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Ko - production in Busan
  • Jeonju Switches to Hybrid Format for 21st Edition
  • by Pierce Conran /  Jun 05, 2020
  • Jeonju Film Festival Evolves during COVID-19 Pandemic

    The first major Korean film festival to take place amidst the global COVID-19 Pandemic, the Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) is currently staging its 21st edition, which kicked off on May 28. The vastly scaled-back main portion of the festival, taking place both physically and online, ran until June 6, while the ‘Extended Screening’ program of the festival is due to go on until September 20.

    Jeonju, one of the top three festivals in the country, along with the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) and the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BiFan), was originally scheduled to open in late April but once the public health crisis grew serious in Korea, event organizers initially decided to delay the festival by a month. As they monitored the ongoing crisis, a scaled-down hybrid event was subsequently announced. 

    To ensure that the public could stay out of harm’s way, it was revealed that only limited screenings would take place for titles in three competitive sections in Jeonju, with only the jury and filmmakers of the titles in question in attendance. Though even this was limited to local cast and crew, as no foreign guests for the international competition could be invited this year due to the two-week quarantine procedures for foreign arrivals. An opening ceremony with limited guests wearing face masks was live-streamed. 

    However, viewers with local IP addresses were able to view 96 of the 180 films selected for the Jeonju program this year through a showcase on the local streaming platform wavve from May 28 to June 6.

    Awards for this year’s edition were handed out or announced during a small ceremony that featured 80 guests on June 1, including Jeonju festival delegates, jury members and cast and crew associated with films in the Korean competitive sections. 

    This year’s Grand Prize in the International Competition was the Chinese work Damp Season from director GAO Ming, which debuted at the International Film Festival Rotterdam earlier this year. The Best Picture Prize went to Clarisa NAVAS’ One In a Thousand, a co-production between Argentina and Germany, and the Special Jury Prize went to Luis Lopez CARRASCO’s The Year of The Discovery from Spain, while a Special Mention was reserved for Lubna AZABAL and Nisrin ERRADI, actors from the Moroccan film Adam by director Maryam TOUZANI.

    For the Korean competition, the jury came to a split decision for the Grand Prize, which was shared between SHIN Dong-min’s Mom’s Song and Gull by KIM Mi-jo. Character actor OH Jung-se, known for How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (2013), took the Best Actor award for LEE Tae-gyeom’s Dispatch, while YEOM Hye-ran, who has had small roles in Memories of Murder (2003) and Secret Sunshine (2007), received the Best Actress accolade for Black Light (2019) by BAE Jong-dae. LIM Seung-hyeun’s Homeless earned the CGV Arthouse Award.

    Director PARK Moon-chil earned the Documentary Award for his third film Comfort, and the NETPAC Award went to the Indian film The Shepherdess And The Seven Songs by Pushpendra SINGH, which was chosen among the World Cinema narrative films.

    In the Korean short films competition, HAN Byung-a’s animation The End of the Universe took the Grand Prize (wavve Award), BANG Sung-jun’s Walking Backwards earned the Best Director Prize, and KANG Jeong-in’s Each and YOO Joon-min’s Expiration Date won the Special Jury Prize, while CHO Min-jae and LEE Na-yeon received a Special Mention for The Thread.

    The festival’s signature program, the Jeonju Cinema Projects, presented three new works at the festival this year. The projects are feature films from important indie filmmakers in Korea and overseas that receive production support from the festival. This year’s batch included Three Sisters by LEE Seung-won and A Distant Place by PARK Kun-young, as well as Afterwater by Balkan filmmaker Dane KOMLJEN.

    The third film by LEE Seung-won, who previously made the Busan International Film Festival New Currents title Communication & Lies (2017) and the dysfunctional family comedy Happy Bus Day (2017), which premiered at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, Three Sisters stars KIM Sun-young, who has appeared in both of Director LEE’s previous films, MOON So-ri (Oasis, 2002) and JANG Yoon-joo (Veteran, 2015). 

    A Distant Place is the second film by PARK Kun-young who debuted with To My River (2019), which screened in Busan in 2018. It’s the story of a man living with his daughter in Gangwon Province who receives a visit from his male lover and later his twin sister and features KANG Gil-woo (Swing Kids, 2018), LEE Sang-hee (I Can Speak, 2017) and KI Joo-bong (Hotel by the River, 2018).’ 

    A co-production between Germany, Korea, Spain and Serbia, Afterwater is an experimental work from Dane KOMLJEN, who previously made with All the Cities of the North in 2016.

    Looking forward to next year’s festival, the 2021 Jeonju Cinema Projects were revealed as PARK Hyuck-jee’s My Genie and Eric BAUDELAIRE’s A Flower in the Mouth during the 12th Jeonju Project Market, which ran from May 30 to June 2. PARK Hyuck-jee debuted at Jeonju in competition with the documentary With or Without You in 2015 and his latest non-fiction work will focus on a young girl who must accept her fate to become a shaman. BAUDELAIRE’s work is a hybrid between documentary and narrative film and is based on Luigi PIRANDELLO’s 1922 play ‘The Man with the Flower in His Mouth’. Both projects will received up to KRW 100 million (USD 82,200) in support.

    Other awardees from the Jeonju Project Market included KIM Yoon-zy’s narrative film Remain and director KIM Jeong-keun’s documentary My Class (working title), which split the Jeonju Cinema Fund Grant for Development, worth KRW 43 million (USD 35,300). Meanwhile the JICA Awards for sound mastering went to KANGYU Ga-ram’s fiction work Lucky, Apartment (working title) and NAM A-rum’s documentary project Patriot Girl. The Furmo DT Award went to HEO Seong’s documentary Shaping Trout, which also received a Jeonju Cine Complex Award for digital color grading and DCP support, along with KANG Kyung-tae’s The Protector.

    RoughCut Navigating, a documentary support program introduced this year, gave out a RoughCut Booster Support Grant to KIM Jung-in’s A Long Way to School, HEON Chul-nyung’s 206 Unearthed took home the First Cut Lab Entry which gives it automatic entry to the EBS International Documentary Film Festival’s First Cut Lab, and KIM Sae-bom’s Small Bird and Mr. Pig won the Furmo DT Award for international film festival submission support.

    JIFF’s special Extended Screenings program, which will screen works form the festival with guests where possible until late September, was originally due to kick off on June 9, but owing to new COVID-19 cluster infections, the start has been pushed back for the moment as festival organizers continue to monitor the situation over the coming weeks and months.
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