Cannes honours bold crop of Asian films

Filmmakers from Cambodia, Japan, Singapore and mainland claim awards as jury boss Steven Spielberg notes China's rise as a 'creative force'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 May, 2013, 4:05am


A clutch of awards at the Cannes Film Festival has given global prominence to what insiders say is a bold era in Asian filmmaking, where China is emerging as a creative power.

Directors from China, Japan, Singapore and Cambodia took to the stage at the Palais des Festivals where the world's most prestigious movie bash ended on Sunday.

Praise was heaped on China's Jia Zhangke, 43, for his screenwriting of A Touch of Sin, which he also directed - a tale of corruption, greed and exploitation in modern China that festival jury boss Steven Spielberg said was nothing less than "visionary".

Spielberg and a fellow Oscar winner, Taiwanese-born American Ang Lee, pointed to exciting times in China, although Lee also warned of risk.

"China is coming on strong not just as a marketplace for international motion pictures, but coming on strong as a creative force," Spielberg said.

Lee said A Touch of Sin was "an important movie" that the jury had unanimously liked.

"The Chinese market and the people who love movies is growing up to be very sizeable, [and] perhaps [will] even one day surpass English-speaking territories," Lee said. "So I really hope it grows, whether it is commercially or artistically or anything in between, [and] that everybody can grow healthily."

"A vicious cycle … is a big trap we need to look out for," he warned, without elaborating.

Another laureate was Japan's Hirokazu Koreeda, whose Like Father, Like Son - a portrayal of two families who discover their boys were swapped at birth - won the third-ranked award, the Jury Prize.

Koreeda, 50, gained international recognition with Nobody Knows (2004), in which Yuuya Yagira, then 14, became the youngest actor to win Cannes' Best Actor award. Nobody Knows is based on a real-life story in which four children were abandoned by their mother.

Also highly praised this year was Singapore's Anthony Chen, who won the Camera d'Or for a debut feature. It is also the first time that a Singaporean feature has won at Cannes.

Ilo Ilo, set during the Asian financial crisis in 1997, explores the lives of Singapore's workaholic, ambitious middle classes and the domestic help on which they depend. The film tells the tale of a Singaporean family and their Philippine maid, who befriends the family's troubled son.

"The director's intelligence and sensitivity bring forth very important issues - childhood, immigration, class struggles and the economic crisis," said the jury citation.

On Saturday, a documentary on the Khmer Rouge earned Cambodia's Rithy Panh the top award in the "Un Certain Regard" category, which showcases emerging directors.

Entitled L'Image Manquante ( The Missing Picture) , the 95-minute work mixes archive footage of Khmer Rouge atrocities with hand-carved, painted figurines to represent Panh's lost relatives.

The Hollywood Reporter praised it as "a deliberately distanced but often harrowing vision of a living hell".