Korean director scoops $100,000 prize at fourth edition of Krakow festival

Park Jung-Bum’s drama The Journals of Musan (Musa il-gy) won the Making Way Main Competition award for first- and second-time directors at the Off Camera Plus (April 8-17) festival in Krakow, Poland on Saturday night.

The Korean director received a cheque for $100,000 and the chance of a further $330,000 towards his next film — courtesy of the Polish Film Institute — if he makes his second feature in Poland.

Musan, based on a true story, follows of a North Korean defector who is an outcast in his adopted home, South Korea. The film is produced and sold by Korean outfit Fine Cut.

Director Park commented on his win: “I am here for the first time - maybe it will sound like a threat - but not the last time. I can’t believe that I have received such an important award. This film is especially important to me, given it was made in memory of my deceased friend.”

The festival’s inaugural Polish Feature Film Award, accompanied by a $35,000 prize, went to Marcin Wrona’s drama The Christening with the director getting a trip to the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

The festival’s first FIPRESCI prize was awarded to Jan Komasa’s Suicide Room, which FIPRESCI jury head Ronald Bergan said was “the most ambitious and original film in the section” while The Audience Award went to Eliza Kowalewska for her feature debut Heniek.

The independent film showcase attracted an impressive array of talent in its fourth year, with Jerzy Skolimowski heading the Main Competition jury alongside directors Saverio Costanzo and Jill Sprecher and critic Elvis Mitchell. Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan read his father’s poetry at the event and there were appearances from Tim Roth, Peter Weir, Richard Jenkins and Sundance programmer Mike Plante. Actress Rose McGowan headed the jury of the Polish Feature Film Award.

Weir’s The Way Back opened the festival while actor/director Tim Roth received the Against The Current Award.

The festival featured a number of well-attended masterclasses from Ellen Chenoweth, Roger Christian and Ronald Bergan, and film sections devoted to new cinema from Asia (curated by the Busan IFF), Ireland and Germany.

According to festival organisers, attendance figures were double those of last year’s event.

Off Camera Plus programmer Ania Trzebiatowska told Screent: “We’re still learning. The team is really young but there is an enthusiasm that fuels everything. We’re growing in a way that satisfies us. Obviously last year was very difficult [the festival ran one week after the plane crash which killed a number of Polish politicians, including the Polish president] but it was also a good lesson. It was a humbling experience and we learnt from our mistakes as a festival. This year we are beginning to have our own audience. There are now queues outside the cinemas.”

Speaking of the festival’s ambitions, Trzebiatowska continued: “We have high hopes for next year. It’s the fifth edition so we’ll be bringing big names and guests. We would like to continue the themed sections and we’ll have a presence at the major festivals between now and then.”

The expanding festival is supported by the city of Krakow, the Polish Film Institute, the Polish government and a host of private companies, including mobile phone company Plus and Polish eBay equivalent Allegra.