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Honoring Asia's new film talents: China, South Korea, Iran

A CHINESE film about a dying breed - steam locomotives and the men who drive them - took directing honors at the Asian New Talent Awards at the Shanghai International Film Festival. Pan Zheng and Chen Qianqin report.

The Asian New Talent Awards have gone to a Chinese, a South Korean and an Iranian film at the Shanghai International Film Festival.

At a glittering ceremony on Friday night, the award for best director went to Zhao Ye for his film "Jalainur" (a place in the west of Hulunbeir Grassland ) about two old friends who are losing their jobs as steam locomotive drivers.

The best film award went to "Scandal Makers," directed by Kang Hyung-chul from South Korea. It's about a famous radio DJ and his enamored female fan.

The jury award went to "Be Calm and Count to Seven" by Ramtin Lavafipour of Iran. It's the story of a smuggling village on the Persian Gulf.

University students, who cast votes in the film festival, voted "Jailainur" their favorite.

The awards are aimed at showcasing talented Asian film makers at a time when Asian films are increasingly attracting international attention.

The nine nominated Asian films were screened for the world's film industry. A total of 121 films from 17 Asian countries and regions were entered in the competition.

This is the fifth year the Asian New Talent Awards were handed out.

The five-person jury was headed by South Korean director Im Kwon Taek and included Chinese actress Yu Nan, Thai director Nonzee Nimibutr, Singaporean director Royston Tan and Chinese director Zhu Wen.

The nine nominees included Neeraj Pandey for "A Wednesday" (India), Amiy Mori for "Days with You" (Japan), Yeng Grande for "Prince of Cockfighting" (Philippines), Boi Kwong for "The Days" (Singapore), Hajime Kadoi for "Vacation" (Japan), and Peng Chen and Peng Jiahuang for "Walk to School" (China).

Winning director Zhao Ye's "Jalainur" is about two steam locomotive drivers who are losing their jobs because steam engines are being replaced and the colliery where they work is running out of coal.

The 1.5 million yuan (US$219,433) film is set in Jalainur near a vast open-pit colliery on the China-Russia border. Steam locomotives have transported coal there for more than 100 years.

"The idea of this film comes from an old Chinese saying, 'Even if I accompany you for thousands of miles, finally we must bid farewell,'" says Zhao. "'Jalainur' is a story about farewell. People say farewell to the past, to history, and to one age."

Zhao, the honored Asian New Talent, is not that new. His first film "Ma Wu Jia" was shot in 2006.

But South Korean director Kang Hyung-chul's film "Scandal Makers" is his first, a romantic comedy about a superstar radio DJ and a crazed female fan. It stars famous Korean actor Cha Tae Hyen.

The jury praised Kang's "outstanding performance in controlling the film," saying it evoked the audience's "heartfelt joy."

The winner of the jury prize, "Be Calm and Count to Seven," was considered a surprise. It's set in a smuggling village and it's a tale of linked lives.

There's a 13-year-old boy who dives for pearls and dreams of becoming like famed Brazilian soccer player Ronaldinho. The boy's father is lost at sea. A mute girl is abandoned on the night of her wedding and falls ill.

This film marks the debut of director Lavafipour. The jury praised his innovative style and said it is different from many Iranian films.


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