The Korea Herald


Busan International Film Festival kicks off without fanfare

By Song Seung-hyun

Published : Oct. 21, 2020 - 17:16

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Seats at the outdoor theater of the Busan Cinema Center in Busan are marked for social distancing on Wednesday. (Yonhap) Seats at the outdoor theater of the Busan Cinema Center in Busan are marked for social distancing on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

The 25th Busan International Film Festival kicked off Wednesday for a 10-day run in a year that has seen many film festivals around the world canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, this year’s BIFF is a much scaled down version with all large crowd-attracting events such as the opening and closing ceremonies, outdoor greetings and open talk sessions canceled.

“Many leading overseas film festivals were canceled due to COVID-19, but we decided to hold it, as we have trust in Korean audiences’ citizenship and the government’s quarantine system,” Lee Yong-kwan, chairman of the Busan International Film Festival, said in a statement. “We will focus on holding a safe film festival through strictly adhering to the government’s social distancing rule.”

This year’s festival was originally set to open on Oct. 8 but was pushed back for two weeks due to a prior increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

With almost all festival events having been canceled, the organizer said it will focus on screening the 192 movies from 68 countries.

Twenty-three films from the 2020 Cannes Film Festival official selection will be screened at BIFF, including festival opener “Septet: The Story of Hong Kong,” an omnibus by seven renowned Hong Kong directors: Sammo Hung, Ann Hui, Patrick Tam, Yuen Wo Ping, Johnnie To, Ringo Lam and Hark Tsu.

Japanese animated film “Josee, the Tiger and the Fish,” directed by Tamaru Kotaro, will close the festival.

Fifty-three Korean movies are being presented at Busan, and in-person “Guest Visit” events allowing directors, actors and the audiences to meet will be held for some of the films. Online GV events are also expected for some foreign films, including “True Mothers,” for which director Naomi Kawase will make an appearance through an online channel.

All the movies will be screened exclusively at six screens of the Busan Cinema Center, and each movie will get one screening only. Moreover, each theater will only fill up to 25 percent of the total seats available, a move that goes beyond the government’s social distancing guideline in place at the moment.

“As of this morning, around 87 percent of the available tickets have been sold,” BIFF 2020 spokesperson Kim Da-na told The Korea Herald on Wednesday.

Other BIFF programs, including the Asia Contents & Film Market, the Asia Project Market and the BIFF Forum, have all moved online.

By Song Seung-hyun (