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17th Busan International Film Festival

Asia’s largest film festival has returned to Korea’s southeastern port city of Busan. From October 4 to 13, the 17th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF 2012) will welcome directors, actors, film critics, and film enthusiasts from all over the world to discover some of the newest and most original voices in film.

For the first time in festival history, two non-Korean films will be opening and closing the ten-day event. Opening film Cold War¸ a psychological crime thriller by Hong Kong directors Longman Leung and Sunny Luk, will have its world premiere on October 4, and satire film Television, by Bangladesh’s pioneering independent filmmaker Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, will close the festivities on October 13. Chinese actress Tang Wei will join Korea’s veteran actor Ahn Seonggi to moderate on opening night.

Hong Kong thriller Cold War (left) and Bengali film Television (right) will be featured as the opening and closing films, respectively, at the 17th Busan International Film Festival. The festival begins on October 4 (photo courtesy of the Busan International Film Festival). Hong Kong thriller Cold War (left) and Bengali film Television (right) will be featured as the opening and closing films, respectively, at the 17th Busan International Film Festival. The festival begins on October 4 (photo courtesy of the Busan International Film Festival).

A total of 304 films from 75 countries will be screened at this year’s festival, with 93 among these to be world premieres. Films will be played on 37 screens across seven theatres throughout Busan, including Busan Cinema Center, CGV Centum City, Lotte Cinema Centum City, and Megabox Haeundae.

This year’s film selection will showcase diverse themes, with a particularly notable selection of films from countries such as Japan, India, the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia, spotlighting the artistic visions of Asia’s premier filmmakers as well as the social and cultural issues that inspire them.

Among the Korean films that will be featured at the 17th Busan International Film Festival are Dangerous Liaisons (left), starring Korean actor Jang Dong-gun and Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, and Werewolf Boy (right), starring Kim Bo-young (pictured) and Song Joong-ki (photo courtesy of the Busan International Film Festival).Among the Korean films that will be featured at the 17th Busan International Film Festival are Dangerous Liaisons (left), starring Korean actor Jang Dong-gun and Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, and Werewolf Boy (right), starring Park Bo-young (pictured) and Song Joong-ki (photo courtesy of the Busan International Film Festival).

A sneak peek at this year’s films

According to BIFF 2012 programmer Jeon Chan-il, this year’s selection of Korean independent films can be largely characterized as exploring the themes of responsibility and revenge as well as sexual desire and awakening. In the New Currents program, two such films are Fatal, a haunting coming-of-age story by emerging filmmaker Lee Donku that depicts one 28-year-old’s agonizing quest for redemption, and Your Time Is Up, the directorial debut of Korean Academy of Film Arts graduate Kim Sung-hyun, who portrays in dramatic strokes how minor conflicts can birth tragic results.

Programmer Kim Seok-gi praised the films that will be screened in a special program entitled “Afghanistan National Film Archive: The Rise from the Ashes” as particularly meaningful addition’s to this year’s overall program. For ordinary moviegoers, this will be a rare opportunity to watch films produced under the film ban of the Taliban regime during the 1960s to 1980s. Of these, late director Mohammad Nazir’s 1974 film Rabia Balkhi, which brings to life the Afghan legend of the titular royal princess and the slave warrior with whom she falls in love, has received acclaim for not only its story and camerawork but also for the creative dedication and daring that carried the work to completion.

Highlights at this year's Busan International Film Festival include screenings of films produced in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, including the 1974 film Rabia Balkhie (left), as well as a screening of the North Korean film Comrade Kim Goes Flying (photo courtesy of the Busan International Film Festival).Highlights at this year's Busan International Film Festival include screenings of films produced in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, including the 1974 film Rabia Balkhi (left), as well as a screening of the North Korean film Comrade Kim Goes Flying (photo courtesy of the Busan International Film Festival).

Another notable first at this year’s festival will be the screening of Comrade Kim Goes Flying, a film by North Korean director Kim Gwang-hun. Co-directed by Britain’s Nicholas Bonner and Belgium’s Anja Daelemans, the film tells the story of a female miner named Kim Young-mi who dreams of flying as an acrobat with the Pyongyang Circus Troupe, and the handsome aerialist Jang Pil who grows to respect her. Described by BIFF 2012 programmer Rhee Soue-won as a heartwarming and humorous story, the film received official approval for screening from the Ministry of Unification. Ministry spokesperson Kim Hyeong-seok cited “measures to increase flexibility of inter-Korean cultural exchange” as having provided grounds for the approval.

Films that have already enjoyed widespread recognition among international critics will also be featured in Busan, including 2012 Cannes Palme D’or winner Amour (Love) by Austrian director Michael Haneke and Berlin International Film Festival’s Golden Bear winner Caesar Must Die by Italian duo Paolo and Vittorio Taviani.

Additional highlights at this year’s festival include a special exhibition on Georgian-born Armenian film director and artist Sergey Parajanov as well as screenings of some of the oldest existing Korean Cinema classics, including the 1964 box-office hit Red Scarf, featuring early film icon Shin Young-kyun as well as Korea’s first aerial cinematography, and Spring, Spring, another lauded work starring Shin that offers humorous commentary on the bygone days of Korea’s caste society.

Preparations are underway in Korea's southeastern port city of Busan, where the 17th Busan International Film Festival will open on October 4 for an exciting ten days (photo: Yonhap News). 
Preparations are underway in Korea's southeastern port city of Busan, where the 17th Busan International Film Festival will open on October 4 for an exciting ten days (photo: Yonhap News).

Off screen, festival organizers will be holding a special event entitled “Book to Film” as part of the Asia Film Market program, during which publishers interested in selling film rights to their books will have the opportunity to pitch top works directly to film producers and investors. Also, in conjunction with this year’s Asian Film Academy, an annual educational program that invites young film professionals to take master classes with established filmmakers, BIFF will launch the first ever Asian Actors Academy to provide acting lessons and training for aspiring actors across Asia.

More information on BIFF, including a program schedule and film synopses, can be found at the official website: http://www.biff.kr/structure/eng/default.asp.

By Kwon Jungyun
Korea.net Staff Writer

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