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PiFan 2012: A Brief Primer
Jul 18, 2012
- Writerby Zachary Hooker
This purpose of this primer is to provide a brief introduction to the 2012 edition of the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan), outlining its sections and awards as well as highlighting a few of its films along the way. If you are lucky enough to be attending this year’s fest, consider this a cheat sheet for that bulky program book. If not, consider this a mere teaser for the weirdness that is about to unfurl over the next two weeks in the city of Puchon, located just outside of Seoul, population roughly 890,000.
PiFan’s main competition is the Puchon Choice section, which is divided into one subsection devoted to a dozen feature films and two subsections screening six shorts in each. Accordingly, the feature section boasts a bevy awards -- the Best of Puchon and Best Director award, which both come with cash prizes, awards for best actor and actress, a Jury’s Choice award and an audience award. While it is somewhat surprising that no local films will compete for the fest’s top prize, there is still plenty to look forward to. One notable selection is <Wrong>, an American production from French director Quentin DUPIEUX, who took last year’s Best of Puchon award with the absurdist thriller <Rubber>. <Wrong>, which has received generally positive reviews since its Sundance premiere, follows a man trying to recover his lost dog, revealing his reality to be more and more improbably skewed with each step he takes on his mission. Also of note are <Citadel>, the debut feature from Irish director Ciarán FOY, and Japan’s <Blood-C: The Last Dark>, the latest addition to the <Blood/Blood+> anime/manga series.
Within the Puchon Choice short film section, five of the 12 selections come from Korea. Cash prizes will accompany the Best Short Film, Jury’s Choice, and Best Korean Short Film awards. An audience award will also be handed out.
PiFan’s main non-competition section is World Fantastic Cinema. This summer 47 films will screen, showcasing the state of genre filmmaking across the globe. It is likely no coincidence that Indonesian and South Asian films will be highlighted in this year’s World Fantastic Cinema section, as PiFan’s project market and development program, the Network of Asian Fantastic Films (NAFF), will also be profiling upcoming genre projects from Indonesia in its Spotlight division. Nine Korean productions will screen, including the most recent KIM Jee-woon production, the long-shelved sci-fi omnibus <Doomsday Book>. The three discrete tales the make up the film -- one by KIM, one by YIM Pil-sung, and one co-directed -- cover the topics of zombie attacks, artificial intelligence and meteors headed for planet Earth. Also highly anticipated is the American film <Safety Not Guaranteed>, which follows a group of journalists who meet a man seeking a companion for time travel. Finally, director OH Young Doo’s latest offering, <Young Gun in Time>, a romping detective tale with cast of misfits, will also make its Korean premiere. OH has been making waves in indie Asian sci-fi over the past three-plus years, with his omnibus <My Neighbor Zombie> grabbing multiple PiFan prizes in 2009 and his previous feature <Invasion of Alien Bikini> becoming the first ever non-Korean winner of the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival’s grand prize.
Moving on to riskier films and filmmakers, Vision Express is PiFan’s section devoted to unconventional takes on the already unconventional world of genre film. This summer, the section is composed of 27 films, two of which are local productions. One of these is KIM Kyung-mook’s visceral, gay-themed drama <Stateless Things>, which is screening on the tale end of a small domestic release after a year of festival success in places such as Rotterdam and Venice. Also appearing (though not counted among the strictly Korean productions) is the Japan-Korea co-production <Two Rabbits in Osaka>, a tale of post-apocalyptic love that graduated from PiFan/NAFF’s It Project with post-production support from the Korean Film Council (KOFIC). A NETPAC Award will be handed out within this section.
PiFan’s Strange Homage offers five features devoted to the most cinephilic of moviegoers. Among these offerings is the intriguing documentary <Room 237> from American Rodney ASCHER, which examines a number of theories claiming that Stanley KUBRICK’s legendary horror film <The Shining> is stuffed with political overtures and larger philosophical statements. <The Shining> will also appear as a Special Screening at PiFan.
Forbidden Zone is PiFan’s repository for “extreme” films, be their excess sexual, violent, absurdist or morbid in nature (very likely some combination of all of these). Of the five “forbidden” selections of 2012, Serbian Maja MILOS’s <Clip>, a Rotterdam Tiger competitor, follows in the footsteps of 2010 PiFan transgressor <A Serbian Film> by chronicling an adolescent girl’s twisted exploration of drugs, sex and violence.
On a somewhat lighter note, the fest’s animation program, Ani Fanta, has one French and two Japanese animations paired up with a slew of features and shorts from the Czech Republic. Additionally, Fantastic Short Films has over a dozen subprograms composed of about five shorts films each, with one subsection offering the products of this year’s 2nd PiFan Youth Film Academy. More than 30 of the shorts appearing throughout these subprograms are Korean productions.
Additionally, PiFan’s Special Programs include an introduction to the early works of Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, whose most recent feature was the American film <Drive>, a curation of films from Korea’s legendary Myung Film production house, a selection of contemporary Argentinian genre film, a smattering of feature animations from the landmark 1970’s scf-fi anime <Space Battleship Yamato>, and three 3D shorts produced by Korea’s Mog Culture Project.
Finally, this primer will conclude by going back in time, as PiFan will also host retrospectives celebrating the recently deceased iconoclastic British director Ken Russell (<Women in Love>, <Altered States>) and rarely-screened 1970’s Korean comedy films, such as AN Il-Nam’s 1970 <Outlaw on a Donkey> and LEE Hyung Pyo’s 1974 <A Car Moves by Water>.
Other awards handed out at PiFan this year are the European Fantastic Film Festival Federation (EFFFF) Asian Award, selected by a Federation representative and meant to promote further genre filmmaking in Asia, and the FUJIFILM Eterna Award, given to the best Korean indie feature at PiFan. Rounding out the trophies, four awards are also given to PiFan Youth Academy graduates based on the final products they screen in their Fantastic Short Film program.
PiFan began in 1997 and has since developed into Asia’s largest venues for genre films and their enthusiasts. In addition to its cooperative agreements with both the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival in Japan and the EFFFF, PiFan has also held its own project market, NAFF, since 2008.