South Korean films take top awards at festival

Two South Korean productions won the major awards at Asia's top film festival Friday, lauded for their richly evocative reflections of modern Korean society.

Park Jung-Bum's "The Journals of Musan" and Yoon Sung-Hyun's "Bleak Night" took the two prizes of 30,000 dollars in the New Currents section for first or second time Asian directors at the 15th Pusan International Film Festival.

Park was a double winner, also picking up the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) award for his film, which follows the problems faced by a North Korean defector when he moves to the south.

"Independent films are always very personal so I am very happy that my film was able to find an audience here in Busan," he said.

Yoon's film follows three schoolboys caught up in a murder and how the South Korean school system and society deal with it.

"There was strength in the storytelling and great acting," said "Lost" actress Kim Yunjin, who sat on the New Currents jury. "This shows great possibilities and a great future for the director."

This year's New Currents award attracted 13 entries, from South Korea, Hong Kong, China, the Philippines, Iraq, India, Vietnam and Thailand.

Jury head Emi Wada - the Japanese costume designer who won an Oscar for her work on Akira Kurosawa's "Ran" (1985) - said this year's entries had impressed with their scope and depth and singled out Park's work in particular.

"A great film should make an unforgettable impression on the audience and make the audience think What should we do with the impression we got'." And that's exactly what Park had done, said Wada.

PIFF's other main award is the Flash Forward prize of 20,000 dollars and is open to first or second time non-Asian directors.

This year it was won by Swedish director Lisa Langseth's gripping production "Pure", which follows the tale of a young woman whose life is changed forever after she witnesses a performance of Mozart's "Requiem".

"[It is] bold, risky and high energy while featuring an amazing performance by a young actress [Alicia Vikander] that can carry a film with conviction and power," said Flash Forward jury chief John Cooper, who also heads America's influential Sundance Film Festival, held in Utah.

The curtain was due to come down on the Busan festival Friday with the screening of "Camellia", a three-part production that pays homage to the host city.

In all, a total of 306 films will have been screened over the festival's 10 days, with 101 of them being world premieres. A total of 182,046 people visited the event, according to organizers.

The 15th edition of PIFF is the last in its present incarnation. From next year the festival will be held at the 133 million dollar Dureraum, or Busan Film Centre, and this year also marks the last time it will be headed by its founding director Kim Dong-Ho.

But the 73-year-old Kim said he was leaving the festival in good hands. "We are entering a new era for the Busan festival," he said. "And this new future will provide a centre for film, not just for Korea but for Asia - and that is something this festival will start work on right now."

The New Currents awards were to be officially presented at the festival's closing ceremony at the Haeundae Yachting Centre on Friday night.

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