WHO’S ON FIRST? WHAT’S ON SECOND?

One of the odder traditions of PiFan (as if the combination of gore and erotica is not wacky enough) is that it is a festival that has two closing nights. The First opening night is when all the awards are handed out (more about that in a couple of graphs). The next day the international guests go home, but the festival actually continues for a couple of days. In the past this meant a second final screening which usually heralded one of the Korean summer’s more heavily anticipated scarefests usually attended by the few remaining international fanboy and Korean cinema completists.

I’m not sticking around for PiFan’s second closing night this year, but hightailing it over to Tokyo to catch the tail end of Tokyo’s Pia Film Festival (aka the Sundance of Japan). I’ll respond to special requests for info, but the blog ends here (Unless I have an afterthought).

WINNERS ARE GRINNERS

So yeah, back to the first closing night at PiFan. The winners of the NAFF project were announced at an official late afternoon ceremony at the Koryo Hotel where most of the NAFF activities took place. Post Production support awards were granted by both NAFF and KOFIC. The prizes given by the NAFF jury headed by Chris Lee went to screenwriter of “The Host” Hah Jun-won for his project “The Arsonists”  and Nakano Hiroyuki for his proposed Japanese/Korean co-production “Numeric Love” which centres on a cross-cultural love affair between an IT generation couple who suddenly have to cope in a world without electricity. The KOFIC prize went to Singapore’s Pok Yue-weng for his “Bladerunner“-esque set “Tattoo War” which explores several character’s Dorian Gray arrangement with their tattoos. The second KOFIC prize went to Ham Tran who is finally following up the grand sweep of his boat people sage “Journey of the Fall” (2006) with his Vietnamese martial arts film “Breaking Point“. Hawaii International Film Festival’s Anderson Le is attached as producer.

After 20 minutes of backslapping and  wolfing downsome bulgolgi I made the shuttle bus for PiFan’s closing ceremony, just in time to walk down the red carpet with French Korea buff Olivier Lehmann and sit around waiting for the closing ceremony.

The appeal of PiFan is mystifying in some ways. Most of the town is ugly concrete boxes. Nearly every sign of nature is obscured from view and the official ceremonies have a tendency to feel like the school play. That said, the hospitality is genuinely warm, it’s not too difficult to get tickets and the fun in Fantastic is never far away. A sexy violinist came out and made virtual mincemeat of her bow in a dramatic performance and the Mayor of Bucheon underlined his entrenched commitment to the festival that he signalled over lunch with the trade press a couple of days ago.

Then came the awards…

Noting that most awardees at PiFan always make a token stab of greeting the Korean audience with “Annyonghaseyo” or “Kumsumnida”, jury president Tony Rayns read out a 3 sentence statement in Korean. It was right up there with Michael Moore’s French acceptance speech at Cannes 2002 for “Bowling for Columbine” for excruciation, but at least Moore was being spontaneous. The attention-seeking gesture looked more feeble (and hey I gotta admit that after clocking up around 18 trips to South Korea myself, I can barely read hangul let alone recite a speech) when el presidente continued in English, he inadvertantly called Bucheon, Busan. It could have happened to anyone, but people have been ex-communicated from the festival for lesser slips. After pride comes the fall as my grandmother used to say.

Regardless, the jury voted accordingly:

Best Actor: Pontypool, Stephen McHattie (Canada)
Best Actress: Macabre, Shareefa Daanish (Singapore/Indonesia)
Best Director: The Beast Stalker, Dante LAM (Hong Kong)
Best Film: The Neighbor Zombie, OH Young Doo, RYU Hoon, HONG Young Guen, JANG Yoon Jung (Korea)

Indonesia’s Joko Anwar picked up the grand festival prize audience award as best feature for his latest directorial effort “The Forbidden Door“. Good thing Joko was there to pick up the award too. He told me earlier on in the week that it was only luck that saw the cancellation of a breakfast date in a certain ill-fated Jakarta hotel recently. Great to be a winner, but better to be alive.

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