Bu­san film fest seeks ‘re­union’ af­ter dis­as­ter

The Phnom Penh Post - - LIFESTYLE -

OR­GAN­IS­ERS of Asia’s largest film fes­ti­val have is­sued a rallying cry to its sup­port­ers as the event emerges from years of star­ring in its own po­lit­i­cal drama.

The Bu­san In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val hopes to draw a line un­der its role in a bit­ter row over the sink­ing of the Se­wol ferry – one of South Ko­rea’s dead­li­est ever dis­as­ters – which di­vided and trau­ma­tised the na­tion.

“This edi­tion of the fes­ti­val is a re­union,” said Lee Yongk­wan, chair­man of the BIFF or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee.

“This year is about our re­cov­ery and a re­turn of our sta­tus. It’s about ex­pan­sion and re­for­ma­tion.”

The fes­ti­val opens on Thurs­day with the world pre­miere of South Ko­rean di­rec­tor Jero Yun’s “Beau­ti­ful Days”, which fo­cuses on a North Ko­rean fam­ily re­u­nited af­ter the mother es­capes south look­ing for a bet­ter life.

Its theme of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion seems a fit­ting one con­sid­er­ing the trou­bles BIFF has en­dured since the fes­ti­val screened a con­tro­ver­sial doc­u­men­tary about the Se­wol ferry dis­as­ter in 2014.

“The Truth Shall Not Sink with Se­wol” was crit­i­cal of the then-gov­ern­ment’s han­dling of the tragedy in April 2014 that left more than 300 peo­ple dead, most of them school chil­dren.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions into and charges against fes­ti­val or­gan­is­ers fol­lowed, along with sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing cuts, as the dis­pute be­tween BIFF and the gov­ern­ment played out in pub­lic.

Lee and for­mer deputy fes­ti­val di­rec­tor Jay Jeon were ini­tially re­moved from their posts but have been re­in­stated for this year’s edi­tion, while the new gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in has thrown its sup­port be­hind the fes­ti­val.

“We hope this year to be­come a place that once again brings film­mak­ers to­gether and that the fes­ti­val can be back on track,” said BIFF pro­gram­mer Nam Dong-chul.

The 23rd edi­tion of the BIFF runs from Oc­to­ber 4-13 and will fea­ture 323 films from 79 coun­tries, in­clud­ing 115 hav­ing their world pre­mieres.

The Ko­rean film in­dus­try is ex­pected to be out in force on open­ing night with an ar­ray of lo­cal celebri­ties grac­ing the red car­pet, in­clud­ing star of the open­ing film Lee Nay­oung, as well as Park Hae-il and Moon So-ri, who have brought the Zhang Lu-di­rected ro­mance “Ode to the Goose” to the fes­ti­val.

K-Pop star turned ac­tress

Join­ing them will be the likes of Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer Ja­son Blum (of Os­car-nom­i­nated “Whiplash” and“Get Out” fame), ac­claimed Chi­nese art-house dar­ling Zhao Tao (“Ash is the PurestWhite”) and In­dian hit-maker Ra­jku­mar Hi­rani (“3 Id­iots”).

Os­car-win­ning Ja­panese com­poser Ryuichi Sakamoto will also be in town to ac­cept BIFF’s Asian Film­maker of the Year Award as well as to per­form on open­ing night.

High­lights of the fes­ti­val’s main pro­grammes in­clude the world pre­miere of multi-award-win­ning Hong Kong au­teur Stan­ley Kwan’s lat­est, the theatre-themed “First Night Nerves”.

Lo­cal films as al­ways fea­ture promi­nently, with 16 world pre­mieres in the Ko­rean Cinema To­day sec­tion in­clud­ing the de­but as a lead ac­tress from some­time K-Pop star Choi Sooy­oung (Girls Gen­er­a­tion) in “Mem­o­ries of a Dead End”.

The fes­ti­val’s main com­pe­ti­tion – the New Cur­rents award for first- or sec­ond-time Asian film­mak­ers – will this year be con­tested by 10 films from seven coun­tries.

It fea­tures a rare Bhutanese pro­duc­tion, the drama “The Red Phal­lus” from Tashi Gyelt­shen.

Hong Kong film­maker Yuen Woo-ping – famed for his work on the Os­car-win­ning “Crouch­ing Tiger, Hid­den Dragon” and on Hol­ly­wood’s “Ma­trix” fran­chise – has re­turned to the di­rec­tor’s chair for the ac­tioner “Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy”.

The film will bring the fes­ti­val to a close on Oc­to­ber 13 with its world pre­miere.

“The unique part of BIFF is that it rep­re­sents a wide range of cul­tures and film­mak­ers,” said Yuen.

First-time Malaysian di­rec­tor Zahir Omar is among the new tal­ents on show.

Omar is bring­ing his stylised thriller “Fly By Night” to BIFF for its world pre­miere and said be­ing ac­cepted by the re­gion’s pre­em­i­nent fes­ti­val felt “sur­real”.

The Bu­san fes­ti­val “al­lows us the space and sup­port to de­velop our art”, said Omar.

“Many in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­vals over­look [Asian film­mak­ers’] ef­forts, but [BIFF] has be­come a fes­ti­val that we all as­pire to get into at some point in our ca­reers.

“To say it is a big event would be an un­der­state­ment.”


South Ko­rean di­rec­tor Jero Yun speaks about his film ‘Beau­ti­ful Days’, the open­ing film of the Bu­san In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, in Seoul.

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