We present the list of winners of the 26th Busan International Film Festival which took place from October 6th – 15th, 2021 in Busan, Korea.
About the festival:
The Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) held annually in Haeundaegu, Busan (Korea) is one of the most important film festivals in Asia, together with the Hong Kong International Film Festival and the Tokyo International Film Festival. Since the first edition in 1996, the festival aim to introduce new films and first-time directors to the world. Another notable feature is the appeal of the festival to young people, both in terms of the large youthful audience it attracts and through its efforts to develop and promote young talent.
New Currents Award
Farewell, My Hometown consists of three episodes. In the first episode, an elderly woman living in the mountains reflects on her life and recounts experiences of excruciating poverty, hard labor, and her child’s death, as the beautiful mountain and forest landscape fills the screen. The second episode is narrated by a woman in her 20s. Living with her boyfriend in an apartment full of boxes, she recounts the solitude she’d felt after moving to Beijing to live in the dance school dormitory. As if hinting at her continuous loneliness, segmented shots of apartments of various sizes are shown in the background. The third episode is the story of a middleaged teacher who takes to the stage. She reflects on her college years in the 1980s, when she enjoyed a different kind of freedom than that of her parents′ generation and was in love with a poor working-class man. The difficult lives of the three generations of women are overlapped in lyrical and poetic images. (PARK Sun Young | BIFF 2021)
Jury Comment: Farewell, Hometown, director Er Zhuo Wang’s first feature film, opened the door of perception for one of our jury members, and literally helped the other members through the door so we could also see what had captivated and enthralled them about this enigmatic film. For enigmatic it is, with its gentle exploration of time, poverty, education and compromise the female protagonists make. Set against the dreamy landscape of the countryside and then the box-like tiers of suburban Beijing, followed by the centres of learning where the relevance of choices made in the past is pondered. The New Currents Award to this film is richly deserved.
Sookyung lives with her daughter Yijung. They don′t quite get along, though. Sookyung is too hot tempered, while Yijung is slow and passive. After having a fight one day, Sookyung runs over Yijung, who thinks she did it on purpose. Their clash ends up in court. The conflict between a mother and a daughter is common, but this film makes it rarely common by showing the fierce battle between them for an unusually long run time a length that seems emotionally understandable. The Apartment with Two Women strongly attracts audiences with its realistic characters, good performances, dynamic narrative, unexpected humor, harp details, pressing questions, and often uneasy answers. What is a family? The film asks this long and complex question with all its heart. (JUNG Hanseok | BIFF 2021)
Jury Comment: Let me quote my hero filmmaker Luis Buñuel who wisely said that, “The minute a film is particular, is the minute it becomes universal.” The Korean film The Apartment with Two Women, directed by Kim Se-in, struck that very note with me. A film about the well explored antagonism between a mother and daughter was so particular to the world it was set in. Amazing performances by the two leading actors had me holding my breath at times. The ultimate question one would ask this mother is, “Does self-determination mean selfishness?” We, the jury of the New Currents Section of the 26th edition of the marvellous Busan International Film Festival, are privileged to bestow the honour of the New Currents Award to The Apartment with Two Women.
Kim Joseok Award
Naina, a criminal psychology professor, is sexually assaulted in a slum she visits to help the daughter of a school custodian embroiled in a case of domestic violence and infanticide. Upon surviving the attack that leaves her colleague dead, Naina fights social prejudices and testifies, which leads to the rapist-murderer’s death sentence. Later, Naina discovers her pregnancy and tries to cope with her trauma in her own way. Veteran Indian director Aparna Sen poses powerful questions about gender, class, and institutional contradictions in India through a dilemma faced by a couple who oppose the death penalty. The shots of past memories and hallucinations that abruptly intrude on reality powerfully visualize the trauma that Naina experiences. The director′s daughter and actress Konkona Sen presents a delicate portrayal of Naina, and Arjun Rampal appears as her husband. Gitanjali Rao, who directed the popular animation Bombay Rose (2019), makes a cameo appearance as the rapist′s mother. (PARK Sun Young | BIFF 2021)
Jury Comment: The director tried to cover all the elements behind the sexual assault case, including psychology, social environment, class, and religion. But the film is not only about the incident, it is also about Indian society and its ability to discuss and decide these kinds of issues.
Disability is not a subject to overcome but to be embraced. Nao Tsuyama dreams of becoming a professional boxer. However, being an handicapped person with a prosthetic leg due to a childhood accident, he is denied official registration at the Japanese Boxing Association. To get the international license, he decides to go to the Philippines where he has to start from zero. It has a different language and culture. He meets Rudy who used to be a successful champion, but now runs a shabby boxing club on the outskirts of the Philippines. Nao starts to feel the paternal love he lacked as a child. He also builds friendship with colleagues who are training for their own circumstances. He realizes that there is a sense of desperation among all of them. The harsh reality can barely change, and there are moments of truth that must be faced. Beauty always lies in the process. Based on a true story, GENSAN PUNCH is a tribute to human challenges. (PARK Sungho | BIFF 2021)
Jury Comment: Incredibly strong story narrated in a documentary style. It is not just a story of a hero’s path to victory, but a story of building human relationships. Okinawa and Gensokyo are two seemingly different worlds, but they are connected by the warmth of people and their beliefs.
Liu wants to sell his unprofitable travel agency business. One day, when one of his employees falls into a coma for a dubious reason, his family and relatives come to Liu, demanding a settlement. Meanwhile, Liu’s ex-wife Tao Qing, a middle school teacher, is troubled by her lover who keeps on delaying their marriage, and his teenage daughter, while her son Yi Fan, who has no experiences or skills to show for or things he wants to do, happens to befriend a group of people who illegally drive cars. Director Wang Qi, who is visiting Busan for the first time with The Bargain, depicts a dense narrative of a dispersed family that is struggling in the rapidly changing modern Chinese society and the wave of capitalism. The occasional handheld camera and close-up shots placed appropriately throughout the film add powerful emotions to the sober narrative. (PARK Sun Young | BIFF 2021)
Jury Comment: The film shows how Shanghai’s economy attracts manpower from rural area, only to discard people when they become redundant. This can be read as a confession by the top management that they have not created any capitalist legacy to pass on to the next generation.
BIFF Mecenat Award
After the dissolution of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was launched as a South Korean government organization in 2005, civic groups and bereaved families wishing to complete the mission the government had failed to accomplish form a joint organization to investigate the remains of civilians who were massacred during the Korean War. A three-year-long documentary about the organization′s three-year-long excavation efforts, 206: Unearthed is a record of sunlight, dirt, and sweat. The film begins with the director′s letter to his grandmother, who waited for her husband to return after he was taken by the police during the Korean War. She has been waiting for 70 years, as neither he nor his remains returned home. And so the director′s long journey began, and there is no end in sight. “We don’t forget”—the film ends with a line from Barthes′ Mourning Diary, dedicated to a picture of the excavated remains and the grandmother′s obituary. This is a documentary that witnesses the wounds of history and a director′s mourning diary. (KANG Sowon | BIFF 2021)
Jury Comment: Heo Chul Nyung looks at the blood soaked ground that Koreans stand upon though his own point of view. Haunting traces of mass killings are framed with caring hands of volunteer excavators. Heo’s camera seems to console the deaths caused by the tragedy of the 20th century just like those careful hands of excavators who caress the excavated skulls and bones.
In 2019, director Zhang Mengqi spent her ninth winter in the village of “47KM” in Hebei Province. “47KM” is her father′s hometown, and she′s completed a film every time she visited. Self-Portrait: Fairy Tale in 47KM is the ninth in her “47KM” series. Alongside village children with red cheeks, director Zhang Mengqi runs around the fi elds, draws, dances, sings, and plays all day, but she doesn’t just play. This time, she decides to bring the children′s imaginative fairy tales into reality: when children draw a house on a winter field, a real house is built on the village hill for the director to live in. The children’s daily life, full of all kinds of games, is a fairy tale in itself,and this film is also a fairy tale. The unadorned gaze and innocence that permeates the tone, mood, and rhythm of this lovely film will make you smile from beginning to end. (KANG Sowon | BIFF 2021)
Jury Comment: Zhang Mengqi’s self-portrait suggests a reflexive portrait beyond the self, the family and the village that the filmmaker identifies with. The empathy towards children, elderly and the land that they live is acquired through the filmmaker’s inevitable closeness and intended distance. We are inspired by the filmmaker’s dreams, her unique and creative vision of the self, who is warm hearted yet coolly self-aware
Piano teacher Ingyeong begins to study Japanese when her boyfriend is assigned to a job in Japan. As her boyfriend’s departure date approaches, she wonders why she’s studying Japanese. Will she find an answer? Without drama, this film quietly builds up emotions, and the energy surrounding it seems nothing close to ordinary. (KANG Sowon | BIFF 2021)
Jury Comment: A Winter Glove delicately captures the subtle waves of emotion. The protagonist “In-kyung” experiences consecutive losses of her loved ones. However, the film does not conclude with loss. Rather, the film leaves a lasting afterimage by showing “In-kyung” moving on to the next chapter. The jury selected this work in order to express our support for the director’s moments of contemplation in the making of this film.
A young boy, Sura, lives alone and lonely in a fishing village. He earns money from chores while waiting for his father, who may never return. One day, he finds a broken sex doll washed ashore, and tries to fix it. (PARK Sungho | BIFF 2021)
Jury Comment: The filmmaker skilled with his masterful storytelling demonstrated the most basic human instinct to reconnect kinship through an unlikely object of desire. a timely reminder for us to remember what it takes to be human.
A middle-aged Buddhist monk in a small temple suffers from increasing tooth pain. To complicate matters, he must endure the construction noise of the development that will eventually raze the temple. (PARK Sungho | BIFF 2021)
Jury Comment: The filmmaker transports the audience into the monochromatic world of urbanisation, using subtle humor to depict a fast vanishing world that has led human beliefs for thousands of years.
Actress of the Year
Jury Comment: For the entire running time of The Apartment with Two Women, I was also saddened and lonely as I was following the emotional journey of the character. In particular, actress Im Jee-ho, who played the role of Yijung, builds the emotional trajectory layer by layer with her slow movements, engrossing the audience further in the film. She expressed the character in such an excellent way.
Actor of the Year
Kyunghak is training to become a police officer, while his girlfriend, Hyejin, is searching for a job. Kyunghak is poor and takes a job as a deliveryman, putting off his future career plans for the time being, when he becomes responsible for paying the loan on which his parents have defaulted. As time passes, his delivery job becomes a major part of his life. Meanwhile, Hyejin succeeds in getting a job and becomes absorbed in her work. Their relationship is not as the same as it was before. Through My Midwinter is a youth-focused melodrama that convincingly presents the emotions of characters through the seasoned performances of the actors as well as the powerful influence of the director. It is very likely that audience will shed tears together with Kyunghak when his sadness finally explodes. (JUNG Hanseok | BIFF 2021)
Jury Comment: Kwon Daham, who played Kyunghak in Through My Midwinter, communicates with the audience by depicting the character’s psychology with his detailed approach to acting. At times, he invites the audience to the quotidian life that anyone can empathize with, while at other times, he provides an intensity that locks the viewers inside the mind of the character by creating a point of truthful identification. Once the identification is understood, the distance between the character and the viewer decreases naturally, leaving a lingering impression stemming from the sadness of the situation in the film. Moreover, Kwon Daham’s sincere acting style resonated with me deeply, and certainly became a dagger to my heart. This is why I have no doubt that he deserves the Actor of the Year award.
KB New Currents Audience Award
Flash Forward Audience Award
Imagine the most dreaded, tense, and emotionally draining interaction you could find yourself in and multiply it by 10. That is exactly what two sets of parents—Richard, Linda, Jay, and Gail—are facing. Years after a tragedy caused by Richard and Linda’s son tore all their lives apart, Jay and Gail are finally ready to talk in an attempt to move forward. In his impressive screenwriting and directorial debut, acclaimed actor Fran Kranz ponders ways in which people process grief, look for answers, and find the strength to persevere. Much of this film’s emotional impact lies in its rigor, impeccable direction, and stunning performances from all members of the cast (BIFF 2021).
Seire is the period of twenty-one days in which people are supposed to take utmost care in their behaviors and strangers are not allowed to visit to protect a newborn baby from bad luck. The film Seire takes an idea from this folk belief. Woojin, who has just became the father of a newborn baby, hears that Seyoung, whom he had once dated, has died. He goes to her funeral without telling his wife, and comes across Yeyoung, Seoyung’s twin sister. Following this encounter, Woojin and his family experience a series of horrific misfortunes. Seire is a creative horror movie. It skillfully adopts the old convention of horror movies and, at the same time, modernizes the fear that comes from breaking the taboos of folk beliefs, crossing the border between reality and fantasy vaguely and ominously with bold camera moves and editing. (JUNG Hanseok | BIFF 2021)
Jury Comment: Between ghosts’ legends inspired by folk traditions and the anguish of today’s man facing the birth of a child, a creative film where realism and fantastic are combined. A drama served by a rigorous direction that makes the most of the sober playing of the main actor.
Jury Comment: The director, KIM Se-in’s impressive first feature about a very complicated, undeclared war between mother and daughter with a great sense of humour with very committed bold storytelling and performances by IM Jee-ho and YANG Mal-bok. The film establishes from the start, a very tense problematic central relationship between the mother Sukyung and daughter Yijung, with a no dialogue intimate opening scene. This strong start drags us emotionally to the story, the characters’ different personalities, temperaments, and disappointments. The rest of the film adds a well written dialogues and that raises the tension more and more, involving physical and psychological abuse. But at the end, the film tells us there is no simple conclusion, there is no good or evil!
DGK MEGABOX Award
Jury Comment (Both Winners): We are thankful for the time we got to spend while encountering excellent works of different textures. Instead of making a decision based on superiority, the jury of the DGK-Megabox Award selected films that each member of the jury supports based on one’s taste and tendency. In addition to a sincere approach to directing, Through My Midwinter and A Lonely Island in the Distant Sea showcase the excellent acting ability of their actors, who express such sincerity. We support and have high hopes for the next films of all directors in the Vision section.
As the title suggests, this film is serene and contemplative in the way that it portrays drifts, solitude, and mysteries in life with a calm voice. Yoonchul is a sculptor, but he mostly makes living with an interior design job. He is divorced, and his daughter fails to fit into the school life and is considered a troublemaker, although she shows much talent in art, like her father. One day, Yoonchul meets an attractive woman, Youngji, and falls in love with her. The characters in the film stay calm when they face critical moments in their lives. They show dignity even when they have sudden attacks or tragic turns. This film provides a chance to experience time of deep contemplation with its careful performance, elegant structure and cinematography, and mature attitude. (JUNG Hanseok | BIFF 2021)
CGV Arthouse Award
The film begins with the title Chorokbam filling the screen, which is amazing to see. This is the very moment at which the audience decides to trust this film without hesitation. In terms of how to fill and empty the square frame, the film is bold and skillful. Chorok, meaning green in English, is the color of fate in this movie. The problems of all the family members a hopeless father who works as a night guard, a mother who is completely exhausted with house works, a poor son who works for the disabled and their funeral ceremony are all dominated by the color, green. It is not bright or fancy but dark and scary in some sense. With attractive images and scenes, the film develops a series of worldly episodes of a family up to the level of poetic sentiment of blues and depression. (JUNG Hanseok | BIFF 2021)
Jury Comment: The image of green, which usually symbolizes vitality, is used as a device to express the dark and empty feeling coming from the death of in the family, thereby presenting a calm and unique point of view.
KBS Independent Film Award
A young couple is having a hard time because of their poor circumstances. They are both desperately searching for work, but that is not easy, either. Meanwhile, the husband is about to lose the camera he has lent to his acquaintance, and the wife is cornered after borrowing private loans to take care of the household. Under the circumstances, something ugly will likely happen or come to a dead-end, but the film deals with this predicament with a completely unexpected attitude and wit. The couple’s conversation, facial expressions, movements, and postures, as well as the illumination and density of the screen that captures them, simultaneously create bizarre humor and lonesome emotions, absorbing the audience. Hot in Day, Cold at Night is a rare moral comedy that comforts the daily lives of poverty with a strange touch of laughter. In the last scene, the husband’s helpless giving up finally moves us. (JUNG Hanseok | BIFF 2021)
Jury Comment: Although at first glance this may look like an ordinary low-budget film telling a familiar story, immediately it grabs the viewer’s attention with its vivid characters, subtle wit, distinctive rhythm, precise camerawork, and well-balanced narrative. Park Songyeol and Won Hyangra have brought an exciting new energy to the Korean independent film scene.
Jury Comment: This year’ s Korean films submitted to the Vision and New Currents sections of the Busan International Film Festival were diverse in terms of form and style. The CGK Award jury unanimously agreed on the cinematographer CHOO Kyeong-yeob of Chorokbam to be the recipient this year. Through concise and restrained images, Choo makes a significant contribution not only to the affect of the film but also to the construction of storytelling. Further, he creates excellent visual aesthetics in terms of presenting the spaces and characters within the scenes with his camera. Most of the long take shots in Chorokbam, which would have been completed through a cooperation between the director and the cinematographer, empty out all remaining opportunity costs without a trace once the frame is chosen. Through this, the film presents true textbook long take shots in comparison with other films.
Jury Comment: The jury unanimously agrees that this is the ultimate work in Park Songyeol’s oeuvre. We fiercely applaud the courage expressed in this film that protects the dignity of living while simultaneously being capable of giving up on other things. Within a concise form, the film elicits intense emotion and makes a precise application of shots. The portrayal of our fellow people in pursuit of art and life at the same time is something we would like to see for a long time.
Jury Comment (Both Winners): We selected a film that could evoke the empathy of many based on a powerful and tenaious directing and dense acting. In particular, the film received positive assessments in terms of reflecting the life and reality of those living in contemporary times. Through the Watcha Award, we would like to offer support such that young filmmakers can continue to enter into the Korean film industry.
Citizen Critic’s Award
Jury Comment: This film depicts a family faced with death with a combination of muted dialogue and interstices in narrative, along with sensuous images and sound. Further, although the film deals with a conceptual subject, it is balanced with topicality, which is why we chose this film as the recipient of this award.
Busan Cinephile Award
As a radioactivity meter beeps in the background, we travel to the most devastating place on our planet. Before the journey, the hellish spectacle of an atomic bombing is presented as a guide video. Is this a sci-fi film depicting a dystopia or a horror film featuring an invisible enemy? At the vanguard of modern Chinese documentary, Zhao Liang’s camera starts from the near past of Fukushima, goes through the old ruins of Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, and Chernobyl, Ukraine, and arrives at Onkalo, Finland, an underground city built as a nuclear waste facility. There, we paradoxically witness a beautiful apocalyptic landscape and encounter people who have lived alone for decades. Above all, Zhao Liang′s camera becomes ever so powerful when capturing the faces and bodies of residents confined in the controlled area. And this film becomes a prayer for mankind and a page in the apocalypse with stern warnings and chilling prophecies. (KANG Sowon | BIFF 2021)
Jury Comment: While maintaining an objective perspective, this film makes a logical approach to the audience with an issue that we cannot and should not avoid. The chilling sound that was meticulously designed and the metaphor that effectively delivers the subject are some of the other reasons we selected this work as the recipient of this award.