Directing debuts, Tarantino and a typhoon: BIFF closes 18th edition

By Korea Herald

Ahn Seon-kyoung’s ‘Pascha’ wins New Currents Award

  • Published : Oct 13, 2013 - 18:56
  • Updated : Oct 13, 2013 - 18:56

The 18th Busan International Film Festival closed on Saturday with the screening of “The Dinner” by Korean filmmaker Kim Dong-hyun.

The 10-day festival sold over 217,000 tickets for the 299 films screened, in spite of a rare October typhoon that hit Busan four days before its closing day. BIFF was attended by more than 220,000 viewers last year during its 17th edition, which remains a record for the festival.

This year’s edition was filled with highly anticipated directorial debuts by prominent Korean actors, visits from cineastes from home and abroad, including Quentin Tarantino and Tsui Hark, and world premieres of socially conscious Korean films including “Another Family,” a movie that recounts the real-life case of a Samsung employee who died from leukemia after four years at Samsung’s memory chip factory.

Here are some of the highlights of this year’s festival.

The top prize winners

Filmmaker Ahn Seon-kyoung receives the New Currents Award at the closing ceremony of the 18th edition of BIFF at Busan Cinema Center in Busan, Saturday. (Yonhap News)
Two films shared the top prize at this year’s BIFF: one is Korean filmmaker Ahn Seon-kyoung’s “Pascha,” a film about a 40-something female screenwriter who lives with her 17-year-old boyfriend. Sharing the prize is “Remote Control,” a debut work by Mongolian filmmaker Byamba Sakhya, which revolves around a rural teenager from a broken family who leaves home to experience the city life.

The jury described “Pascha” as an “unusual love story told in an original and intimate way,” while describing “Remote Control” as a “sharply observed work that features the tensions between city and country, as well as reality and fiction.”

The two films received the New Currents prize for young filmmakers who each received $30,000 in prize money.

Filipino film “Transit,” which deals with migrant workers living in Israel, also received a special mention during the award ceremony on Saturday.

Prominent actors make directorial debuts

Two prominent Korean actors made their directorial debuts during this year’s BIFF, which brought much excitement to the festival.

The press screening of Ha Jung-woo’s comedy “Fasten Your Seatbelt” was completely packed with journalists and critics, and those who did not arrive early could not get their seats.

Loosely based on Ha’s friend and actor Ryoo Seung-bum’s real-life experience, the film tells of a Korean hallyu star who gets on a plane from Tokyo to Seoul and encounters severe turbulence during the flight due to a typhoon. Most of the cast members, including the lead actor Jung Kyong-ho, are Ha’s classmates at ChungAng University’s film and theater studies program.

“When I first read the script, I wasn’t too sure how it was going to turn out,” actor Choi Kyu-hwan, who plays a reporter in the film, told The Korea Herald.

“But things started to make sense as the shooting began. As a friend, I always knew Ha can be very, very funny. He would make you laugh so hard you’ll have trouble breathing, so you would sometimes have to ask him to stop talking. And I think such a personality worked well on the set. He knows how to manage things without being too serious. He also knows how to deal with actors and how to really empathize with them, probably because he’s been an actor all these years.”

Veteran actor Park Joong-hoon had the premiere of his directorial debut “Top Star” during this year’s edition as well. It tells the story of an entertainment agent who dreams of becoming a famous actor. Starring Uhm Tae-woong, So Yi-hyun and Kim Min-jun, the movie is loosely based on Park’s 28-year career as a film actor.

Joining Ha and Park was actress Choo Sang-mi, whose second directorial work “A Woman under the Influence” was included in the competition lineup of Korean short films.

Based on the true story of Choo’s acquaintance, the movie tells the story of a mother who becomes an insurance agent after losing her child to a senseless accident. Choo, whose acting works include “My Right to Ravage Myself” (2005) and “The Wonder Years” (2007), made a directorial debut in 2010 with her short film “Bunjangsil” (Make-up Room).

Socially conscious Korean cinema

This year’s Korea Cinema Today section was filled with socially conscious works that deal with social and cultural issues of contemporary Korea.

Among the films that had world premieres at BIFF was “Another Family,” which received much attention during the festival for its exploration of industrial hazards and illnesses.

The movie, funded by donations and crowd financing from over 7,000 individuals, recounts the life of Hwang Yu-mi, a factory worker who died from leukemia at age 23 in 2007 after spending four years at a Samsung memory chip factory.

The film features the victim’s father and cab driver Hwang Sang-gi’ s legal battles to win compensation for his daughter’s illness and death. A Seoul court in 2011 ruled that the cases of leukemia suffered by two former Samsung factory workers, including Hwang Yu-mi, could be regarded as an industrial accident.

Meanwhile, director Kim Jae-han’s debut work “Thuy” which tells the story of a mail-order bride hailing from Vietnam, also had its world premiere in Busan.

Its plot develops as the eponymous protagonist is told that her Korean husband was killed in a motorcycle accident. Knowing her husband cannot even ride a bike, mostly because he had lost fingers in an accident at a factory, she begins to challenge the authorities.

Meanwhile, Jang Hyun-soo’s “Abbi” told of a Korean father who would commit illegal and unethical deeds to make his son a successful prosecutor, while an omnibus film “If You Were Me 6”― jointly created by directors Park Jung-bum, Shin Aga, and Min Yong-geun ― dealt with the disabled, the elderly and conscientious objection to military service.

Surprise visit from Quentin Tarantino

BIFF and local movie fans got a surprise visit from Quentin Tarantino during this year’s edition. It marked the American filmmaker’s first time attending the film festival.

He attended a special open talk session on Friday alongside famed Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho (“Snowpierer,” “The Host”). More than 1,500 people reportedly gathered to see the two filmmakers. It was Tarantino’s first time meeting Bong in person.

“Bong has that thing that the 1970s Spielberg had in that he can do many different types of stories but there is always this level of comedy and entertainment that is there,” the American filmmaker, who is best known for his violent flicks “Pulp Fiction” (1994), “Inglorious Basterds” (2009) and “Django Unchained” (2012), was quoted as saying.

The two filmmakers reportedly watched 1967 Hong Kong film “The One-Armed Swordsman” on Thursday together. Tarantino also showed up at the screening of Israeli film “Big Bad Wolves,” and asked questions during a Q&A session with the film’s directors on Friday.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)