Return of The Tiger Award goes to Oki’s Movie and Club Zeus.

As a vibrant and well-received Rotterdam Festival draws to a close, the event’s main prizes, the Tiger Awards have been announced. Journals Of Musan (South Korea), Finisterrae (Spain) and Eternity (Thailand) have won the awards in the Tiger competition, aimed at feature films from first- and second-time directors. The awards were announced in Rotterdam on Friday.

The Tiger Awards Ceremony included a solo performance by Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, member of the Tiger Awards Jury.

Park Jung-Bum’s Journals Of Musan tells the story of one of the growing group of poor North Korean refugees who are trying to adapt to life in capitalist South Korea. The film also won a Fripresci award. Its Rotterdam prize follows on from the New Currents Award it won at the Pusan International Festival last October.

The experimental and humorous Finisterrae, directed by Sergio Caballero, is a road movie following two ghosts on a pilgrims’ path.

Eternity, directed by Sivaroj Kongsakul, is a love story following a man who returns after his death to the landscape of his youth.

Meanwhile, on the occasion of IFFR’s 40th jubilee edition, the one-off and shared “Return of the Tiger Award” went to Oki’s Movie by Hong Sang-Soo (South Korea) and Club Zeus by David Verbeek (Netherlands/China).

The Festival, in its 40th edition, was generally well received, with industry delegates testifying to its importance as a networking event, even if relatively few deals are actually signed during the Festival.

“It’s an amazing festival. It’s like a mini Berlin or a mini Cannes. You have the opportunity to see many people in a very, very relaxed environment,” Aviva Silver, Head of the MEDIA and Media Literacy Unit at the European Commission, commented earlier this week. This was a sentiment echoed by other industry visitors attending the festival’s coproduction event, the CineMart.

“Historically, it (Rotterdam) has been very relevant. We feel that the Rotterdam kind of film and the films that are in CineMart are the kind of films that Soda has traditionally distributed,” Eve Gabereau, Managing Director of UK distributor Soda, commented.

IFFR Director Rutger Wolfson pointed to the sense of renewal and vigour in the CineMart after previous festivals that have taken place in the shadow of the economic crisis.

“There has been incredible energy, with young producers and young filmmakers. It’s not that the crisis has gone away but people know better what the effects are and there is a lot of energy,” Wolfson said.

Questions remain over the Festival’s future funding given the new cuts in the cultural sphere promised by the Dutch coalition Government. There has been talk, too, that the Festival may shift at least some of its activities south of the river, where the restored Lantaren Venster cinema complex is situated. Wolfson’s contract lasts for one more edition. The signs are that he is keen to stay on beyond 2012. Whatever happens in the future, the 40th edition was generally agreed to have lived well up to expectations.