The 12th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) came to a close Sunday Jul. 27 after a thrilling 10-day run. This year's fest brought 1978 official guests to the city of Bucheon, a record number for PiFan, helped along by the addition of its first project market called Network of Asian Fantastic Films (NAFF2008).
PiFan's always exciting official competition section saw 12 high quality films vying for cash prizes, with top honors this year going to a stand-out Korean film that has already shaken up local audiences and won a slew of awards. Sleeper hit The Chaser, directed by Na Hong-jin
in his feature debut, captured the "Best of Puchon" prize along with two more awards, making it the night's big winner.
The festival's international jury also handed "The Chaser"
a Best Actress prize for Seo Young-hee
, who played a prostitute brutalized by a deranged serial killer. Another special jury from the European Federation of Fantastic Film Festivals (EFFFF) named The Chaser recipient of its Asian Award. EFFFF also gave special mentions to Yim Pil-sung
's fairy-tale horror "Hansel and Gretel"
and Yoshihiro Nishimura's Tokyo Gore Police.
The Best Director prize went to Swedish art house vampire film, Let the Right One In, by Tomas Alfredson. The much-talked-about film also won the Prugio Citizen's Choice Award. A Best Actor award was shared by co-stars Ekin Cheng and Shawn Yue for Singapore/Hong Kong feature Rule Number One, directed by Kelvin Tong. Animation omnibus, Fear(s) of the Dark, from France, won the Jury's Choice award.
In the Puchon Choice Shorts section, Canada's Rodrigo Gudino's won $5,000 for The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow. Korean director Jang Hyeong-yoon
also took home $5,000 for his animation "A Coffee Vending Machine and Its Sword" ("Part of Indie Anibox : Selma's Protein Coffee
"), winning both the Best Korean Short film award as well as the Citizen's Choice award. The Jury's Choice went to German short Shaustein's Final Film by Christian Klandt, winning $3,000.
The awards ceremony was held Friday, Jul. 25, followed by closing film "Cyborg She
", a Korean-Japanese co-production set in Tokyo by Korean director kwak Jae-Yong
. The curtain-closer, about a sassy cyborg from the future who time travels back to 2007 to save a timid college student, contained all three of PiFan's trademark themes, love, fantasy, and adventure, making it a fitting way to end an exceptional program.
After the closing, two more screening days were held, allowing audiences to catch any hotly talked about films they might have missed. Turnout was 80% for the closing weekend with the festival's overall occupancy rate at 66.7% this year, as numbers were dampened by the heavy rains during the fest. A total of 44,409 paid admissions were taken during the festival, with 81 of the 270 total screenings completely sold out.
Official guests to PiFan were up 12.7% over the previous year with also a good deal more international guests attending the festival, accounting for a 44% increase, due mainly to NAFF. Overall, festival spirits were high, with guests pleased by the convenience of a new Primus Cinema located central to the hotels and other PiFan venues. Receptions and entertainment were all well organized this year, with guests dazzled by a live performance by a sultry all-girl instrumental band, a night of DJ-led dancing, all-night karaoke sessions, and a casual party for filmmakers at a local beer bar.
The NAFF 2008 Project Market also gave away a slew of prizes while facilitating the development of 19 exciting genre films in various stages of development. On Wednesday Jul. 23, concluding a four-day run, the results of NAFF's project development market titled "It Project" were announced.
Of the 19 projects in the market, an international jury of three selected four films they would most like to see completed, to receive US $10,000 in production support. The winners included two Korean projects: Kim Jin-won-III's horror movie The Devils, which won the PiFan award and Chang Hyung-yun's animated comedy My Girlfriend is a Brindled Cow, which won the NAFF award.
Other winners were Frank Lin of the United States for his 0 DB, a hip-hop sci-fi which won the Puchon Award, and China's Zhang Yong for Bomb Shelter, a ghostly mystery, won the XTM Extreme Project award.
Five films at "It Project" also won post-production support to the tune of $5000 each. They were Chinese director Xie Dong's 2006 Speed Delivery and Nathan Adolfson's Philippine/U.S. co-production The Help, both winning the Moneff Award for editing; Korean director Kim Hong-suk's Removal, winning for best sound; and Taiwanese director Kevin Ko's Starstruck along with the aforementioned Korean feature The Devils, both won the Digital Cinemeka Award for CG production.
The NAFF committee also announced that 168 industry professionals from 13 countries took part in project meetings. More than 200 official meetings were held, with projects DB, Removal and Starstruck obtaining the greatest number of meetings and a high level of interest.
We can all look forward to next year's PiFan, where, if we're lucky, some of this year's NAFF awardees will screen their completed films. With its 12th festival, PiFan has more than resolved many of the setbacks it had in previous years, and the local film industry along with much international interest, are ready to embrace the festival's future. After all, PiFan remains the biggest fantasy film festival in Asia.