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Ko - production in Busan
  • KIM Young-jin, Head Programmer of Jeonju International Film Festival
  • by SONG Soon-jin /  May 06, 2019
  • “In Jeonju, you can meet the front line of world cinema”

    The Jeonju International Film Festival (Jeonju IFF), which has been presenting a wide selection of works standing at the forefront of Korean and world cinema with the slogan “The liberated area of film expression”, is celebrating this year its 20th anniversary. And it is now ready to step/head into a wider world under its new slogan — “Cinema, the liberated area of expression”. We met with Head Programmer KIM Young-jin, who is helming Jeonju IFF, to ask him what kind of image of these 20 years he would like to project to the audience, and to talk about what attributes a film festival should have in the age of mixed genres and platforms.

    We are celebrating this year the 100th anniversary of Korean cinema as well as the 20 years of Jeonju IFF. What stands out first about this program is that it reflects two milestones in Korean film history.
    To celebrate the centenary of Korean films and the two decades of Jeonju IFF, we have prepared a Special Focus, which is divided into the sections “Another Upspring of Korean Cinema” and “Wild at Heart”, dedicated respectively to Korean movies from the 20th and 21st centuries. Above all, I would like to emphasize the “Wild at Heart” section, in which we are showing movies that came out during the Korean film renaissance, meaning titles like The President’s Last Bang (2005), Rikidozan: A Hero Extraordinary (2004), Save the Green Planet (2003), The Yellow Sea (2010), films that for the most part would have been tricky to produce nowadays. There was some sort of dynamism in Korean cinema back then, and the ambitiously experimental titles were also successful commercially. And that was only a decade ago. I mean, even though this dynamism has been lost now, there are movies that deserve a second look because there is much to learn from their less positive aspects. We will mark the centenary of Korean films with the “Another Upspring of Korean Cinema” section, which we organized in collaboration with the Society for the Commemorations of Korean Cinema’s 100 Years and features films from the 20th century. In that section, we have selected films that, even if they didn’t receive high praise from the Korean industry, shouldn’t be overlooked.

    Your new slogan, “Cinema, the liberated area of expression” can be read as a commitment to the expansion of the scope of movies. As the world’s film industries are quickly changing, major film festivals have been focusing on new technologies and hybrid forms of cinema such as Virtual Reality, but it is interesting to see that the focus at this year’s edition of the festival (beyond a VR section of course) is on the “Extended Cinema Plus” section, an attempt at combining films with art exhibitions.
    Up until now, when talking about films, our conception was limited to theatrical exhibition. However, films themselves have seen a lot of changes recently, and platforms like Netflix are evolving at a rapid pace. The feeling I have watching VR movies is that it has no chance of reaching the mainstream, but it is nonetheless an effective way to suggest new possibilities for films. I think this could allow for the emergence of the first buds of the “total cinema” André BAZIN talked about. On the other hand, in the domain of visual arts, there has already been before a movement to suppress the boundary with films, but that’s something that has never been approached from the angle of cinema. Our intention with “Expended Cinema Plus” is to address the simultaneous transformation of movie platforms and media, and also to show its implications, through experimentations that break the boundaries between film and visual arts. It is a section that requires a significant budget, but I believe that once everything is set up for the first edition, it will allow us to continuously expand it for the next 10, 20 years.

    After the “Disney Animation Archives” last year, you have prepared this year a “Star Wars Archives” section. That’s a surprising choice.
    People usually have misconceptions when they think about today’s Disney, so this special section put much weight on pure archiving. I mean, in the historical sense of the term. In the American film history, Disney wasn’t mainstream. Animation wasn’t even seen as part of the film industry in the classic age of Hollywood cinema. However, from the time they were non-mainstream, they have been producing results that are innovative in their own way and have today become mainstream, and they have now reached a time when there is barely any technical difference between animation and live action. And so, just like that, the purpose of last year’s special section was to invite people to look at the way Disney revolutionized animation with cinematographic techniques and turned mainstream. This year’s Star Wars retrospective is the same. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope in particular was everything but mainstream. It was a project George LUCAS filmed in the style of an independent film, having even waived his up-front fees as director. This film, however, changed the Hollywood mainstream narratives to something more mythical, and radically transformed the landscape of the industry. That didn’t happen simply because it was popular. What is unconventional today may not remain so forever. These moves from non-mainstream to mainstream are what makes history. If Jeonju IFF wants to become an “authoritative film festival”, in the positive sense, it must make non-mainstream films mainstream. Our film festival ultimately strives to do so by introducing new films.

    The “Newtro Jeonju” section is also important in that it presents the latest works of 22 directors who have grown alongside Jeonju IFF.
    They may be not well known to the general public but a lot of them are famous on the festival circuit. As most of them became associated with Jeonju IFF when they were young directors, they are still fully active today. Since we are currently operating the Jeonju Cinema Project, it was fortunately possible to establish which director was filming which project, and we started working on this section last September. The directors who could fit the festival in their schedule are coming, we have gathered as many people as possible.

    This year, you changed for a system of four programmers that includes MUN Sung-kyeong.
    I like author movies that keep their own style in the industrial system. Programmer JANG Byung-won prefers experimental and avant-gardist, innovative films, and LEE Sang-yong sits in the middle ground between JANG and me. JANG constantly brings films that would have a hard time getting noticed if not for film festivals and says that we should show that, “This kind of thing exists, this is the groundwork of world cinema”, and I want to value that kind of opinion as much as possible. MUN Sung-kyeong, the new programmer who joined us this year, has long lived in South America and has a strong network there. Until now, it was JANG who was in charge of the South American movies, and these became a characteristic of Jeonju IFF in their own way. That’s why we invited someone a bit more specialized who could build a strong foothold for Latin America. In the years to come, we want to support the screening of Latin American and European films.
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