BUSAN • Chinese movies have taken the two main prizes at Asia's premier film festival, with judges lauding their portrayal of two very different versions of modern reality in their country.
Wang Xuebo's The Knife In The Clear Water and The Donor from Zang Qiwu were announced last Saturday as winners of the New Currents award at the 21st Busan International Film Festival.
The directors were to collect the two prizes of US$30,000 (S$41,700) when the festival officially closed last Saturday night.
"These films were incredible," said veteran African director Souleymane Cisse, jury head of the New Currents award. "They were very ambitious and out of the ordinary."
Wang's first feature presents a lyrical look at the often-stark realities of life in a mountain village. Judges praised the debut director for his "extremely photogenic" production that "serves as a backdrop to a poetic parable on grief and freedom".
For what is also his first film as a director, Zang - who for years worked alongside Chinese director Zhang Yimou - turned his attention to the controversial issue of organ transplants.
"The film-maker creates a portrait of humanity and sacrifice that is restrained yet boiling with underlying emotion," said Cisse.
"The excellently scripted film plays as much on the images as on the immaculate timing and superb acting. The conclusion is heartbreaking: When you fight destiny, you will lose."
The choice of the two films comes as relations between Beijing and Seoul appear strained following moves in South Korea to set up a missile defence shield with the aid of the United States.
Korean television shows - wildly popular in China - have since August vanished from broadcast in China while a series of planned K-pop events has been cancelled.
There were 11 films from seven nations and territories in the running this year for the New Currents award.
The strength of the main competition proved the perfect tonic for the festival and the thousands of film fans who make the annual trek to South Korea's second city.
The festival was looking to rebuild its reputation after two years marred by accusations of political interference, and with former festival head Lee Yong Kwan facing sentencing for his charges of embezzlement on Oct 26.
There were shows of support throughout the 10-day event for the beleaguered Lee.
Despite those troubles - and a slashed budget - the programme managed to reflect the growth of an Asian film industry that seems, on this evidence, to be in rude health.