A Celebration of Asian Cinema

October 2, 2013

Busan International Film Festival starts 10-day run today

By Yun Suh-young

The 18th annual Busan International Film Festival, one of the most influential events in Asian cinema, will kick off its 10-day run in the Korean port city on Thursday.

This year’s event will open with a screening of “Vara: A Blessing,” a Bhutanese film directed by Buddhist monk Khyentse Norbu. The feature will be the first of 301 films from 70 countries to be screened at the festival, which aims at unearthing new cinematic talent in Asia.

The handprints of 52 movie actors and directors from around the world were revealed at BIFF Square in Nampo-dong Wednesday prior to the opening of the festival. Organizers are planning a lavish opening ceremony for Thursday, which will be broadcast live by KBS 2 television.

Norbu will not be in Busan to attend the screening of his film, as he is taking part in a silent mountain retreat. “Vara,” which is about a woman’s struggle against daily adversities, will be among the 136 films shown under BIFF’s world and international premieres category. Norbu’s film has garnered significant attention in Busan, with tickets selling out in less than a minute after online reservations were opened.

The closing film of the festival will be Korean director Kim Dong-hyun’s “The Dinner,” a family melodrama which will be screened on Oct. 12.

Films will be shown at seven different theaters during the festival, including big multiplexes such as the CGV in Centum City, Megabox in Haeundae and the Busan Cinema Theater. Half of the tickets will be sold online and the other half will be available for sale at ticket box offices.

Renowned international guests to grace the red carpet will include Japanese actor Ken Watanabe, Irish director Jim Sheridan (“In the Name of the Father”), Chinese director Jia Zhangke and Japanese directors Kurosawa Kiyoshi and Kore-Eda Hirokazu.

International films

BIFF has always placed a predominant focus on Asian films. Organizers have broadened the scope for this year’s event, moving further beyond the regional film powerhouses of Korea, Japan, China and Hong Kong.

The “Window on Asian Cinema” category in particular will feature 54 films from 16 countries, representing the works of young talent from countries without large movie industries..

“Ilo Ilo” by Singaporean director Anthony Chen and “The Lunch Box” by Indian director Ritesh Batra, which won the Camera D’Or and Critics’ Week Viewers Choice awards at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, respectively, are described as must-see entries.

“Ilo Ilo” provides commentary on the challenges that face the cultural melting pot that is Singapore, while “The Lunch Box” weaves an entertaining story of love and friendship triggered by a wrongly-delivered lunchbox.

Other notable works include “Queen” by Indian director Vikas Bahl, “Like Father, Like Son” by Japanese director Kore-Eda Hirokazu (which won the Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival), and “Closed Curtain” by Iranian directors Kamboziya Partovi and Jafar Panahi, which won the 2013 Berlin Film Festival Award for Best Script.

Korean films

It would be hard to say that “The Dinner” is the most anticipated Korean film at BIFF. Not when top actors Park Joong-hoon and Ha Jung-woo will be showcasing their directorial debuts.

Park’s “Top Star” is a humorous take on the underbelly of Korea’s cut-throat entertainment industry, while Ha’s “Fasten Your Seatbelt” is a comedy set inside a troubled passenger jet carrying a movie star, a monk, a business tycoon and an irksome photographer.

Shin Young-shick’s “Rough Play,” based on a script written by well-known Korean auteur Kim Ki-duk, is a sarcastic take on the Korean movie industry.

Other films

“Inside Llewyn Davis,” the latest work by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, is the most anticipated film in the World Cinema category. The movie, about the struggles of a young musician, stars Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan and received the Grand Prix award at Cannes Film Festival.

Bill Condon’s “The Fifth Estate” is a film based on the memoir of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and was the opening work of this year’s Toronto Film Festival.

The New Currents category also offers bold, experimental films.

“The Story of an Old Woman” by Kazakhstani director Alexey Gorlov is a notable example of a film shot in a single take. The 75-minute film portrays the harsh experiences of an elderly woman after she is taken home from the hospital.

Related events

The Busan Community Media Center will be screening movies that feature subtitles and sign language for visually and hearing impaired people, starting from Friday through the end of the festival. A total of 18 movies, including seven Korean movies, will be screened at the center.

Public transportation is available during the festival season. The Busan Transportation Corporation will be operating two subway trains which are painted with BIFF-related images throughout the festival period from Oct. 2 through 12 along Line 2 at the Centum City and Haeundae stations. The train interiors have been decorated as red carpet areas and passengers can take pictures at walls that are specially designated as photo zones.

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