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Ko - production in Busan
  • 10 Days of Fantastic Films at PiFan
  • by Pierce Conran /  Jul 27, 2013


     The Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) kicked off July 18th for its 10-day run, screening the best in genre cinema from around the world. Just as in previous years, local genre fare was featured prominently across the festival’s diverse programs, such as the Puchon Choice competition section, World Fantastic Cinema, Vision Express and the Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA) sidebar ‘The Catcher in Korean Films.’
    Korean films that screen at PiFan have traditionally done well on the international festival circuit. Among last year’s crop of domestic genre works, the omnibus Horror Stories (which served as the opening film), later screened at events such as the Sitges International Film Festival of Catalonia and the Moscow, Hong Kong and Hawaii International Film Festivals. Zombie romcom Let Me Out from director SOH Jae-young and KIM Chang-lae went on to participate in the Mar del Plata, Dallas and Hawaii International Film Festivals. OH Young-doo’s madcap sci-fi private eye film Young Gun in the Time subsequently played at the Sitges, New Zealand, Fantasia and Newport Beach Film Festivals.
    Leading this year’s local crop was JANG Cheol-soo’s webcomic hit Secretly Greatly, which competed in the Puchon Choice section. Last year’s international competition featured no Korean films. The sophomore film from Bedevilled director JANG, Secretly Greatly has amassed almost seven million admissions (6.95 million as of July 26) in Korea and recently played at the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) and the Fantasia International Film Festival in Canada. Based on the enormously successful webcomic Covertness, which accrued some 40 million views online, the film features popular young stars KIM Soo-hyun, PARK Ki-woong and LEE Hyun-woo.
    World Fantastic Cinema, the festival’s biggest section, featured seven Korean films this year. Among previously released works was the sequel to Horror Stories, which screened commercially in Korea this past June and has already been invited to the Sitges Film Festival. How to Use Guys with Secret Tips, the debut romcom from LEE Won-suk has been hailed for its fresh and innovative style. The film has already screened at events such as the Udine Far East Film Festival, NYAFF, the Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival and the Shanghai International Film Festival.

    Other World Fantastic Cinema entries included: the sexually-charged The Bluff, from directed GONG Ja-gwan, who previously helmed The Sex Film (2006); Go, Stop, Murder, the debut of California Institute of Arts graduate KIM Joon-kwon’s, a murder mystery involving a group of go-stop players; Oldmen Never Die from WHANG Cheol-mean, the veteran independent director of Fuck Hamlet (1997), Spying Cam (2004), Moscow (2009) and Morning Glory (2012); Southern Superhero Showdown, from RYU Hoon, one of the directors on The Neighbor Zombie (2009); and The Truth from The Acting Class (2010) director SEO Seung-man.
    An additional four films screened in the Vision Express section. Love Scene, from directors LEE Jeong-won, KIM Doo-heon and MOON In-dae, is a religion-themed omnibus feature. JO Eun-dong, the assistant director of KWAK Kyung-taek’s Eye for an Eye (2008), brought his debut Sunshine Love. Young Artists focuses on five Konkuk University students who wish to be actors and is the feature film debut of Konkuk graduate KANG Taewoo. Incomplete Life: Prequel comes from Live Together (2007) director KIM Tae-hui and SON Tae-gyum, whose 2011 short Fly by Night won the Cinefondation 3rd prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
    ‘The Catcher in Korean Films: KAFA 30 Years’ is a special retrospective of the acclaimed shorts and features that have been made by KAFA students over the years. The program included features such as JO Sung-hee’s End of Animal (2010), YOON Sung-hyun’s Bleak Night (2010), LEE Suk-gyung’s The Day After (2008), BAEK Seung-bin’s Members of the Funeral (2008) and the animation The Story of Mr. Sorry (2008) from directors KWAK In-keun, LEE Eun-mi, RYU Ji-na, LEE Hye-young and KIM Il-hyun.
    In addition, two commercial films released earlier this year, LIM Soon-rye’s Southbound, starring KIM Yun-seok, and the prison comedy-drama Miracle in Cell No. 7 from LEE Hwan-kyung, starring RYOO Seung-ryong, were featured on the festival program as open air screenings.

    Features won’t be the only Korean films on offer as many shorts also screened during the festival. Most prominent among these was the ‘Way to Nature Film Projects’ Day Trip, by brothers PARK Chan-wook and PARK Chan-kyung, and KIM Jee-woon’s One Perfect Day, his first romantic comedy. Looking at the festival’s other sections, six Korean films competed in the Puchon Choice: Short Film Competition, 31 were spread out among the Fantastic Short Films section, another seven made up the 3rd PiFan Youth Academy Collection and 11 older shorts were featured in the KAFA retrospective.
    With 19 features and 57 shorts from Korea available at this year’s PiFan, Korean genre cinema is making a strong push in the summer of 2013. For those who were not able to attend the festival, the majority of the above films are available to subscribers of the KoBiz online screening service.
    Beyond films, PiFan had a lot else to offer, particularly for film professionals. The Network of Asian Fantastic Films (NAFF) successfully staged its sixth edition from July 21-24. This year’s IT Projects, hopeful genre films, predominantly from across Asia, had busy meeting schedules with potential distributors and financiers from the world over hearing their pitches. There was a special focus on the films of the Philippines this year, with a Filipino reception held at the Koryo Hotel on July 23rd. The event was hosted by PiFan Managing Director Thomas NAM and guests included the Filipino Ambassador to South Korea, and the Chairman of the Film Development Council of the Philippines, On the Job director Erik Matti and all the filmmakers involved with the Filipino spotlight.
    The closing reception for NAFF was held once again at the Koryo Hotel on July 24th. Awards were announced and the top prize of the evening (the Bucheon Award), worth USD 13,500, went to Kei ISHIKAWA’s Japan-Poland production Baby. LEE Chung’s Green Field Lane No. 1 picked up the NAFF Award (USD 9,000) and the IT Project Award, also worth USD 9,000, was awarded to Ruined Heart! Another Love Story Between a Criminal and a Whore. Also successful during the evening were Kevin Lewis’ Glutton, which won the Hanmac Culture Award worth USD 10,000 and KIM JHO Gwang-soo The Secret Inspector and the Vampire, which took home the USD 4,500 DAOU Tech Award.
    Meanwhile, the NAFF Post-Production Awards were handed to Chris CHOW’s Cherry Returns, which took the Moneff award for editing; NAM Ki-woong’s Capsule which earned Wave Lab’s sound post-production support award; and LIM Kyongtak’s Asylum was given Sebang Digital Lab’s digital intermediate support award. Having wrapped up its run, NAFF director NAM mentioned that this year’s edition saw a big rise in business meetings as 442 meetings took place this year, up from last year’s 314.

    The Closing Ceremony for PiFan took place on Friday, July 26th and was followed by a screening of local thriller The Terror Live. Before that however, the event’s awards were handed out. In the Puchon Choice Feature competition, Ben Wheatley’s British film Sightseers earned the Best Film award as well as Best Actress for Alice Lowe. Erik Matti’s Filipino hitman film On the Job won both the Best Actor prize for Joel Torre and the Jury’s Choice Award. Anurag Kashyap won Best Director for the Indian crime thriller Ugly. JANG Cheol-soo’s Secretly Greatly won the NH Nonghyup Citizen’s Choice Award, the European Fantastic Film Festivals Federation’s EFFFF Asian Award went to Reema Kagti’s Indian film Talaash, the Netpac Award for Best Film in the Vision Express section was won by Yoshida DAIHACHI’s The Kirishima Thing and WHANG Cheol-mean’s Oldmen Never Die won the LG HiEntech Award for Best Korean Film.
    Looking at the short film awards, Eat from Germany took home the Best Short Film in the Puchon Choice section, the Korean short 8 was the Jury’s Choice Award recipient while Two Boys and a Sheep won both the Best Korean Short Film and Citizen’s Choice for Short Film Award. The PiFan Youth Academy Awards went to 1% (Festival Director’s Award), The Share (PiFan Youth Academy Award), Memory Lane (Chairman’s Award) and Sweet Nightmare (Gyeonggi Superintendent of Education’s Award).
    In all, 229 films from 44 countries were presented at the 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival which saw 52% of its screenings sellout up to July 25th. Meanwhile, an additional two days of screenings took place following the closing festivities. Festival director KIM Young-bin promised that PiFan will return as an even better event in 2014.


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