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Kim Wins Best Director Prize at Venice

2004/09/12 | 129 views | Permalink | Source

Compiled From Wire Service

Movie director Kim Ki-duk won the Silver Lion for best director at the end of the 11-day Venice Film Festival on Saturday for his film "Bin Jip (Empty House)".

Kim's best director prize at Venice came after he took the same award at the Berlin Film Festival in February. Venice and Berlin are among the world's three major film festivals, along with the Cannes Film Festival.

"Empty House" tells the story of Seon-hwa, an enervated woman locked in violent and one-sided love, and Tae-seok, a homeless man who has nothing to lose. The film, Kim's 11th, was belatedly invited to the festival as a "film sorpresa" or "surprise screening".

"Personally, I'm very satisfied with the best director prize", Kim told reporters after the award ceremony. Asked if he is prolific, Kim said he has simply been working hard to produce good films.

"A number of international film festivals in South Korea and aggressive overseas marketing of South Korean films appear to have elevated the status of South Korea in the global film industry", he said.

On the eve of the closing day, "Empty House" won two unofficial awards from FIPRESI, a group of international critics, and the World Catholic Association for Communication. At a press preview held Monday in a 2,000-seat movie theater, the film received rousing applause for five minutes, and some gave it a standing ovation.

Kim's award-winning film at Berlin was "Samaria", a film about a teenage girl's sexual exploitation that triggers a murderous rampage by her father.

In 2002, South Korean director Lee Chang-dong won the best director prize at Venice for his film "Oasis", while another Korean director, Im Kwon-taek, won the best director award in Cannes in the same year.

Mike Leigh's "Vera Drake," about an underground abortionist in 1950s England, won the Golden Lion for best picture.

"Vera Drake" is another of Leigh's raw, naturalistic films dealing with social issues in Britain. This time the setting is London half a century ago, where a seemingly unexceptional housewife is secretly performing abortions.

"In a cynical world, it is a wonderful thing and most reassuring when low-budget, serious, committed, independent, European films are recognized and encouraged in this way and helped to reach their audiences," Leigh told the awards gala at central Venice's Fenice theater.

Leigh, 61, is famous for getting stunning performances from his actors and this time was no different, with Imelda Staunton taking best actress for her role as Drake.

"I do think it deals with a complex subject with such compassion," she told the audience. "Mike Leigh is a genius."

Leigh is known for disturbing and emotional films such "Secrets and Lies" (1996) and "Naked" (1992). His intense approach often requires months of working on character development with the actors.

The runner-up of the night was the Spanish film "Mar Adentro" ("The Sea Within") by "The Others" director Alejandro Amenabar. This film had been touted as a possible best-picture winner, but instead it took home the Silver Lion Jury Grand Prix, while star Javier Bardem won best actor for his role as a quadriplegic who wants to end his life.

Some 22 films were in competition for the Golden Lion awards. The nine-person jury was headed by British director John Boorman and included filmmaker Spike Lee and actresses Scarlett Johansson and Helen Mirren.

This year's festival was notable for its shaky organization, and the awards ceremony kept up this trend with confusion over who had won some of the big awards.

The presenter, Italian actress Claudia Gerini, initially handed Amenabar a Silver Lion, then announced it was time for the big one: the Golden Lion for best picture. However, she'd left out the Silver Lion for Kim, and suddenly it was unclear who had won what.

"Sorry, I missed a prize," she said with embarrassment. "We haven't arrived at the Golden Lion."

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