HONG KONG -- First-time Georgian filmmaker Nana Ekvtimishvili and Germany’s Simon Gross emerged the biggest winners at the Hong Kong International Film Festival’s awards, with their joint directorial effort securing top honors for the event’s fresh-talent competition as well as the critics’ prize.
In Bloom, which had its Asian premiere in Hong Kong after first bowing in Berlin, won the Firebird Award in the Young Cinema Competition, a showcase the city’s annual festival has touted as a breeding ground for budding filmmakers. The film also won the Fipresci prize.
Set in the early post-Soviet Union years of Georgia, In Bloom revolves around the struggle of two teenagers against the gender-based social oppression, which includes merciless bullying and coerced marriages.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Young Cinema juror Yim Ho – who judged the section’s prizes with Pia Film Festival director Keiko Araki and Korean director-producer Park Ki-yong – said the prize was to celebrate “how the simple growing up story tells so much about the everyday violence and fear in Georgia in the time of turmoil portrayed in a poetic style.”
Emily Tang’s All Apologies won the Young Cinema section’s jury prize, with Yang Lina’s Longing for the Rain garnering a special mention.
Meanwhile, the festival’s other flagship contest, the Documentary Competition, was won by Roots, Kaoru Ikeya’s piece about a 77-year-old man who carried on with his life despite losing his home and son in the catastrophic tremors and tsunami, which struck Japan in March 2011.
Wang Libo’s Oh, the San Xia, about the dismaying consequences of the so-called progressive Three Gorges Dam project, was runner-up in the section, with Christian Rost and Claus Strigel’s Redemption Impossible (about chimpanzees recovering from being guinea pigs in a vaccine technology lab) given a special mention.
The documentary competition jury comprised Japanese-American cinematographer-director Emiko Omori, Taiwanese programmer-critic Jane Yu, and Sam Ho, the former programming chief of the Hong Kong Film Archive and veteran critic.
New Zealand’s Zia Mandviwalla took home the top prize in the short film section with Night Shift, with Peter Volkart’s Room 606 securing the jury prize, and a special mention went to Hong Kong newcomer Lam Ho Tak’s Soeng.
The Signis award went to Atiq Rahimi’s Afghanistani-French-German co-production The Patience Stone with Indian filmmaker Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus getting a special mention.