(as published in Gwangju News Oct 2011)
The 16th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF, formally PIFF) is to commence from the 6th to the 14th of October. With over three hundred films to be showcased, this makes it the largest film festival on the continent. There is hope that this year’s event will surpass last year’s record-breaking jamboree. Film producers and directors from seventy countries around the world will present their work to an international throng of guests, critics and spectators. Visitors will be able to watch an assortment of movies from all four corners of the globe and to rub shoulders with first-time directors who will be exhibiting their world to a public that has seen its movie industry grow from strength to strength since the first festival back in 1996. The festival has now become one of the premier movie occasions on the Asian calendar. The success of last year’s event in which a total of 182, 046 people attended featuring a festival-best 153 premiers has seen tickets snapped up quickly as movie-goers look to get their hands on the best seat in the house.
For many decades there wasn’t much to write about in regards to an Asian movie scene. The Hollywood movies that flooded the silver-screens were what were popular and the Asian films were always considered somewhat baffling and frequentlt lacklustre. Additionally they would provide little revenue for their directors, their actors and their crew; it was difficult ever seeing this situation improve. At least that was the way most saw this scene. But as audiences began to grow tired of the run-of-the-mill repetitive ‘box-office bonanzas’ and began to look for something that had a little more depth in its characters with a storyline that had more absorption than a wet sponge. Soon Hollywood directors and producers began getting inspiration and ideas from a plethora of distinctive and creative sources in the east. Eventually World cinema began to take-off.
With so many movies being shown at BIFF this October, it can be difficult to pick the crass from the classic, the banal from the brilliant and the trite from the terrific, but a few recommended by those ‘in the know’ include any of the screenings by Hong Kong writer, producer and director Yonfan. The special programme dedicated to his work will include A Certain Romance (1984), Double Fixation (1987), Promising Miss Bowie (1990), In Between (1994), Bishonen (1998), Peony Pavilion (2001), and Colour Blossoms (2004).
The opening movie Always (2011) by Korean director Song Il-gon tells of a love story between an ex-boxer and his partner. This slow unraveling story with sweeping long shots has made this an interesting choice for the opening slot with mixed reviews from across the board.
From Japan come a number of movies, but one in particular has been chosen to be the closing number. Chronicle of My Mother by Masata Harada is a piece about a successful writer Kosaku Igami who takes in his ailing mother in when his father dies. After years of anger towards her for sending him away during his childhood he is suddenly forced into taking care of her and discovering the truth behind those earlier times.
The festival is renowned for exhibiting new work by directors from around Asia and one of its few awards that are handed out every year is the ‘New Current’ award. Often the winner of this award will go on to further success. Last year’s The Journals of Musan, by Park Jung Bum went on to feature in movie theatres across parts of Western Europe and North America. It told the story of a North Korean defector that struggled to find work in the South after fleeing. Nominees this year include; Choked by Kim Joong-hyun, a Korean movie; Damn Life by Japanese director Kitagawa Hitashi; Lost in Mountain by Chinese director Gao Zipeng and Return to Burma by Midi Z, which tells the story of a man who returns to his home country that has been closed off from the outside world and how he seeks to find a new life for himself while grappling with a society that hasn’t progressed. The government of Rangoon gave director unparalleled access to shoot in the country.
Being the biggest film festival in Asia has meant that the venues for the event has had to be updated and this festival will see the inaugural opening of the new Busan Cinema Centre in Centum City, near Haeundae. A nine-storey high building housing three screens seating 413 in the largest and 213 in the smaller two, plus another 4000-seater screen outside will put the audience into the action. This venue will be hosting the opening and closing celebrations of the event. The majority of the screenings will take place within the area with the Shinsegae Department store’s (the biggest store in the world…) CGV hosting a bountiful selection as well.
Tickets are moderately priced, starting at 6000won for a general seat, 8000won for a 3D movie (a film festival wouldn’t be the same now would it…?) 20,000won for the opening and closing pictures and the special ‘Midnight Passion,’ where you can watch three movies back-to-back for 10,000won. To pre-book your ticket using credit card you need to go to www.daum.net and for cash, visit the nearest Busan Bank. This is probably the simplest option.
By David Holt
There is a lot of information on the Official BIFF website at http://www.biff.kr/.
Other links include: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_2_1.jsp?cid=740322
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