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DMZ doc fest settles on closed-door screenings

The 12th DMZ International Documentary Film Festival poster (Courtesy of festival organizers)
The 12th DMZ International Documentary Film Festival poster (Courtesy of festival organizers)

South Korea’s biggest documentary film festival, the DMZ International Film Festival, will be held behind closed doors this year -- its efforts to push ahead with an in-person festival thwarted amid the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak.

The festival’s organizing committee on Wednesday announced the cancellation of ticket sales, which were scheduled to begin Wednesday. The festival will be open to only to participating directors, invited guests, press and industry personnel.

“With the government’s extension of the Level 2.5 social distancing measures and the unabated spread of COVID-19 in Goyang, where the festival will take place, we had no choice but to limit audience numbers to ensure a safe event,” the announcement posted on the festival website said.

The organizers had anticipated holding an in-person festival, even as most other film festivals moved wholly or partially online after the pandemic started in January. Ticket sales, originally slated to open Tuesday, had been postponed to Wednesday before the cancellation.

“All the programs, including the opening and closing ceremonies and the film screenings, will go as scheduled. However, only the festival organizers, invited guests and directors, and the registered media will be able to take part,” a public relations official representing the organizing committee told The Korea Herald.

A total of 122 documentary films from 33 countries will be screened at the Megabox Baekseok branch in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, just outside Seoul, Sept. 17-24. Fifty-three titles will vie for prizes in four categories -- international features, Asian features, Korean features and shorts.

The opening ceremony, which is scheduled to take place Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Megabox Paju Book City branch, will be livestreamed on Naver TV, and a short video introducing the highlights of this year’s screenings will be showcased.

By Choi Ji-won (