Actor Kim Yun-seok won best actor for "The Chaser"
By Lee Hyo-won
South Korea's esteemed 45th Daejong (Grand Bell) Film Festival held in southern Seoul, showcased the latest local box office trends, with its stronghold of original thrillers, stylistic period pieces and experimental projects. While superstars grabbed the limelight as expected, hitherto overlooked veteran actors and young debutant directors shined the most, suggesting that blatant star power, be it a reputed director or ravishing screen beauty, don't always guarantee ticket sales or awards.
The red carpet event took place outside the COEX Convention Hall in a sea of blinding camera flashes as glamorous cineastes filed in. Screen beauties like Han Chae-young, Park Jin-hee and Shin Ae were elegant in cleavage-bearing, long evening gowns while others such as Kim Yun-jin and Ko Ara chose mini-dresses to show off their figures.
Actress Kim A-jung, who won last year's award for Best Actress (``200 Pounds Beauty''), and popular announcer Choe Gi-hwan hosted the show. To add more sparkle to the star-studded event, pop group the Wonder Girls took to the stage to deliver bubbly dance music.
``The Chaser,'' the feature film debut of young director Na Hong-jin and the highest grossing film this season, took the festival by storm by winning five of 11 nominations, including those for Best Picture and Director. For Actor Kim Yun-seok, who has endlessly displayed solid acting through supporting roles, his first leading role won him both the Best Actor prize and the BMW Popularity Award. The 40-year-old dazzled the screen as a sullen, disheartened former cop opposite hot young actor Ha Jung-woo.
Actress Kim Yun-jin won best actress for "Seven Days"
Another murder thriller ``Seven Days,'' the latest homegrown film starring ``Lost'' star Kim Yun-jin, won three of 10 nominations including Best Actress, Sound Effects and Editing. Like ``The Chaser,'' it enjoyed critical acclaim and high sales at the box office earlier this year.
Awards for Best Supporting Actor and Actress went to Yoo Jun-sang (``Return'') and Kim Hae-sook (``Open City''), respectively. The latter star showed off a wild, charismatic streak as an ex-convict in ``Open City,'' breaking away from her usual TV roles as a housewife. The 52-year-old, sexy in a sleek black dress on the night, also received attention for her role as a mother who falls in love with her daughter's former fiance. The romance film ``Viva Love'' won director Oh Jeom-gyun the title of Best New Director and Best Screenplay.
Korean cinema and broadcasting have seen a high tide of stylistic period pieces depicting lives and loves from the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). The befittingly named court intrigue ``Shadows in the Palace'' by debutant director Kim Mee-jung won the award for Best Lighting while ``Hwang Jin Yi,'' starring actress Song Hye-kyo as the famed poet and dancer, received prizes for Best Music and Costume.
``M,'' celebrated director Lee Myung-se's striking, surreal story starring Gang Dong-won, received the Best Visuals Award. ``Miracle of a Giving Fool'' starring Ha Ji-won and Cha Tae-hyun, a hit among popular cartoon-turned-movies, won the public vote for Best Hallyu (Korean Wave) Movie.
Actor Daniel Henney, who recently finished shooting his Hollywood debut in the ``X-Men'' franchise, was named Best New Actor (``My Father'') and model-turned-actress Han Ye-seul won Best New Actress. A special honor went to Yoo Dong-hoon, president of the Korea Scenario Writers Association, for his lifetime contribution to Korean cinema.
Stellar Event Casts Dark Shadows
But brightness is always accompanied by dark shadows. Inefficient organization prolonged the running time of the event, and the awardees did not receive sufficient time to express their happiness.
The preceding film festival inviting moviegoers to watch movies and meet cineastes at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, May 24-28, was popular and was extended until the 30th. However, the award ceremony itself drew a rather disappointing level of public participation. The annual event recorded a relatively low viewer rating of 11.9 percent through its live broadcasting on SBS.
The ceremony caused disorder in the Samseong-dong area where roads were blocked off, and there was sharp criticism of its overly commercial tactic of charging people to vote for the Hallyu Movie Award.