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Director Moon Byoung-gon's Safe Receives Award for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival, A First for Korea
By Park Eun-gyeong
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At this year's Cannes International Film Festival, a young thirty-year-old Korean director went up on stage. Although Korean films were absent from the feature film competition, Safe, a short film by director Moon Byoung-gon (30) received the Palme d'Or for best short film.

At the closing ceremony held on May 26 (local time), Moon was named as the winner of the "Golden Palm" for best short film, the first award handed out that evening. Moon came onto the stage and smiled brightly as he received the award from Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen.

This is the first time a Korean film has received the Palme d'Or for best short film at Cannes.
In a phone interview with The Kyunghyang Shinmun on May 27, Moon said, "I had not expected to win the award. I was so happy; I didn't know what to do."

On May 26 (local time), film director Moon Byoung-gon rejoices after his film, Safe was awarded the Palme d'Or for best short film at the Cannes International Film Festival. / Yonhap News

Moon was invited to the Cannes Critics Week in 2011 for his Chung-Ang University Department of Film Studies graduation project Finis Operis. Moon received the Palme d'Or for best short film on his second visit to Cannes. This year, 9 films were selected for the short film competition.

Safe (13 mins.) portrays a female university student who works part time at a money exchange counter in a gaming room. The story unravels as she secretly pockets some of the money people exchange in order to pay back money she had received in advance.

She struggles to escape from her desperate situation, but things go opposite her plan. The film indirectly criticizes our reality in which massive financial capital ended up bankrupt while trying to collect more earnings by investing the money people deposited.

Moon said, "The student is Safe behind the money exchange counter, yet she wants to come out to the dangerous world full of people addicted to gambling. She broke the law because she wanted to escape, but ends up in a deeper pit."

"When I meet friends who work for companies, they want to earn money fast and retire. But because of that, they are more subordinated to the company. I wanted to talk about this ironic situation in my film," said the director.

The title of the film, Safe can mean "secure from danger," but it can also signify "a metal case with a lock for storing valuables." Other nominees focused on sensitive portrayals of human relationships and emotions, but Safe sharply pinned the dark reality of capitalism to good reviews.

Moon was modest and said, "Last year, only the Palme d'Or was awarded, but this year two other films received special mentions. I believe this shows that there were many good films this year." "I owe a lot to my staff. I would like to share this honor with my actors and my staff," he added.

Moon spent a total of 8 million won in production costs for this film; he received a 5-million-won grant from the Shin Young-kyun Culture Foundation and he poured in 3 million won from his own pocket.

The most prestigious award at Cannes, the Palme d'Or went to Blue Is the Warmest Colour by the Tunisian-French director Abdellatif Kechiche. This film received the highest scores from the jury and the press after a preview and was a strong contender for the award.

Blue Is the Warmest Colour tells the story of two young lesbians. Lea Seydoux and a new actress, Adele Exarchopoulos played the couple in love. Their bold love scene received rave reviews; some claiming it was breathtakingly beautiful.

Steven Spielberg, who was the president of the jury in this year's festival, praised the film as a great love story at a press conference. It was an unusual praise from Spielberg, who has tried to minimize love scenes in his own films in the past.

In an interview with an American film magazine in 2011, Spielberg confessed that, in his film The Color Purple, it was a mistake to reduce the lesbian love scene in the original novel to just a kiss. The Award for Best Actress went to the French actress Berenice Bejo, who starred in The Past directed by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi.

The Award for Best Actor went to Hollywood actor Bruce Dern, who starred in Nebraska directed by Alexander Payne. The Coen brothers received the Grand Prix for their film Inside Llewyn Davis, and the Award for Best Director went to Mexican director Amat Escalante for Heli.

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