Bu­san film fes­ti­val be­gins amid ru­mours

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

THE 21st Bu­san In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val (BIFF) kicks off to­day, with an ex­tended row over artis­tic free­dom and a boy­cott by high­pro­file lo­cal cineastes threat­en­ing to un­der­mine its rep­u­ta­tion as Asia’s premier movie show­case.

This year’s event will screen some 300 films from nearly 70 coun­tries, in­clud­ing 66 fea­tures that will be re­ceiv­ing their world pre­mieres.

The World Cin­ema sec­tion will in­clude a num­ber of top award win­ners from the 2016 Cannes Film Fes­ti­val, in­clud­ing Ken Loach’s Palme D’Or re­cip­i­ent I, Daniel Blake and It’s Only the End of the World which won the Grand Prix for di­rec­tor Xavier Dolan.

The main fo­cus will, as usual, be on Asian films, with the Korean drama A Quiet Dream by Kore­anChi­nese di­rec­tor Lu Zhang open­ing the fes­ti­val, and The Dark Wind by Iraqi di­rec­tor Hussein Has­san bring­ing down the cur­tain.

The pres­ti­gious an­nual event has been em­broiled in a bit­ter dis­pute 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, Div­ing Bell, crit­i­cised the govern­ment’s han­dling of the sink­ing in April 2014 that killed more than 300 peo­ple, mostly school­child­ren.

The screen­ing went ahead de­spite the fierce op­po­si­tion of the Bu­san city mayor, and then chair­man of the fes­ti­val or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee, Suh Byung-Soo.

Po­lit­i­cal re­venge? A sub­se­quent flurry of of­fi­cial probes tar­get­ing or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee mem­bers and an un­prece­dented cut in state fund­ing last year were seen as ex­act­ing po­lit­i­cal re­venge and an as­sault on the fes­ti­val’s cre­ative in­de­pen­dence.

Four ma­jor South Korean do­mes­tic film­mak­ers’ groups, in­clud­ing the Pro­duc­ers’ Guild of Korea and the Di­rec­tors’ Guild of Korea (DGK), have said they will boy­cott this year’s BIFF, which runs from Oc­to­ber 6 to 15.

The groups have hun­dreds of mem­bers in­clud­ing the Cannes award-win­ning film di­rec­tor Park Chan-Wook and Bong Joon-Ho, who helmed the 2013 dystopian Hol­ly­wood sci-fi movie Snow­piercer.

There is par­tic­u­lar anger over the treat­ment of for­mer BIFF di­rec­tor Lee Yong-Kwan, who was forced to step down last year in the face of em­bez­zle­ment charges.

Lee was in­stru­men­tal in get­ting Div­ing Bell screened and sup­port­ers say the case against him is po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. A Bu­san court is set to hand down a verdict in late Oc­to­ber, with pros­e­cu­tors seek­ing a one-year jail term. In a bid to smooth things over, the Bu­san city govern­ment – a ma­jor BIFF spon­sor – ap­pointed the well-re­spected for­mer found­ing di­rec­tor of the fes­ti­val, Kim DongHo, as the new chair­man of the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee in June, re­plac­ing Mayor Suh.

And a month later, the mu­nic­i­pal au­thor­i­ties adopted new rules aimed at en­sur­ing the com­mit­tee’s in­de­pen­dence. While some re­sponded by with­draw­ing boy­cott threats, the four promi­nent film­mak­ers’ groups re­fused to budge, say­ing the reg­u­la­tory changes did not go far enough.

Boy­cott vow “We think the new rules are a com­pro­mised ver­sion which did not re­flect many of the de­mands from our mem­bers and will hardly be enough to en­sure artis­tic free­dom of the fes­ti­val,” a spokesper­son of the DGK told AFP.

“The four groups will boy­cott the event as planned,” she said.

Sev­eral moviemak­ers re­port­edly went so far as to re­ject the fes­ti­val’s re­quests to screen their movies.

The zom­bie block­buster Train To Bu­san – a huge do­mes­tic and re­gional hit – will be ab­sent from the Korean Cin­ema To­day sec­tion af­ter its pro­duc­tion com­pany re­jected a screen­ing re­quest, Yon­hap news agency said.

“We de­cided not to sub­mit it be­cause ... Bu­san mayor Suh ByungSoo never made an apol­ogy for caus­ing the cri­sis,” the agency quoted an of­fi­cial from Red Peter Film as say­ing. BIFF pro­gram­mer Nam Dong-Chul ad­mit­ted that this year’s event had faced “many dif­fi­cul­ties”, in­clud­ing a fund­ing short­age, but said the fes­ti­val was get­ting back on track.

The ap­point­ment of Kim Dong-Ho as chair had “helped con­vince those in the in­ter­na­tional film fes­ti­val cir­cuit that we were at least on the path to re­vival”, said Nam, who also ap­pealed for a strong au­di­ence turnout. “We will be able to safe­guard the sta­tus of the BIFF only if more movie fans come to our fes­ti­val and sup­port us,” he said. –

‘We think the new rules are a com­pro­mised ver­sion which did not re­flect many of the de­mands from our mem­bers and will hardly be enough to en­sure artis­tic free­dom of the fes­ti­val.’

Di­rec­tor’s Guild of Korea state­ment

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