Iranian flick most feted at Busan’s int’l film festival

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Iranian flick most feted at Busan’s int’l film festival

BUSAN - A typhoon and a government budget cut did not stop cinema lovers from flocking to Asia’s most influential film festival. The annual Busan International Film Festival drew to a close on Saturday with a record number of visitors and many new Asian movies for the world to enjoy.

The event drew a record number of 227,000 visitors over 10 days, a slight increase from last year. Legendary filmmakers such as Hou Hsiao Hsien and Leos Carax, American actor Harvey Keitel, French actress Sophie Marceau and Korean heartthrob Yoo A-in were among the top stars who met audiences at a movie screening or at an open air talk on the beach.

The Asian film festival’s closing film was Chinese director Larry Yang’s “Mountain Cry,” a romance drama set in a remote mountainous village. The festival showed 302 movies from 75 countries, including 125 world or international premieres after two movie screenings got cancelled.

One of the most feted works by a budding Asian filmmaker this year was “Immortal” by Iranian director Hadi Mohaghegh. It was honored with two of the biggest awards at the festival.

The 37-year-old director won the New Currents award with a $30,000 prize, given to two first- or second-time feature movie directors in Asia in the festival’s only competition. Jurors, led by veteran Taiwanese actress and director Sylvia Chang, described it as “an extraordinary feat of visual storytelling” about “how to keep our dignity as human beings.”

It was also the winner of the FIPRESCI award, selected by the International Federation of Film Critics for “its highly realistic and humane approach in depicting a family tragedy that echoes a universal theme through masterful use of film language.”

The movie, shot against barren scenery in southwestern Iran, tells a story of an old man ridden with guilt and grief from losing one’s family in an accident. Mohaghegh said that he made the low-budget movie with money from his siblings and other family members because he thought no one would be interested in investing in such non-commercial movie. He had to change the main character to an old man from an old woman because it was not possible to film female nudity in the Islamic country.

Countries on the margin of the global cinema industry showed strong potential. Another winner of the New Currents section was Kazakhstan film “Walnut Tree,” by Yerlan Nurmukhambetov. Jurors said it showed “a way of life that’s unfamiliar to most of us but proves how humor, kindness, and forgiveness connect us all.”

Other movies that impressed jurors and audiences included “Boys Run” by South Korean director Kang Seok-pil, which showed alternatives to the South Korean educational system, and “Look Love” by Chinese director Ye Yun, about struggles of two kids for love and recognition.

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