Asia scoops first honours in Cannes sidebars
Asia picked up its first Cannes honours on Saturday when South Korean director Hong Sang-soo scooped a coveted sidebar prize, as the world's biggest film fest revs up for its 2010 finale.
"Ha Ha Ha," which ends with a peal of laughter, tells of a drunken trip down memory lane as a film-maker prepares to leave Korea to live in Canada, and won top prize at the Cannes film festival sidebar competition, Un Certain Regard.
Asia has a powerful contingent in the more prestigious competition for the Palme d'Or, the top honour at the 12-day festival, to be awarded Sunday night by "Alice in Wonderland" director Tim Burton in a gala red-carpet finale.
Five of the 19 films running for the Palme are from the region.
Un Certain Regard gave its jury prize to "Octubre," a first feature by Peruvian brothers Daniel and Diego Vega. The movie tells the story of a Lima loan shark who suddenly finds himself saddled with a baby.
The best acting prize went to the three actresses in the Argentinian film "Los Labios," by Ivan Fund and Santiago Loza, who play women travelling to a remote town to do welfare work among the local poor.
In other warm-up prizes dished out on Saturday, awards went to two of the French films in the running for the Palme -- one about Catholic monks threatened by Islamist militants in Algeria, the other featuring US stripteasers.
Algeria-themed "Of Gods And Men" by Xavier Beauvois, about a Cistercian monastery caught up in Algeria's civil war in the 1990s, won the festival's ecumenical jury prize for works fostering religious understanding.
The story of the moral dilemma faced by Catholic monks trapped in Algeria's Islamist violence, who eventually are beheaded, shook audiences at Cannes, making the little-known French director a hot favourite for the Palme.
Mike Leigh's "Another Year", which unspools a year in the life of a happily married British couple in their 60s, is seen as the other leading contender for the Palme.
Burlesque movie "On Tour" by France's Mathieu Amalric won the prestigious Fipresci prize awarded by the International Federation of Cinematic Press, which groups critics' associations from different countries.
Buxom American stripteasers shake their stuff in the oddball film that brought them from cabaret obscurity to the glitz of the Cannes festival.
With peroxide blonde hair, fake eyelashes and twirling nipple-tassels, Dirty Martini, Mimi Le Meaux and their co-stars said they came to France thinking they were to help train the cast of Amalric's movie -- but found he wanted to make them the stars.
Amalric, who also acts in the film, is best known internationally as the villain in the James Bond movie "Quantum of Solace".
And two other Fipresci prizes went to Hungary's "Pal Adrienn" by Agnes Kocsis and to "Todos Vos Sodes Capitans", a first feature film by Spain's Olivier Laxe.
In "Of Gods and Men", quiet scenes of the monks' daily life are underpinned by a tense plot centring on their painful moral dilemma of whether to flee or stay to support the local people whom they have spent years caring for.
"The deep humanity of the monks, their respect for Islam and their generosity towards their village neighbours make the reason for our choice," the ecumenical jury, partners to the official festival, said in a statement.
The six-member international jury also commended two of the other films in competition for the festival's main prize: "Poetry" by South Korean director Lee Chang-Dong and Leigh's "Another Year".
© 2010 AFP