Busan film fest seeks 'reunion' after ferry tragedy row

BUSAN • Organisers of Asia's largest film festival have issued a rallying cry to its supporters as the event emerges from years of starring in its own political drama.

The Busan International Film Festival (Biff) hopes to draw a line under its role in a bitter row over the sinking of the Sewol ferry - one of South Korea's deadliest disasters - which divided and traumatised the nation.

"This edition of the festival is a reunion," said chairman Lee Yong-kwan of the Biff organising committee.

"This year is about our recovery and a return of our status. It's about expansion and reformation."

The festival opens tomorrow with the world premiere of South Korean director Jero Yun's Beautiful Days, which focuses on a North Korean family reunited after the mother escapes south, looking for a better life.

Its theme of reconciliation seems a fitting one, considering the troubles Biff has endured since it screened a controversial documentary about the 2014 ferry disaster.

The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol was critical of the then government's handling of the tragedy in April 2014 that left more than 300 people dead, most of them school children.

Investigations into and charges against festival organisers followed, along with significant funding cuts, as the dispute between Biff and the government played out in public.

Mr Lee and former deputy festival director Jay Jeon were initially removed from their posts, but have been reinstated for this year's edition, while the new government of President Moon Jae-in has thrown its support behind the festival.

"We hope this year to become a place that once again brings filmmakers together and that the festival can be back on track," said Biff programmer Nam Dong-chul.

The 23rd edition runs from tomorrow to Oct 13 and will feature 323 films from 79 countries, including 115 having their world premieres.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2018, with the headline 'Busan film fest seeks 'reunion' after ferry tragedy row'. Subscribe