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Ko - production in Busan
  • Women Directors, Japan and China Lead 22nd Busan International Film Festival
  • by Pierce Conran /  Sep 26, 2017
  • BIFF Opens with SHIN Su-won’s GLASS GARDEN on October 12th

    October is just around the corner, which means that it’s almost time to kick off Asia’s top celebration of cinema. The Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) will return for its 22nd edition on October 12th, during which it will screen around 300 films from 75 countries across the globe, including 100 world premieres and 29 international premieres. As usual, the lineup features a broad variety of films but this year’s fest is putting a particularly strong focus on women directors and films from Japan and China.

    Strong Representation of Women Filmmakers

    For the first time, BIFF will both open and close with films directed by women. SHIN Su-won, one of the leading voices of Korea’s independent scene, returns with her fourth feature Glass Garden, which will have its world premiere at it serves as this year’s opening film. Following her Berlin-invited PLUTO (which debuted as a gala presentation in Busan in 2012) and her Cannes-premiered Madonna in 2015, SHIN’s latest features MOON Geun-young as a bio researcher who retreats to the countryside, where a struggling writer (KIM Tae-hun) approaches her and uses her as inspiration for a new novel.

    Closing the fest, which runs until October 21st, will be Love Education, the latest from Taiwanese director and actress Sylvia CHANG. Featuring CHANG both as actress and director, Love Education chronicles a dying woman’s reminiscences of her family’s past troubles as they try to move the family graves. CHANG’s last work Murmur of the Hearts was the opening film of the Hong Kong International Film Festival in 2015. 

    Continuing the strong representation of women directors this year is Take Care Of My Cat (2001) director JEONG Jae-eun, who returns with her first fiction film since 2005’s The Aggressive. JEONG’s Japan-Korea co-production Butterfly Sleep will be one of this year’s five Gala Presentations. Not only that, JEONG is also featured in the Wide Angle Documentary Showcase with her latest non-fiction feature Ecology in Concrete.

    Another two of this year’s Gala films hail from Japan, with the international premiere of YUKISADA Isao’s drama Narratage and The Third Murder, the first thriller from BIFF regular KOREEDA Hirokazu. Two more heavy hitters round out the Gala selections, with John WOO’s Manhunt (incidentally also set in Japan), a return to his HK-era action roots which features Korean star HA Ji-won, as well as Darren Aronosky’s headtrip mother!, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem.

    Brand New Korean Films across Various Sections

    As ever, the festival will present a vast selection of homegrown films, which includes 50 features across various sections. Among those are three new works in the New Currents lineup, BIFF’s signature competition section. SHIN Dong-seok’s debut Last Child is a recipient of this year’s Asian Cinema Fund Post-Production Fund support, while After My Death is a Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA) project from KIM Ui-suk and How to Breathe Underwater in another debut from GO Hyeon-seok.

    This year’s ACF Post-Production Fund also supported a pair of Korean films in the Korean Cinema Today-Vision lineup: JEONG Hee-jae’s debut A Haunting Hitchhike and February from KIM Joong-hyeon, who debuted with the KAFA-produced New Currents title Choked in 2011. 

    Several other notable films will bow in the Vision lineup. A Tiger in Winter, is the third straight BIFF premiere for Romance Joe (2012) and A Matter of Interpretation (2015) director LEE Kwang-kuk. The KwangHwaMoon Cinema collective, which was responsible for Sunshine Boys (2013), The King of Jokgu (2014) and The Queen of Crime (2016) return with their first women-directed title, JEON Go-woon’s Microhabit. Hit the Night is the sophomore work of JEONG Ga-young, director of the popular indie Bitch On the Beach. The MYUNG FILMS LAB has two films in the section, LEE Hwan’s debut Park Hwa-young and Mothers with LIM Soo-jung, the second film from LEE Dong-eun, who debuted last year with In Between Seasons, another MYUNG FILMS LAB production, which earned the KNN Award at BIFF.

    The Korean Cinema Today-Panorama lineup includes a mix of new works and major festival and commercial titles from the last year. New titles from returning directors include O Muel’s Mermaid Unlimited, PARK Ki-yong’s Old Love, SHIN Yeon-shick’s Romans 8:37 and JEON Soo-il’s America Town. Previously screened titles include a director’s cut of RYOO Seung-wan’s The Battleship Island, Hong Sangsoo’s The Day After, BONG Joon-ho’s Okja and JANG Hun’s A Taxi Driver. The section also features three works by women - the recently released thrillers MISSING by E.oni and Bluebeard by LEE Soo-yeon as well as the premiere of Method, the latest from Princess Aurora (2005) director PANG Eun-jin. Meanwhile, several new Korean documentaries can also be found in the Wide Angle section, including Reborn, the latest from Factory Complex (2015) director IM Heung-soon.

    Beyond films being screened, the Asian Cinema Fund has also introduced a new Production Support Fund program, whose first beneficiary will be Not in This World, the latest project from The Journals of Musan (2011) and Alive (2015) director PARK Jung-bum. The fund will endow the project with KRW 200 million in support during its production and post-production stages. Filming begins later this year and the film will screen at BIFF in 2018.

    Notable International Features and Retrospectives

    Looking to the international side of the program, BIFF will spotlight a number of Chinese-language films, including four in the New Currents section - Ying-Ting TSENG’s The Last Verse (Taiwan), HAN Dong’s One Night on the Wharf (China), ZHOU Quan’s End of Summer (China) and CHUNG King-wai’s Somewhere Beyond the Mist (Hong Kong-China). Other major titles peppered throughout the program include new Asian works by Anurag KASHYAP (The Brawler), Ann HUI (Our Time Will Come), MIIKE Takashi (Blade of the Immortal), KAWASE Naomi (Radiance), KUROSAWA Kyoshi (Before We Vanish) and KITANO Takeshi (Outrage Coda). BIFF will also screen this year’s Cannes Palme d’or winner (Ruben Östlund’s The Square) and Venice Golden Lion awardee (Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water).

    This year’s retrospectives will include a section on the late SUZUKI Seijun, who will also posthumously receive the Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award, which include his classics Tokyo Drifter (1966), Branded to Kill (1967) and Zigeunerweisen (1980). The second Special Program in Focus will be a spotlight on cinema from the Sakha region in Siberia. The Korean Cinema Retrospective will focus on screen acting legend SHIN Seong-il, who starred in 500 films, such as KIM Soo-yong’s Mist (1967), LEE Man-hee’s A Day Off (1968) and LEE Jang-ho’s Heavenly homecoming to stars (1974).

    In order to commemorate the untimely passing of KIM Ji-seok earlier this year, BIFF’s executive programmer and deputy director, the festival is introducing a KIM Ji-seok Award and establishing the Platform Busan event. A jury comprising of noted critics Tony Rayns and Darcy Paquet and Indonesian director Garin NUGRUHO will give the KIM Ji-seok Award to a film screening in the Window on Asian Cinema section. Platform Busan is a new networking forum in which 150 Asian filmmakers are expected to take part. A memorial service for KIM will also be held on October 15th.
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