Brillante Mendoza’s HBO Asia Original film Gensan Punch won the Kim Jiseok Award at the 26th Busan International Film Festival. It shares the award with The Rapist by Aparna Sen from India.
The awarding ceremony was held in Busan, Korea, on Oct. 15.
Inspired by the true story of Naozumi Tsuchiyama (played by Itokazu Shogen), Gensan Punch follows a disabled Japanese man who goes to the Philippines to train and pursue his dream of becoming a professional boxer. The Gensan Quarter of General Santos City has long been known for producing boxers such as Manny Pacquiao. The film tackles the issue of discrimination towards the disabled in the competitive sport.
Gensan Punch shares the prize with The Rapist, which is about a woman who wants her rapist — who has gotten her pregnant, and who has been sentenced to death — to tell her why he did it. Variety.com described the film as “a deeply affecting portrait of personal trauma and an intelligent examination of social and cultural factors fueling the horrifying prevalence of sexual violence in India.”
Seven films — from Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, India, Japan, the Philippines, and Singapore — vied for the award which is awarded to the film that “reflects the contemporary standing of Asian cinema.”
Written by Honee Alipio and directed by Brillante Ma. Mendoza, Gensan Punch was described by the film festival’s jury as having an “incredibly strong story narrated in a documentary style. It is not just a story of a hero’s path to victory, but a story of building human relationships. Okinawa and Gensokyo are two seemingly different worlds, but they are connected by the warmth of people and their beliefs.”
A Filipino-Japanese production, the film was screened at the Busan International Film Festival’s A Window on Asian Cinema Competition; it will also screen in the Gala Selection (non-competition) at the upcoming 34th Tokyo International Film Festival (Oct. 30 to Nov. 8).
Gensan Punch was filmed in the Philippines and Japan. The cast includes Ronnie Lazaro, Kaho Minami, Beauty Gonzales, and Vince Rillon.
HBO Asia Originals have had a winning streak at international film festivals recently. Filipino actor John Arcilla, who stars in On the Job, won the Coppa Volti at the Venice Film Festival on Sept. 11.
The 26th Busan International Film Festival runs until Oct. 16.
Gensan Punch will premiere on HBO GO and HBO in December. — MAPS