Korean mystery fantasy to open Busan Film Festival

September 11, 2017
Kim Dong-ho (R), chairman of the Busan International Film Festival's board of directors, and Kang Soo-youn, the festival's executive director, attend a news conference to announce the lineup for the 22nd edition of the festival in Seoul on Sept. 11, 2017. (Yonhap)

Kim Dong-ho (R), chairman of the Busan International Film Festival’s board of directors, and Kang Soo-youn, the festival’s executive director, attend a news conference to announce the lineup for the 22nd edition of the festival in Seoul on Sept. 11, 2017. (Yonhap)

BUSAN/SEOUL, Sept. 11 (Yonhap) — “Glass Garden,” a Korean mystery fantasy directed by Shin Suwon, will kick off the 22nd Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) next month, organizers said Monday.

Asia’s largest film festival will run in the southern port city of Busan from Oct. 12-21 with a lineup of 298 films from 75 countries around the world, one fewer than last year’s 299.

“Glass Garden” is about an oddball bioenergetics researcher who studies artificial blood using a chloroplast in a glass garden in the forest alone and an unknown novelist writing a story about her.

The film starring Moon Geun-young will get its world premiere at the festival. It will be the third Korean film ever to open BIFF after “Always” in 2011 and “A Quiet Dream” in 2016.

The festival will close with Taiwanese director Sylvia Chang’s “Love Education.” The film metaphorically depicts China’s modern history through the lives of three women of different generations.

This marks the first time in the fest’s history that works by female filmmakers have chosen to open and close an event.

Ten films will be screened at the New Currents main competition section for up-and-coming Asian directors.

The 10 are broken down into three from South Korea, two each from China and India, and one each from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Iran. Oliver Stone is the head juror of the New Currents Award.

In the Gala Presentation section for introducing the latest works from established directors, four films will be screened. They are “Butterfly Sleep” by Korean director Jeong Jae-eun; “Mother!” by American director Darren Aronofsky; “Narratage” by Japan’s Isao Yukisada and “The Third Murder” by Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda.

This image provided by the Busan International Film Festival shows a promotional poster for "Glass Garden," the opener of the 22nd edition of the festival. (Yonhap)

This image provided by the Busan International Film Festival shows a promotional poster for “Glass Garden,” the opener of the 22nd edition of the festival. (Yonhap)

This year’s festival will give a retrospective screening of eight South Korean films led by ’60s movie star Shin Seong-il, who is currently struggling with lung cancer. Among the films are “The Barefooted Young” (1964) and “A Day Off” (1968) and “Gilsotteum” (1985).

Various memorial events are planned through the fest to remember its deputy executive director Kim Ji-seok, who died of a heart attack during his last business trip to the 70th Cannes Film Festival in May.

He was a founding member and executive programmer of the Busan film festival that launched in 1996.

Above all, BIFF created the Kim Jiseok Award in the Window on Asian Cinema category for showing current major trends of Asian films. It will honor two winners among the approximately 10 world premieres to be shown in the section. Each film will be awarded a cash prize of US$10,000.

Screening a memorial video and having a memorial night are part of the events planned.

This photo provided by the Busan International Film Festival is a scene from "Love Education," the Taiwanese film that will close this year's festival set to run from Oct. 12-21 in the southern port city of Busan. (Yonhap)

This photo provided by the Busan International Film Festival is a scene from “Love Education,” the Taiwanese film that will close this year’s festival set to run from Oct. 12-21 in the southern port city of Busan. (Yonhap)

Kim Dong-ho, chairman of the BIFF board of directors, said, “We’re ready to greet visitors with a lineup that is as good as before, or better than usual, in all fields, including the number of films invited, their quality and overseas guests.”

“Platform Busan, a network of independent filmmakers introduced for the first time this year, and a program for supporting local indie feature films are expected to bring new vitality to the Korean film industry,” he added.

“I’m pleased to come to present you a rich program despite various difficulties,” Kang Soo-youn, the festival’s executive director, said.

“The boycott is still under way and many problems remain unsolved. Nonetheless, I think this year’s festival must be held. I’ll take full responsibility and do my best to finish it. We have diligently prepared for the event in the belief that the festival should continue to go on at any cost in the future.”

The 22nd festival comes amid lingering strife over allegations of “municipal interference” in the festival’s artistic freedom. The Busan metropolitan government funds about half of the festival’s annual budget.

The feud began in 2014 when then-festival director Lee Yong-kwan pushed for the screening of a documentary film critical of the former Park Geun-hye government’s handling of the Sewol ferry sinking that claimed more than 300 lives, mostly teenage students, in April that year.

The Busan metropolitan government has since conducted an unprecedented audit into Lee and other executive committee members, and cut about half of its annual funding for the festival in what some filmmakers claimed as “political retaliation” for artistic expression. Lee left the position after being given a suspended jail term for embezzlement of festival funds by the Busan District Court. After his departure, actress Kang, who had been co-festival director since 2015, became the sole executive director.

The tense standoff relaxed a little when Kim, the festival’s founding director, took over the chairmanship of its organizing committee from the Busan mayor and amended the festival bylaws to include a clause that guarantees its artistic freedom in July.

However, three film industry groups led by the Directors Guild of Korea recently vowed to boycott the festival for the second year straight, demanding the reinstatement of the ousted festival director. There also was internal strife in the festival, which led to the departure of four officials.

The press conference came about a month after the two BIFF leaders announced their intent to resign from their posts when this year’s edition wraps up Oct. 21 “to bear the responsibility for the recent series of happenings.”

On Monday, Kang and Kim reaffirmed their plan to resign after this year’s event.

“There were many opinions in the film industry (about my future path), but I think my primary role was over with the amendment of the festival’s bylaws and holding of the festival last year. I decided to quit with this year’s festival in the judgment that I have no more reason to stay,” Kim said.

“I’m in the process of resolving many unsolved problems since I took office,” said Kang whose term as the festival director ends in next February. “But I determined to leave upon the closure of this year’s festival to shoulder all responsibility.”

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