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Ko - production in Busan
  • NAM Jong-suk, Industry Programmer of BiFan
  • by SONG Soon-jin /  Jul 11, 2017
  • Dreaming of becoming the center of the Asian genre cinema industry

    It is now the 21st edition of the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival. The festival made a new start last year launching the BiFan Industry Gathering (B.I.G.) program. This year marks the 10th anniversary of NAFF, the Network of Asian Fantastic Film, which is a leading program of BiFan. NAM shares with us their dream and vision of aiming at a genre film festival and industry festival at the same time. NAM is an Industry Programmer who has been with BiFan since 2007, and built NAFF from the ground up. 

    There has been quite a bit of change in the festival personnel since last year. B.I.G. has also become a stronger team.  

    First of all, last year, CHOI Yong-bae, a producer, became the executive director and CHUNG Ji-young has been invited to be the organization director. To strengthen the executive division even more, now BiFan has a deputy executive director as well, and that is KIM Jong-won, head of Kino Film Company, who used to be the editor in chief of KINO, a prestigious film magazine. The whole idea of such transformation was to strengthen programming. Industry program also launched different industry sectors like NAFF, Made In Asia, Korea Now and so on. However, I realized last year that you definitely need more than one industry programmer for B.I.G. So this year we have as many as 3 industry programmers, counting myself, KIM Jong-won and MOON Seok, a newly invited.   

    So you have a total of 5 programmers, which is a very big team unlike what you usually see in Korean film festivals. What are some of the advantages? 

    We have considerably more films and participating countries this year, which enables us to show that even non-major film countries can produce genre films. Also, industry program lasts longer than the film festival itself. We will be collecting various data on genre cinema trends and industrial indicators of Asian cinema through showcases, forums and seminars, to turn them into a report by December. We have had many foreign guests interested in such brochures and reports of BiFan. However, without B.I.G., it was not actually possible to assemble all the materials once the festival was over, due to lack of budget and resources. Now that we have a bigger industry program, we have a bigger budget, which enables more effective paperwork.  

    Isn’t promoting an industry program in conflict with the very spirit of BiFan? 

    Not at all. The Nordic Genre Invasion and Blood Window are perfect examples of genre film industry programs. (Nordic Invasion is a non-profit organization, which is a platform for collaboration, distribution, and marketing for Northern European genre film producers, and Blood Window is the genre film industry program of Ventana Sur, which is the biggest Latin American fantasy film market). And we have been expanding a global network for fantasy films for the last 8 or 9 years, working closely with Sitges Fantastic International Film Festival, Spanish Film Archive, Morbido Film Festival of Mexico, and so on. In doing so, we want to make it clearly known to the world that Bucheon is the venue for Asian genre cinema. Of course B.I.G.’s Made In Asian section is to review the whole film trend in different countries of Asia so it may not end up in focusing on genre cinema. For example, romantic comedy is still strong in countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. However, they still use genre elements like fantasy and action in those films. In that aspect, Made In Asia is all the more meaningful. 

    NAFF has an important role in promoting Asian fantasy cinema.  

    The Tag-Along made it to 3rd place in the Taiwanese box office last year, and was formerly introduced in 2015 in the It Project, a NAFF project market. It is a good example of how Taiwanese genre films can also make a box office hit. It Project has also introduced in Korea The Terror, LIVE (2013) and The King of Pigs (2011) by YEON Sang-ho, along with Derailed (2016) and Bluebeard. It is true that the horror cinema has become very weak, which is the center of Korean genre cinema. NAFF promotes diverse projects but it is not easy to promote genre cinema including horror. It is a pity that our promotion mostly focuses on the minor and independent films, therefore not making a great box office hit. To help with this problem, we made the Korea Fantastic section last year and turned it into a competition. We try to introduce great Korean independent genre films and we ask the international programmers to watch them. This year we are going to open a non-competition category in this section and invite established directors’ genre films as well. 

    What else would you tell us about B.I.G.? Are there any other good programs that you want to introduce?

    There will be a film producers’ camp, which is an educational program for existing film producers, where PARK Chan-wook, LEE Dong-ha of TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016), and CHOI Jae-won of The Age of Shadows (2016)’ Warner Bros. Korea will tell us about the change in Korean film production, where big players like Netflix and Warner Brothers have made a big transformation. Also, Cinematographic Language Seminar would be very much useful as well, along with Asian Collaboration Promotion Forum, which is an expanded version of last year’s Korea-China collaboration Promotion Forum. Fantastic Marketing Funding, co-hosted by Crowdfunding Wadiz is a film investment presentation on Korean genre cinema, and it is expected to come up with actual deals. 
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