuge by working in the unique Japanese ‘family rental’ industry, in which people rent her to play their relatives. When she discovers that her partner was in fact killed by the police, Karen decides to put her fake relationships to use in order to go after Irie, the cop with whom her partner was last seen. She becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue and illegality, discovering that not only is Irie perpetrating shady deportations, but also that he is secretly gay and dating George, her only friend. Threatening to reveal his sexuality, she forces him to admit he hushed up her boyfriend’s disappearance. George begs Karen to give up her revenge but, feeling betrayed, she sets up a fake wedding; she will hire herself to play Irie’s bride and confront him in public. Her plans are turned upside down, however, when she discovers that her own boyfriend was hired to date her. Riddled with self-doubt, she has to choose between prosecuting Irie and opening a can of worms, or letting go of her vengeance and helping him and George stay together. Realizing that she can save her friend’s relationship, she finds the courage to let go, and files a motion to dismiss. This story is based on real events. In 2010, Awudu Suraj died while being deported from Japan. In a country where immigration is taboo, Suraj’s death has been completely ignored by the press.

Director’s Statement
Japan is often pictured as a harmonious country, immersed in unnerving politeness and fascinating traditions. Growing up there, however, Japan struck me for its reluctance to tackle longstanding taboos; immigration, LGBT issues, and strong women, for example. I felt like the true story of Awudu Suraj’s deportation embodied the lurking, suffocating brutality that most foreigners don’t even suspect. This film aims to shed light on Japan’s inner demons, and the latent violence and pressure to fit in that seem to permeate every layer of life. It will deal with topics that are rarely tackled in contemporary Japanese films. It’s the story of the masks we wear and the fears we bury, represented by the ‘rental family’ system; real families fall apart, fake relatives bring consolation, things are never what they seem. It’s about people who have lost their bearings and are petrified by fear of inadequacy. I will shoot the nitty-gritty Japan; no silk kimonos, neon-saturated skyscrapers or fingerless yakuza. The camera will be a visceral representation of Karen’s psyche, taking us on a raw journey amidst her doubts and fears. We will flow through tonal shifts, never settling – like our characters in perpetual search of themselves.

 

 

MAS Award

The Courier Always Knocks Twice by Hu Jia & Daniel Yu – China
Producer: Daniel Yu
Production Company: Stoneman Films Ltd.,
WaterElephant Cultural Media (Zhejiang) Co., Ltd.
Writer: Hu Jia
Genre: Drama, Family, Comedy, Thriller
Project Status: Pre-production

Synopsis
Unemployed, stay-at-home dad, Zhou Dao, dreams of being a horror film director. At home taking care of their baby, he secretly writes a horror script while his wife, Tian Xiaomeng, is away at work. Due to the strict requirements of the film company, Zhou Dao has to modify the story over and over again, until he has written three totally different horror stories, all involving a protagonist named Luo Xiaohui. The three stories actually include clues to each other, together revealing the life experiences of the murderer, Luo Xiaohui. Meanwhile, a real murder occurs in the residential building where Zhou Dao lives. The murderer is Zhou’s neighbor, and Zhou unintentionally finds himself a witness. His wife, Tian Xiaomeng, does not support Zhou’s dream of directing. The two often quarrel over daily trifles. Zhou begins to suspect that his wife is having an affair. After a big fight with his wife, Zhou wakes to find himself in a mental hospital. A doctor in the mental hospital tells Zhou that he has no wife or baby, and that his entire family life was an illusion. He is not Zhou Dao, but the murderer, Luo Xiaohui, the protagonist of the three horror stories which actually took place. Is all of this the nightmare of nurturing dad, Zhou Dao, or the psychotic fantasy of murderer, Luo Xiaohui? Who is the real Zhou Dao? Are there truly any answers in life?

Director’s Statement
I have always wanted to shoot horror films, but Chinese horror films always tease the audience because there is no ghost at the end. There are only two kinds of endings, either psychosis or nightmare. So, in this film, I provide the audience with both endings, psychosis and nightmare, which is a joke based on conventional “Chinese horror films”. Which is more authentic, the reality or the dream? I leave it to the audience to answer. The audience may prefer to watch horror films during a recession to help them find excitement and forget about reality. However, a good horror film does not blindly pursue scares. Rather, there should be love and warmth behind the fright. The main storyline, therefore, focuses on a family; the couple’s mutual help and caring through a cat-and-dog relationship offering a taste of real life. In order to make the character more interesting, the protagonist is a stay-athome father. Chinese men rarely take care of their children, and I guess a female audience will like such a gentle, funny, nurturing dad as a hero.

 

 

CJ Entertainment Award

Boldstar by Antoinette Jadaone – Philippines
Producers: Bianca Balbuena, Dan Villegas
Production Company: Epicmedia, Project 8 corner San Joaquin Projects
Writer: Antoinette Jadaone
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Project Status: Script Development

Synopsis
A wild celebrity sex tape has leaked, starring former bombshell Ginger Paloma. Now living in a destitute tenement with two kids, it’s a second shot at fame and fortune for Ginger at last. She has to do it, admitting that she is the woman in the video. Except that she isn’t. Everything seems to be going well, as she and her family enjoy their easy money, until the real star of the sex video turns up. Majesty Zamora is younger and fresher, and she’s here to claim what’s rightfully hers. Not willing to let go of her new life, Ginger has a brilliant idea. She makes a new sex tape.

Director’s Statement
In a country where the president orders soldiers to shoot female rebels “in the vagina”, jokes about raping Miss Universe, and kisses a married woman on the lips in front of a cheering audience, it is tough to be a woman. It is true that women’s bodies are cultural constructs. As a Filipina woman, I am afraid of this misogynistic culture that the president has normalized. Ginger Paloma – our ‘Boldstar’ – lives in this very same society. She has lived through the rise and eventual death of the soft-core porn genre in Philippine cinema. For years, Ginger allowed herself to be the object of male sexual desire and a victim of sexual exploitation in exchange for a better life for her family. When love stories rose to popularity, the bold stars were replaced by wholesome romantic leads. So, when a sex tape goes viral, Ginger, now a single mom living in a poor community and without a stable job, sees it as an opportunity to make some easy money. Being reduced once again to an object of male sexual desire is a detail she can overlook, and who could blame her? Such hunger for money is brought about by her poverty and intensified by corporatized entertainment. This self-objectification emboldens misogynist culture, and the woman at the center of it is not even aware that she is a victim. Boldstar will be told with humor; a blend of humanity and absurdity. As in most immersive experiences, once the comedy has washed over us, the real story emerges. It is a story of every woman who has struggled against a culture that is still very patriarchal, but told from the perspective of a poor, denselypopulated Catholic country. In laughing at Ginger’s fate, the joke is actually on us, and it’s not even funny.

 

 

LOTTE Award

About Daughter by Boo Jiyoung – Korea
Producer: Je Jeongju
Production Company: ATO Co., Ltd., Hwapoong Cinema Co.
Writer: Boo Jiyoung
Genre: Drama
Project Status: Script Development

Synopsis
Jeongeun, who works as a care worker at a nursing hospital for the elderly, hears from her daughter, Saein, who demands money for her security deposit. But Jeongeun can’t afford to help. When she is compelled to let Saein stay at her place, Saein takes the liberty of moving in together with her partner, Inae. Saein, a part-time university lecturer and Inae, a chef, are a lesbian couple of 7 years. Jeongeun, unable to accept their relationship, faces a series of inconveniences and conflicts which she can only complain about in monologue fashion to Jaeshin, whom she is taking care of at the nursing hospital. Jaeshin has spent a lifetime tending to those on the fringes of society, but has ended up a lonely, old lady with Alzheimer’s. With both her finances and her medical condition in decline, the hospital devises a plan to send her to a cheaper nursing home. Meanwhile, Jeongeun discovers wounds on Saein’s face and body and starts interrogating her daughter until Saein explodes and storms out of the house. Jeongeun soon learns that Saein is fighting against the university, which suddenly fired her along with a few other part-time colleagues. One night, Jeongeun is looking for Saein at the school but gets swept up in a fiery protest, becoming victim and also witness to violence caused by anti-gay protesters, in which Saein and her colleagues are badly injured. Meanwhile, she learns Jaeshin has been sent to another nursing home while she was away, and sets out to find her.

Director’s Statement
What does it really mean to ‘understand’ someone? Is it even possible? Perhaps we tend to use this word too freely, or else give up on it entirely. But what if it’s a family member who poses this dilemma? A mother is dissatisfied with everything about her daughter, while her daughter acts as if her mother has no say in her life. I want to witness the moment when they both take a step closer to each other.

 

 

KOCCA Award

Winter Worm, Summer Grass by Kang Sang-woo – Korea
Producer: Han Sunhee
Production Company: 1011 Films, Plain Pictures
Writer: Kang Sang-soo
Genre: Fantasy, Thriller, Drama
Project Status: Script Development

Synopsis
Jaewoo (27) leaves Seoul to attend the funeral of his father, who ran a mushroom farm in his hometown. There he meets Bimal (25), a young Nepali man who worked with his father at the farm. Jaewoo learns that the two men had been doing research in order to grow the revered Cordyceps sinensis, a.k.a. ‘winter worm summer grass,’ in Korea for the first time. Jaewoo is curious about Bimal, who knows more about his father than he does. Local undertaker Sun-ok (52) sees a long, white, mushroom-like protrusion coming from the neck of a dead man. Soon it is reported that similar types of stems have been found in other dead bodies in town. The government confirms that it is a mutated variant of Cordyceps that is fatal to humans, and the townspeople are quarantined. Realizing that the new ‘mushroom’ is good for improving the sex drive, Sun-ok and her boyfriend, Sang-ho (56), hope that it may also treat her daughter’s unidentified sickness. She asks Bimal, in return for large sums of money, to find human-grown Cordyceps that her daughter can consume. Jaewoo and Bimal begin a strange journey to find human hosts and gather infectious spores, which will lead to unexpected consequences.

Director’s Statement
Cordyceps sinensis, also known as ‘winter worm summer grass’ in East Asia, is a rare kind of fungus that penetrates into the larvae of insects in winter and sprouts long stems from its hosts in summer. Revered for its anti-aging and immune system-enhancing properties, wild Cordyceps from the Himalayan highlands costs over $20,000 per kilogram, making it the most expensive mushroom in the world. Cordyceps’ ability to combine itself with a worm to transform into a stem blurs the boundaries between the animal and plant kingdoms. In this film, in which mutated Cordyceps infect humans, the protagonists witness their loved ones turning into strange forms for no clear reason. When we fail to find easy targets to blame, we become more conflicted as intimate feelings towards others easily turn into distrust and our urge to survive becomes ever stronger. In the film, I want to depict those moments of inner conflict we all share, when those who were familiar to us no longer resemble the person that we knew. At the same time, the film explores the many forms of solidarity and love that are possible among people who would usually be unlikely to meet, and asks what choices we would make in such circumstances.

 

 

ArteKino Award

Mother Tongue by Zhannat Alshanova – Kazakhstan
Producer: Julia Kim
Production Company: East Wind Production
Writer: Zhannat Alshanova
Genre: Drama
Project Status: Script Development

Synopsis
A sleeping sickness has hit a small town in Kazakhstan. People are falling asleep at random, some for hours, days or even weeks. Sanjar, a British journalist, goes there to explore the phenomenon, but also to see the land of his birth for the first time. While there are multiple different theories and explanations about the case, including secret government operations and conspiracy theories, Sanjar prefers to focus on a scientific point of view. However, when he is drawn to the epicenter of the events, he starts to believe in a spiritual reason for the sickness. In the midst of chaos, he begins to feel a great sense of connection to those around him. However, later, when he returns to London, he discovers to his devastation that nothing of what he thought was happening in Kazakhstan actually happened. Trying to regain his previous state of euphoria, he immerses himself in drug abuse. But, when his friend discovers the photos Sanjar took in Kazakhstan, he decides to organize a photo exhibition. On the day of the opening, Sanjar is finally sober, and his life is back on track again. Roaming the gallery, with very little interest in his own work, he suddenly sees a photo that he hasn’t seen before, which will again change his perspective of his time in Kazakhstan and lead him to embark on a new journey.

Director’s Statement
I started developing this idea about 5 years ago, when I first read about a sleeping sickness that hit a small village in Northern Kazakhstan. I became fascinated by that event, because it opened up so many opportunities to explore people’s unconscious reality and perceptions of truth. I envisioned that town as a promised land, a rough seam between dream and reality, a place, where perhaps people could allow themselves to open up. Sanjar is a motherless boy hiding in the body of a man; restlessly searching for a place where he feels he belongs, for his language, and for the truth about himself. As a journalist, he wants the truth to be solid and tangible, logical and rational; something he can seek and find, touch and share. But what if the truth is something more personal and intimate? What if it doesn’t fill the solitude, but expands it? “Would you still dare to go and explore?” I ask Sanjar. Mother Tongue is a story about a character who doesn’t settle for second best, who follows his instincts, even when they call him to an irrational, illogical place.

 

 

Sorfond Award

Skin of Youth by Ash Mayfair – Vietnam
Producer: Tran Thi Bich Ngoc
Writer: Ash Mayfair
Producer Company: An Nam Productions, Mayfair Pictures
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Project Status: Development, Financing

Synopsis
1998, in Saigon, San wants to make enough money for a sex-change operation that will fulfill her dream of living in a woman’s body. Her boyfriend, Nam, works as an underground dog-cage fighter to support this dream. The young couple is sucked into a vicious cycle of money and violence that eventually fractures their relationship. When San’s obsession creates distance between them, Nam seeks comfort with a young prostitute, Mimi, who ends up becoming pregnant. San must now find it in herself to forgive her lover and accept Mimi and the baby. Is it possible that in the society of 1990s Vietnam, a trans-person, a fighter, a prostitute and an old grandmother could conceivably come together, however briefly, to experience belonging and maybe even to raise a baby? This patchwork family barely finds a moment of peace when Nam’s rage against those who threaten them plunges everyone into yet another dangerous situation.

Director’s Statement
Skin of Youth came out of my sadness and desperation at seeing extreme-right governments taking power seemingly everywhere in recent years; spreading hate, threatening the rights of minorities, women, and anyone who does not fit the status-quo. The anger and resentment I feel manifested in these two characters who are fighting against their circumstances and finding themselves in a losing battle. San wants a sex change, enough to put herself into situations that endanger her and those for whom she cares. Nam wants love, enough to wreak destruction on his body time and time again, since the pain of his heart is more difficult to handle. On top of this, both of them are constantly subjected to humiliation, discrimination and abuse from those in power. These two characters

 

 

Moneff Award

The Child by Kang Donghun – Korea
Producer: Jung Youn
Production Company: Youn Pictures, Studio Hoho
Writer: Kang Donghun
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
Project Status: Script Development

Synopsis
Choi Soojin, a 30-year-old nurse’s aide working for an Asian medical clinic, lives with her 8-year-old daughter, Jieun. Soojin would do anything for her daughter. A few years ago, Jieun’s older brother was attacked and killed by a dog. Soojin’s harsh life as a single mom began as a result of that tragic accident, which tore apart her family. Now Jieun is growing up and attending elementary school, and Soojin is going to marry Kim Jaehan, 38 years old, the chief doctor at the clinic where she works. Finally, Soojin can begin to dream about her own happiness again. However, Soojin’s dream doesn’t last long. Jieun disappears all of a sudden. Soojin searches for her daughter everywhere, but fails to find Jieun. Just as Soojin is about to report her missing daughter to the police, Jieun returns home without a word. Although Jieun doesn’t usually talk a lot, it seems very odd to Soojin that Jieun won’t speak at all after her short disappearance. The next day, Soojin learns that there are other children missing from the neighborhood. Her anxiety increases because the missing children had been bullying Jieun before they went missing. Her worst fears become reality when an eyewitness reports to the police that the missing children were seen with Jieun on the day they disappeared. Soojin and Jieun are questioned by the police, but both remain silent and the investigation stalls. Then Soojin receives a mysterious phone call from a man named Kim Seok, who maintains the water purifier at her clinic. He threatens her with a video clip which shows the missing children being savaged and eaten by dogs, and it appears that Jieun is somehow able to control the dogs. Soojin tries to hide Jieun’s terrifying secret in every possible way, but cannot help feeling fearful of her own daughter. After the serial incidents linked to Jieun’s secret ability, Soojin has to accept that she is incapable of handling her daughter. Soojin is forced to make a decision, both for her daughter and herself.

Director’s Statement
Everyone has their own treasure, which might not be considered precious by others. Okay, we can accept that. However, what if the thing that I hold most precious stops being precious to me anymore. What should I do? Especially when the most precious treasure in my life, my daughter, becomes an object of unknown fear; would I be able to accept that reality and that pain?

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