Bulgarian film takes Tokyo gong

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The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) Sunday gave its top award to Bulgarian film "Eastern Plays", directed by Kamen Kalev.

"Eastern Plays" is the story of two brothers who lose contact only to meet again -- one as a new member of a neo-Nazi group and the other who rescues the victimised Turkish family.

"It's really amazing," said Kalev after receiving the festival's Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix award. "Bulgaria will be proud. Thank you."

In the competition division, 15 movies ranging in theme and style and selected from 743 nominated titles from 81 countries and regions competed for the top prize.

The 22nd edition of TIFF, which has taken on the theme of the environment since last year, also marked a debut screening of a US-made documentary about a traditional dolphin hunt in Japan.

The hard-hitting "The Cove" was shown for the first time publicly in Japan, with some saying it casts Japanese tradition in a negative light.

It focuses on the annual dolphin hunt in the coastal town of Taiji, a long practice for local fishermen but condemned internationally by animal rights activists for being cruel.

TIFF has aspired to be the top festival in Asia for international films with the same prestige as Cannes, Venice or Berlin, although it faces tough competition from rivals in Bangkok and Busan, South Korea.