Following months of controversy and a tense weekduring which a rival festival unspooled in Seoul, the Puchon InternationalFantastic Film Festival (PiFan) drew the curtain on its ninth edition with asubdued closing ceremony that was almost devoid of local stars or industryfigures.

Programmer Zeong Cho-sin, who alsofulfilled the duties of festival director, told the audience he had learned the"aesthetics of suffering and the philosophy of solitude" afterholding the festival under a widely-observed boycott called by the KoreanAssociation of Film Art & Industry and other interest groups in April.

Meanwhile, stars turned out in force to support thesmaller Real Fantastic Film Festival in Seoul, organised by director KimHong-joon and other former Puchon staff members after they were fired byPiFan's organising committee in early 2005.

Present at RealFanta's opening ceremony were over 100directors, actors, and industry figures including veteran director ImKwon-taek, local superstar Lee Byung-heon, and the festival directors of thePusan and Jeonju festivals.

RealFanta had reportedly amassed a 43% attendance rateheading into its final weekend.

"In holding this event, we tried to preserve on asmall scale the strong sense of community that existed at last year's PiFan,and which we knew would not take shape this year," said Kim Hong-joon.

PiFan received only the bare minimum of local presscoverage during its 9-day run, which saw a severe drop in attendance over theprevious year.

Nonetheless, many foreign guests who attended PiFandescribed themselves as being "won over" by Zeong and the efforts ofthe festival's inexperienced staff, despite a fair share of organisationalaccidents.

PiFan's awardfor Best Film was presented to Canadian director Paul Fox's The Dark Hours, a thriller that was reportedly shot inonly 18 days about a man who escapes from an insane asylum.

Other awards included a Jury Prize presented toBelgian film Nuit Noireby Olivier Smolders and a Best Director prize to German filmmaker JoaquinOristrell's Unconscious. The audience, meanwhile, voted to awardthe Indian film Hari Omby Bharatbala Ganapthy.

2005 Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival
Best of Puchon: TheDark Hours (Canada), dir.Paul Fox
Best Director: Joaquin Oristrell, Unconscious (Germany)
Best Actor: Phan Rojanarangsee, Supakorn Srisawat, Somjai Sukjai, and BanphotVeerarat, Rahtree: Returns(Thailand)
Best Actress (tie): Orsi Toth, Johanna (Hungary) and Kate Greenhouse, The Dark Hours (Canada)
Jury's Choice: Nuit Noire(Belgium), dir. Olivier Smolders
Audience Award: Hari Om(India), dir. Bharatbala Ganapathy
Short Film Grand Prize: Ryan (Canada), dir. Chris Landreth