Cover Actress Lee Joo-young is one of the hosts of BIFF 2021's closing ceremony (Photo: Busan International Film Festival)

As the prestigious Busan International Film Festival comes to a close, the award winners have been announced. South Korean movie, The Apartment with Two Women took home most of the accolades

The Busan International Film Festival ends on a high note, taking place for a total of 10 days from October 6–15. There was a total of 76,072 attendees which accounted for 80 per cent of the available seats.

The prestigious film festival was the first international event in South Korea where over a thousand audiences participated following the outbreak of the pandemic. This year was also the first edition where foreign guests were able to visit—a total of 60 international guests including directors Hamaguchi Ryusuke and Leos Carax were in attendance.

Despite its hybrid format, this year’s edition boasted a strong lineup of more than 200 films from 70 countries. There was also an expansive jury for each award and the South Korean movie, The Apartment with Two Women emerged with the most prizes. Read more to find out the full list of winners.

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Closing Ceremony Awards

New Currents Award

  • Farewell, My Hometown by Wang Er Zhuo (China)

Jury comment: Farewell, Hometown, director Er Zhuo Wang’s first feature film, opened the door of perception for one of our jury members, and literally helped the other members through the door so we could also see what had captivated and enthralled them about this enigmatic film. For enigmatic as it is, with its gentle exploration of time, poverty, education and compromise the female protagonists make. Set against the dreamy landscape of the countryside and then the box-like tiers of suburban Beijing, followed by the centres of learning where the relevance of choices made in the past is pondered.

  • The Apartment with Two Women by Kim Se-in (South Korea)

Jury comment: Let me quote my hero filmmaker Luis Buñuel who wisely said that, “The minute a film, in particular, is the minute it becomes universal.” The Korean film, The Apartment with Two Women, directed by Kim Se-in, struck that very note with me. A film about the well-explored antagonism between a mother and daughter was so particular to the world it was set in. Amazing performances by the two leading actors had me holding my breath at times. The ultimate question one would ask this mother is, “Does self-determination mean selfishness?”

Kim Jiseok Award

  • The Rapist by Aparna Sen (India)

Jury comment: The director tried to cover all the elements behind the sexual assault case, including psychology, social environment, class, and religion. But the film is not only about the incident, it is also about Indian society and its ability to discuss and decide these kinds of issues.

  • Gensan Punch by Brilliante Mendoza (Philippines, Japan)

Jury comment: Incredibly strong story narrated in a documentary style. It is not just a story of a hero’s path to victory, but a story of building human relationships. Okinawa and Gensokyo are two seemingly different worlds, but they are connected by the warmth of people and their beliefs.

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BIFF Mecenat Award

  • 206: Unearthed by Heo Chul-nyung (South Korea, Thailand)

Jury comment: Heo Chul-nyung looks at the blood-soaked ground that Koreans stand upon through his own point of view. Haunting traces of mass killings are framed with the caring hands of volunteer excavators. Heo’s camera seems to console the deaths caused by the tragedy of the 20th century just like those careful hands of excavators who caress the excavated skulls and bones.

  • Self-Portrait: Fairy Tale in 47KM by Zhang Mengqi (China)

Jury comment: Zhang Mengqi’s self-portrait suggests a reflexive portrait beyond the self, the family and the village that the filmmaker identifies with. The empathy towards children, the elderly and the land that they live in is acquired through the filmmaker’s inevitable closeness and intended distance. We are inspired by the filmmaker’s dreams, her unique and creative vision of the self, who is warm-hearted yet coolly self-aware.

Sonje Award

  • A Winter Glove by Lee Hyeonju (South Korea)

Jury comment: A Winter Glove delicately captures the subtle waves of emotion. The protagonist, In-kyung experiences consecutive losses of her loved ones. However, the film does not conclude with loss. Rather, the film leaves a lasting afterimage by showing In-kyung moving on to the next chapter. The jury selected this work in order to express our support for the director’s moments of contemplation in the making of this film.

  • The Sea Calls for Me by Tmpal Tampubolon (Indonesia)

Jury comment: The filmmaker is skilled with his masterful storytelling [which] demonstrated the most basic human instinct to reconnect kinship through an unlikely object of desire. It’s a timely reminder for us to remember what it takes to be human.

  • Sarira by Li Mingyang (China)

Jury comment: The filmmaker transports the audience into the monochromatic world of urbanisation, using subtle humour to depict a fast-vanishing world that has led to human beliefs for thousands of years.

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Actor & Actress of the Year

  • Kwon Da-ham in Through My Midwinter (South Korea)

Jury comment: Kwon Da-ham, who played Kyung-hak in Through My Midwinter, communicates with the audience by depicting the character’s psychology with his detailed approach to acting. At times, he invites the audience to the quotidian life that anyone can empathise with, while at other times, he provides an intensity that locks the viewers inside the mind of the character by creating a point of truthful identification. Once the identification is understood, the distance between the character and the viewer decreases naturally, leaving a lingering impression stemming from the sadness of the situation in the film. Moreover, Kwon Da-ham’s sincere acting style resonated with me deeply and certainly became a dagger to my heart. This is why I have no doubt that he deserves the Actor of the Year award.

  • Im Jee-ho in The Apartment with Two Women (South Korea)

Jury comment: For the entire running time of The Apartment with Two Women, I was also saddened and lonely as I was following the emotional journey of the character. In particular, actress Im Jee-ho, who played the role of Yi-jung, builds the emotional trajectory layer by layer with her slow movements, engrossing the audience further in the film. She expressed the character in such an excellent way.

KB New Currents Audience Award

  • The Apartment with Two Women by Kim Se-in (South Korea)

Flash Forward Audience Award

  • Mass by Fran Kranz (USA)

FIPRESCI Award

  • Seire by Park Kang (South Korea)

Jury comment: Between ghosts’ legends inspired by folk traditions and the anguish of today’s man facing the birth of a child, a creative film where realism and fantasy are combined. A drama served by a rigorous direction that makes the most of the sober playing of the main actor.

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Busan Vision Awards

NETPAC Award

  • The Apartment with Two Women by Kim Se-in (South Korea)

Jury comment: The director, Kim Se-in’s impressive first feature about a very complicated, undeclared war between mother and daughter [was filled] with a great sense of humour and very committed bold storytelling and performances by Im Jee-ho and Yang Mal-bok. The film establishes from the start, a very tense problematic central relationship between the mother Su-kyung and daughter Yi-jung, with a no intimate opening scene dialogue. This strong start drags us emotionally to the story, the characters’ different personalities, temperaments, and disappointments. The rest of the film adds a well-written dialogue and that raises the tension more and more, involving physical and psychological abuse. But at the end, the film tells us there is no simple conclusion, there is no good or evil.

DGK Megabox Award

  • Through My Midwinter by Oh Seong-ho (South Korea)
  • A Lonely Island in the Distant Sea by Kim Mi-young (South Korea)

Jury comment: Instead of making a decision based on superiority, the jury of the DGK-Megabox Award selected films that each member of the jury supports based on one’s taste and tendency. In addition to a sincere approach to directing, Through My Midwinter and A Lonely Island in the Distant Sea showcase the excellent acting ability of their actors, who express such sincerity.

CGV Arthouse Award

  • Chorokbam by Yoon Seo-jin (South Korea)

Jury comment: The image of green, which usually symbolises vitality, is used as a device to express the dark and empty feeling coming from the death of the family, thereby presenting a calm and unique point of view.

KBS Independent Film Award

  • Hot in Day, Cold at Night by Park Song-yeol (South Korea)

Jury comment: Although at first glance this may look like an ordinary low-budget film telling a familiar story, immediately it grabs the viewer’s attention with its vivid characters, subtle wit, distinctive rhythm, precise camerawork, and well-balanced narrative. Park Song-yeol and Won Hyang-ra have brought an exciting new energy to the Korean independent film scene.

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CGK Award

  • Chorokbam by Choo Kyeong-yeob, Cinematographer (South Korea)

Jury comment: The CGK Award jury unanimously agreed on the cinematographer Choo Kyeong-yeob of Chorokbam to be the recipient this year. Through concise and restrained images, Choo makes a significant contribution not only to the effect of the film but also to the construction of storytelling. Furthermore, he creates excellent visual aesthetics in terms of presenting the spaces and characters within the scenes with his camera. Most of the long take shots in Chorokbam, which would have been completed through a cooperation between the director and the cinematographer, empty out all remaining opportunity costs without a trace once the frame is chosen. Through this, the film presents true textbook long take shots in comparison with other films.

Critic b Award

  • Hot in Day, Cold at Night by Park Song-yeol (South Korea)

Jury comment: The jury unanimously agrees that this is the ultimate work in Park Song-yeol’s oeuvre. We fiercely applaud the courage expressed in this film that protects the dignity of living while simultaneously being capable of giving up on other things. Within a concise form, the film elicits intense emotion and makes a precise application of shots. The portrayal of our fellow people in pursuit of art and life at the same time is something we would like to see for a long time.

Watcha Award

  • Through My Midwinter by Oh Seong-ho (South Korea)
  • The Apartment with Two Women by Kim Se-in (South Korea)

Jury comment: We selected a film that could evoke the empathy of many based on powerful and tenacious directing and dense acting. In particular, the film received positive assessments in terms of reflecting the life and reality of those living in contemporary times.

Citizen Critics’ Award

  • Chorokbam by Yoon Seo-jin (South Korea)

Jury comment: This film depicts a family faced with death with a combination of muted dialogue and interstices in the narrative, along with sensuous images and sound. Furthermore, although the film deals with a conceptual subject, it is balanced with topicality, which is why we chose this film as the recipient of this award.

Busan Cinephile Award

  • I’m So Sorry by Zhao Liang (Hong Kong, China, France, Netherlands)

Jury comment: While maintaining an objective perspective, this film makes a logical approach to the audience with an issue that we cannot and should not avoid. The chilling sound that was meticulously designed and the metaphor that effectively delivers the subject are some of the other reasons we selected this work as the recipient of this award.

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Asia Contents Awards

The Asia Content Awards is held alongside the Busan International Film Festival to recognise TV, OTT and web content.

Best Creative

  • Move to Heaven (South Korea)

Best Asian TV Series

  • Girl From Nowhere Season Two (Thailand)

Best OTT Original

  • The Long Night (China)

Best Asian Animation

  • Heaven's Design Team (Japan)

Best Short-form/Web Drama

  • Sheker (Kazakhstan)

Best Actress

  • Song Jia for A Love for Dilemma (China)

Best Actor

  • Lee Je-hoon for Move to Heaven (South Korea)

Best Writer

  • Yoon Ji-ryun for Move to Heaven (South Korea)

Best Newcomer (Actor)

  • Morisaki Win for The Real Thing (Japan)

Best Newcomer (Actress)

  • Go Min-si for Sweet Home (South Korea)
  • Koe Yeet for Titoudao (Malaysia)

Technical Achievement

  • Sweet Home (South Korea)

ACA Excellence

  • Song Kang for Sweet Home and Navillera (South Korea)

ACA Jury’s Special

  • Hanzawa Naoki (Japan)

Creative Beyond Border

  • Bad Genius The Series (Thailand)
  • Alice in Borderland (Japan)

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Asian Project Market Awards

The Asian Project Market is Asia’s largest co-production market. It had 25 final projects from 15 different countries which will help foster the newest content trends.

Busan Award

  • Secret of My Father by Jéro Yun (South Korea)

CJ ENM Award

  • Before, Now & Then by Kamila Andini (Indonesia)

Nutrilite Award

  • Crimes of Love by Hsieh Pei-Ju, Yang Chieh, Haung Dan-Chi, Lee I-Hui (Taiwan)

ArteKino International Award

  • If Wood Could Cry, It Would Cry Blood by Nguyen Phan Linh Dan (Vietnam)

Pop Up Film Residency Award

  • Elephants in the Fog by Abinash Bikram Shah (Nepal)

MONEFF Award

  • Spectrum by Kim Bo-ra (South Korea)

 

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