VIFF 2012: China's Emperor Visits the Hell wins Dragons and Tigers award

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A film adapting three chapters of the Ming Dynasty novel Journey to the West to modern China won this year's $5,000 Dragons and Tigers Award for Young Cinema at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

The award is annually bestowed upon an emerging director from the Pacific Asia region for a creative , innovative film. The award was presented at a red carpet event prior to the screening of Lou Ye's Mystery at the Empire Granville 7 Cinemas on October 4.

This year's nominees (who were all in attendance) included:

  • The Charm of Others (Miryoko No Ningen) (Japan), director Ninomiya Ryutaro
  • Emperor Visits the Hell(Tang huang you difu) (China), director Li Luo
  • A Fish (Mulgogi) (South Korea), director Park Hongmin
  • Memories Look at Me (China), director Song Fang
  • A Mere Life (La Nuda Vita/Beolgeo Soongi) (South Korea), director Park Sanghun
  • Moksha: The World or I, How Does That Work? (South Korea), director Koo Sungzoo
  • Peculiar Vacation and Other Illnesses (Vakansi Yang Janggal Dan Penyakit Lainnya) (Indonesia), director Yosep Anggi
  • Riko (Japan), director Yumbia Aya

The jury consisted of Portuguese director João Pedro Rodrigues (The Last Time I Saw Macao), Japanese director Shinozaki Makoto (Since Then), and American writer, teacher, and editor Chuck Stephens.

Stephens announced that two films received special mentions.

The South Korean mystery thriller A Fish by Park Hongmin, about a professor searching for his missing wife, was recognized for conveying "a series of deep emotions in an extremely cinematic manner", Stephens said on behalf of the jury. Peculiar Vacation and Other Illnesses, an indepth look at an estranged couple by Indonesia's Yosep Anggi, was chosen for its "striking use of non-linear narrative form".

Li Luo's Emperor Visits the Hell, which Stephens called an "unusually titled and very amusing film", won the 19th annual award for its "very mordant sense of humour and an audacious integration of multiple levels of storytelling and filmmaking".

Li said in his acceptance speech that although it was "a very low-budget film", he felt lucky to have the support from film industry members.

After the awards ceremony, he explained to the Georgia Straight what inspired the film.

"I happened to read this old Chinese story that I found very interesting and found it still relevant to understanding in terms of understanding the current society in China, and so that's how I started working on this film….I tried to create a link between the history and the present."

He also said that he finds the current state of Chinese cinema to be very promising.

"I think that it's fascinating. There are so many filmmakers, young filmmakers, and so many films are being made, and people are very brave and probably because it's relatively easier to make films now, with the digital cameras. So it gives people a lot of convenience. I think current Chinese cinema is still in the development state. And because I think a lot of films do not have a lot of funding, but I think people are trying to find alternative ways to express whatever they want to say in cinema….It is very exciting already, but we'll probably see more and more interesting and great films coming out of China."

A repeat screening of Emperor Visits the Hell will be presented on Saturday (October 6) at 4 p.m. at the Cinematheque (1131 Howe Street).

You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig.

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