Busan film festival keeps up with the times

(From left) Busan International Film Festival festival director Kang Soo Youn, Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi, American director Oliver Stone, French director Agnes Godard, Filipino film-maker Lavrente Diaz and South Korean director Jang Sun Woo at the N
(From left) Busan International Film Festival festival director Kang Soo Youn, Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi, American director Oliver Stone, French director Agnes Godard, Filipino film-maker Lavrente Diaz and South Korean director Jang Sun Woo at the New Currents Jury press conference.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE
South Korean actress Im Yoon Ah and actor Jang Dong Gun on the red carpet at the festival's opening ceremony.
South Korean actress Im Yoon Ah and actor Jang Dong Gun on the red carpet at the festival's opening ceremony.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE

This year's festival features 298 films, of which 23 are virtual-reality ones

SEOUL • If the presence of top names such as directors Darren Aronofsky, Oliver Stone and John Woo is any indication, the latest edition of the Busan International Film Festival - Asia's largest - signals a turnaround.

Founded in 1996, it has been hit by crises in recent years.

There was a run-in with the Busan authorities in 2014, after a documentary on a ferry tragedy - questioning the South Korean government's handling of the matter - was screened.

Last year, many Korean film-makers voiced support for a boycott of the event over the issue of autonomy.

But the show must go on - with 298 films from 75 countries being screened this year, from last Thursday to this Saturday.

The festival opened with Shin Su Won's Glass Garden, about an emotionally scarred woman, and will close with Taiwanese director Sylvia Chang's Love Education, which follows three women living in different eras in Chinese history.

It is the first time the opening and closing films are being helmed by women film-makers.

"We're still going through difficulties within and outside the festival," festival director Kang Soo Youn said in Seoul last month.

"Not everything has been resolved perfectly, but I believe nobody should doubt the future of the festival any more.

"I'm glad to announce a wealth of programmes this year despite difficulties."

This year's slate is peppered with 100 world premieres and 29 international premieres, or first overseas screenings.

Aronofsky's much-debated Mother! is screening in the Gala Presentation category, while Stone is the head juror for the New Currents section, which focuses on Asian film-makers.

Hong Kong film director Woo's Manhunt is competing in the Gala Presentation category.

In Platform Busan, a new programme, indie directors from Asia will share their experiences and know-how.

The festival is also keeping up with the times. Cannes showcased works that incorporated virtual reality (VR) and Venice became the first film festival to feature a competition category for VR films.

Busan's contribution to the growing trend is Asia's largest VR theatre during the festival, with 23 VR films from around the world on tap.

"This film festival will mark a new development for the experiment-oriented entertainment market in South Korea," said telco company KT's future business development team leader Ko Yoon Jeon. "We're planning to cooperate with various industries to further develop VR cinema, based on a 5G network."

THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2017, with the headline 'Busan film festival keeps up with the times'. Print Edition | Subscribe