TOKYO (Reuters) - An Israeli film about a boy in the 1960s who stops growing for three years claimed the top prize at the 23rd Tokyo International Film Festival, giving director Nir Bergman the festival's main award for a second time.
"Intimate Grammar," which was awarded the $50,000 Sakura Grand Prix from among 15 competitors from over 80 countries and regions, tells the story of Aaron, the son of a Holocaust survivor who seeks refinement and art amid an increasingly militant society.
Bergman became the first director to win the Sakura Prize twice. He previously won in 2002 with the film "Broken Wings."
Bergman told a news conference last week that the film was based on an Israeli novel called "Book of Intimate Grammar" by David Grossman that "gave him an emotional shock as if reading about my own life."
"I just loved the characters so much and I thought they deserved the big screen," he was quoted by festival organizers as saying.
The award for Best Director went to Gilles Paquet-Brenner for "Sarah's Key," a French movie about the fate of a Jewish family during World War Two. The movie won the Audience Award as well.
"Thank you very much! Now I can pay my taxes," Paquet-Brenner said on Saturday, when the awards were announced.
Kaneto Shindo, a 98-year-old Japanese director, won the special jury prize for "Post Card," about the impact of World War Two on the residents of a rural Japanese community.
Accepting the award in a wheelchair, Shindo used the occasion to announce his retirement, saying: "I heartily hope all of you will do well and create good movies."
Fan Bingbing won Best Actress for her role in "Buddha Mountain," a joint China-Taiwan co-production by director Li Yu that also took the award for Best Artistic Contribution.
Oscar-winning Irish director Neil Jordan headed the competition jury for the festival, which closed on Sunday and included a tribute to noted Chinese film star Bruce Lee.
Though now in its 23rd year, the Tokyo festival offers few world premieres of high-profile films. Only one premiere was scheduled this year: "Moss," by South Korean director Kang Woo-suk, who also made the noted "Silmido."
Host country Japan, despite giving the world film greats such as Akira Kurosawa, is far from immune to the cinema world's woes and has seen movie attendance drift down over the past decade.
Its once-vaunted appetite for foreign films has fallen as well, with imported movies accounting for 43 percent of Japan's $2.5 billion box office last year, far off a peak of 73 percent hit in 2002, according to the Motion Pictures Producers Association of Japan.
Reporting by Elaine Lies; editing by Paul Casciato