What better place to start our round-up of the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival 2012 than at the end, with a look at the results of the Fantastic Off Theater Competition. While the festival's Official Selection programme is curated to draw in the crowds from the general public, with regional premieres of such mainstream fare as SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS and PUSS IN BOOTS, the attention of the press, industry and hardened cinephiles like those reading this article is fixed firmly on the Fantastic Off Theater Competition.
The set-up is somewhat unconventional, with six shorts and six feature films all competing together for the festival's Grand Prix - which includes, most importantly, a 2 million yen (approximately US$US20,000) investment towards the winning director's next project, which he or she is then expected to present at the festival the following year. There are four awards in total, but there was no hiding the fact among these 12 young filmmakers that there was only one award worth winning.
The jury this year was headed by noted director Ryuichi Hiroki, best known for his 2003 movie VIBRATOR, and included veteran actress Noriko Hayami, Tokyo's Latin Beat Film Festival curator Alberto Calero Lugo, UNDERWATER LOVE director Shinji Imaoka and Jin Park, Head of Programming for the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) in South Korea.
And so to the results, in the order they were announced on Sunday 26th February:
Cine-gar Award (Voted for by the local press) - THE BRAT! (Feature) (dir, Taichi Suzuki)
Hokkaido Governor's Award (3rd Place) - BEATLES (Short) (dir, Yuichiro Sakashita)
Special Jury Prize (2nd Place) - THE BRAT! (Feature) (dir, Taichi Suzuki)
Grand Prix (1st Place) - OSAKA VIOLENCE (Feature) (dir, Takahiro Ishihara)
(Pictured: OSAKA VIOLENCE director Takahiro Ishihara, Jury members: Shinji Imaoka, Jin Park, Alberto Calero Lugo, Noriko Hayami, Ryuichi Hiroki)
Although there are no official prizes awarded at Yubari for acting, the jury insisted on giving special mentions to comedian Hiroki Konno, dubbed "The King of Comedy", for his performance in THE BRAT! and actress Nahana for the feature film THE TOILET AND WOMEN.
Reviews of all the winning films, and most of the rest of the the Off Theater selections, will be appearing on ScreenAnarchy over the next couple of days, suffice to say that there were few surprises among the jury's selections. While personally I felt Taichi Suzuki's angry romantic comedy THE BRAT! was clearly the best film of the festival, there was no denying the impressive script and raw power of Takahiro Ishihara's story of a young boy growing up surrounded by brutality in OSAKA VIOLENCE. Hopefully both films will enjoy healthy exposure on the festival circuit in the months to come.
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