Bu­san fes­ti­val un­de­terred by boy­cott threat

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

ASIA’S top film fes­ti­val will go ahead next month de­spite a threat­ened boy­cott by some lo­cal moviemak­ers seek­ing guar­an­tees of artis­tic free­dom, its head said on Septem­ber 6.

Kim Dong-ho, chair of the Bu­san In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val (BIFF), urged film­mak­ers to end their boy­cott and vowed to guar­an­tee the fes­ti­val’s in­de­pen­dence.

“I’m re­ally sorry for what hap­pened to the fes­ti­val in the past ... I’ll do my best to re­store the hon­our of the fes­ti­val that has been un­der­mined over the past two years,” he told jour­nal­ists.

The pres­ti­gious an­nual fes­ti­val has been em­broiled in a bit­ter row with the mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment of the host city Bu­san since the screen­ing in 2014 of a con­tro­ver­sial doc­u­men­tary about the Se­wol ferry dis­as­ter.

The film crit­i­cised the gov­ern­ment’s han­dling of the sink­ing in April 2014 that killed more than 300 peo­ple, mostly school­child­ren.

A flurry of of­fi­cial probes tar­get­ing the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee and an un­prece­dented cut in state fund­ing last year was seen as an at­tack on the fes­ti­val’s in­de­pen­dence. It trig­gered a boy­cott threat by an con­fed­er­a­tion of Korean film­mak­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tions.

In an at­tempt to smooth things over, the Bu­san city gov­ern­ment – a ma­jor BIFF spon­sor – ap­pointed Kim, the fes­ti­val’s re­spected for­mer found­ing di­rec­tor, as new chair of the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee.

About half of the film­mak­ers groups sub­se­quently lifted the boy­cott.

Kim stressed that the com­mit­tee in July passed new rules to en­sure the event’s artis­tic and po­lit­i­cal free­dom.

Kim, 78, was brought in as chair to re­place Bu­san city mayor Suh Byung­soo, who was at the cen­tre of the fight over the doc­u­men­tary Div­ing Bell in 2014. Suh said it was “too po­lit­i­cal” to be pre­miered at the BIFF, although the screen­ing even­tu­ally went ahead.

After that, state fund­ing for the 2015 BIFF was nearly halved and the then-fes­ti­val di­rec­tor Lee Yong-kwan be­came the tar­get of a se­ries of probes by state au­di­tors. Lee was even­tu­ally forced to step down in Fe­bru­ary after Suh re­fused to re­new his con­tract.

The mea­sures prompted hun­dreds of lo­cal di­rec­tors, ac­tors and pro­duc­ers to stage street ral­lies in protest at what they de­scribed as a state at­tempt to “tame” crit­ics in­clud­ing artists.

More than 100 prom­i­nent cineastes in­clud­ing the di­rec­tors of the Cannes, Berlin and Venice film fes­ti­vals also is­sued an open let­ter in Fe­bru­ary de­nounc­ing “po­lit­i­cal pres­sure” on BIFF pro­gram­mers.

The 21st fes­ti­val will open for a 10day run on Oc­to­ber 6, with 123 world and in­ter­na­tional pre­mieres and 178 other films set to be screened.

Its open­ing film will be South Korea’s A Quiet Dream by Kore­anChi­nese di­rec­tor Zhang Lu, which hu­mor­ously tells the story of a young woman who sup­ports her bedrid­den father by run­ning a small bar.

The Dark Wind by Iraq’s Hus­sein Has­san, about a woman en­gaged to her lover but cap­tured and sold as a slave by the Is­lamic State group , has been se­lected as the clos­ing film.

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