Busan International Film Festival Reborn

Busan International Film Festival Reborn

Nick Lacey

Korea has a proud heritage of cinema and this is rightly celebrated at the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) now in its 16th incarnation, from 6 to 14 October, 2011 in the city’s Haeundae suburb. It all effectively starts with 1926’s Arirang from the Golden Era of Silent Films, then onto 1960’s Olbatan and The Housemaid – which in true Hollywood fashion has received a recent remake 50 years later. And then on to the modern era with acclaimed films like Shiri, Oasis and Oldboy making a marked impact and competing with the international big budget blockbusters.

These are changing times for the relatively young festival, with a name change from Pusan to Busan to bring it into line with the international spelling of the city’s name. What’s also new, but has been bubbling along in the developmental background for a few years now, is the Busan Cinema Centre that will be the literal and spiritual heart of the festival, Korean cinema and hopefully beyond into Asia.

It all opens with award-winning director Song Il-gon’s latest offering, Always, which sees a shift away from his earlier style that brought such acclaim in films like Flower Island and The Magicians; a risky move perhaps, but one that can be judged for yourselves at a number of showings throughout the festival’s duration. It tells the story of the fated love affair between Chul-min, an ex-boxer grown world-weary, and Jung-hwa, a telemarketer who is slowly losing her sight.

The festival’s Gala Presentation unveils seven new films from Asian directors, including three from the home nation: A Reason to Live, Unbowed, and The Host 3D. The latter is a reworking of the 2006 original, a bizarre but engrossing film whose original, two-dimensional special effects were excellent and alarming anyway, so take a pillow along to hide under, not that it’ll save you from the monster. There is also a screening for Peter Chan’s new martial arts extravaganza that premiered in Venice, Wu Xia and you can’t get much clearer than that title. Lauded by critics for its fresh take on the kung-fu classics of yore, it is both humorous and serious with film noir elements. There is also plenty more on offer so check the website for details.

It is not all screening as the festival is blessed with not one, but four Master Classes, in its Master Class – My Life, My Cinema section, from big names in international cinema: French actress Isabelle Huppert and director Luc Besson, Hong Kong’s Yonfan, and Japanese director Koreeda Hirokazu. The BIFF Academy also has a number of seminars on matters such as legal issues within film, 3D, and Asian-Western crossover.

For hotels in the Haeundae suburb of Busan, the following are excellent value and come highly recommended by our customers: the Hotel Riviera Haeundae, the Lord Beach Hotel, the enormous Seacloud Hotel, and the 5-star Haeundae Grand Hotel. HotelTravel.com also has a good selection of hotels in Busan on promotion.

For more information on the Busan International Film Fest, visit: www.biff.kr

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