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Bucheon Intl. Animation fest brings healing to pandemic-weary audiences

This year’s BIAF screens 131 animated films from 36 countries

The 23rd Bucheon International Animation Festival opens with a ceremony at the Korea Manhwa Museum in Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province, Friday. (BIAF)
The 23rd Bucheon International Animation Festival opens with a ceremony at the Korea Manhwa Museum in Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province, Friday. (BIAF)
The 23rd Bucheon International Animation Festival began its five-day run Friday in Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province, with events held both online and offline at the Korea Manhwa Museum and CGV Bucheon. In 2017 the festival became the very first in South Korea to be officially accredited by the host of the Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science.

With a mission to enrich the animated film genre and expand its presence in Asia, the BIAF features a general competition section that includes feature films, short films, graduation films, Korean short films, TV and commissioned films, and works of virtual reality.

To comply with social distancing guidelines, the opening ceremony had only nine guests on-site, including Bucheon Mayor Jang Deog-cheon, and was livestreamed on the BIAF’s YouTube channel. Hosted by actor Jun Hyo-seong and TV personality Bae Sung-jae, it featured festival opener “Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko,” directed by Watanabe Ayumu, after a performance by the seven-member girl group Weeekly.

The film is a heartwarming comedy-drama about an unconventional family -- a mother and daughter who try to live their lives to the fullest on a boat at a port.

A scene from Watanabe Ayumu’s “Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko,” the festival opener (BIAF)
A scene from Watanabe Ayumu’s “Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko,” the festival opener (BIAF)
Watanabe won last year’s grand prize for his feature-length “Children of the Sea.” The director had already attracted animation fans worldwide with popular works including the “Doraemon” movie series, “Space Brothers” and “After the Rain.”

This year’s Honorary Award goes to Jung Henin (Korean name Jun Jung-sik), a Korean Belgian graphic novelist and director who was adopted to Belgium in 1971. Having made his debut in 1991 with the graphic novel “Yasuda,” the director rose to prominence in 2012 for the feature-length animation “Approved for Adoption,” based on his own experience as an adoptee.

Jung has been invited to 80 festivals globally, including BIAF 2013, and has won 23 international awards, including the UNICEF Award at the 2012 Annecy International Animation Festival. This year marks the 120th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Korea and Belgium, which adds special meaning to Jung’s achievements.

A total of eight feature films will be competing in this year’s international competition section, and 24 feature and short films are scheduled for special screenings.

The festival also offers job seminars, film production support program booths and academic forums for those interested in the industry. Details are available on the official website.

By Kim Hae-yeon (hykim@heraldcorp.com)
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