BIFF's Choice

About Busan International Film Festival

After its introduction in 1996, Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) rapidly grew to represent Asia. A non-competing film festival showing on average over 300 films each year, BIFF is celebrating its 19th anniversary in 2014. There are sections which are open for competition, including the New Currents Award for the Newcomer amongst the Asian directors, and the Vision Award for the Korean individual films.

2013 Busan International Film Festivals showcased many indie films that were much-talked-about films of the season. The film that stood out foremost was Han Gong-ju directed by Lee Su-jin. Han Gong-ju received many awards starting with the BIFF Citizen Critics’ Award, CGV Movie Collage Award, as well as Golden Star Grand Prize for Short Film from the Marrakech Film Festival, Tiger Award from International Film Festival Rotterdam, The Jury Prize, The Critics’ Prize and The Deauville Audience Award from Deauville Asian Film Festival, and the Grand Prize at the Fribourg International Film Festival. The film also brought in an audience of over 200,000, which is exceptional for an indie film. Han Gong-ju is the story of a horrific incident of gang rape, but it is a piece of work which does not allow the provocative na- ture of the subject matter to override its intentions. The film focuses solely on Han Gong-ju, the victim of the incident. “I haven’t done anything wrong”–a summary of her situation shows that Han Gong-ju, who has done no wrong, is the one threatened and chased by the perpetrators. Those who have the responsibility and the obligation to protect her do take her in reluctantly, but ultimately look the other way when it matters. It is a sad portrayal of our reality when those who think of the presence of Han Gong-ju as uncomfortable and a nuisance, and hence are unable to protect her. Lee Su-jin, the director, shows the contrast of this dark and serious story with the purity of Han Gong-ju. Her song leaves a vivid impression on us like a ray of light in darkness, and makes us aware of what it is that has been destroyed. This is the outstanding achievement accomplished by the film Han Gong-ju.

10 Minutes is a film directed by Lee Yong-seung, with a flourishing list of awards matching that of Han Gong-ju, namely the KNN Award from the Busan International Film Festival and the FIPRESCI Award. 10 Minutes also received the Golden Wheel from Vesoul Asian Film Festival, Asian New Talent Award from the Shanghai International Film Festival, and the Grand Prize in the New Talent Competition at the Taipei Film Festival. The film shows a young man entering into the working world as an intern for the very first time. The movie portrays his experiences in a convincing manner, in that what is portrayed is something that can be related to most young people and the experiences they would have had. The cold-heartedness of how one looks at a situation and the fiery rage against the unjust makes 10 Minutes an unforgettable film.

Pascha, which received the New Currents Award at the New Current Award Competition alongside 10 Minutes at the Busan International Film Festival, is an impressive film in a different way. Pascha, directed by a female director Ahn Seon-kyoung, shows a couple with a big age difference in-between them, living in poverty. The love between a woman in her 40s and a 17-year old man is not recognised by their families and the society, and is treated as a dirty scandal. “I’m scared that I will lose the courage. There are so many things I have to fight against, but that I’ll be like a cripple and not be able to say anything in front of them”, this line from the film suggests that Pascha is a story of the two people against worldly prejudice and a stereotypical society, trying to fight against the law of the jungle and gaining courage from each other. It is a difficult fight, but they choose to take the road against the hardships and not give up.

The Dinner was selected as the closing film of the 2013 Busan International Film Festival. It is a melodramatic family drama, which will touch the audiences’ hearts. The movie depicts the life of a family consisting of destitute, elderly parents who are reluctant to ask their children for money, an eldest son who tries hard to keep the family from falling apart , their daughter who is a divorced single-mum raising her son on her own, and the youngest son who makes a living as a chauffeur. Each member has their own cross to bear and they continue to live on, but when the eldest son becomes redundant and the youngest son has an accident, the misfortunes become unbearable for them. This is the third feature film by Kim Dong-hyun.

The King of Jokgu which enjoyed its popularity when it was invited at the Busan International Film Festival last year was released to the public recently. It brought in an audience of 40,000, which is sensational for an indie film. Featuring the liveliness of youth like the Japanese films do of blending with a sharp insight of the reality and the pleasant satire, the movie depicts the story of a returning student who brings back the hype of Jokgu (foot volleyball) at the campus after completing his compulsory military service. “I aim to make films for everyone, that are rated universal”, says Woo Moon-ki, the director, who shows his character of his idea of the film world clearly. Jokgu is a much needed vibrant film, for the current Korean cinema. You will be able to witness last year’s Busan International Film Festival in a nutshell with these five films.

–Nam Dong-chul Programmer, Busan International Film Festival

Translation by Sophia Dasol Choi


Han Gong-ju

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Film info

2017. Directed by Lee Su-jin , starring Chun Woo-hee, Jung In-sun, Kim So-young, Lee Young-lan, Cert 18 , 112 mins.

Awards

Golden Star
Marrakech Int. Film Festival 2013

Critics' Prize
Deauville Asian Film Festival 2014

Jury Prize

Audience Award
Deauville Asian Film Festival 2014

Tiger Award
Int. Film Festival Rotterdam 2014

High school girl, Han Gong-ju, is your regular all-Korean teen who finds herself involved in a scandalous incident. Uncared for by her parents, Han Gong- ju’s teachers arrange for another school to take her in as a safe haven. At her new school Han Gong-ju keeps her head down and makes little attempt to make friends. But as much as she can help it, she does make a new friend who learns Han Gong-ju has an incredible voice. To boast her friend’s confidence she builds a fansite to showcase Han Gong-ju’s talents but the secret of why she has been moved to this school is discovered putting her at risk.

A well known short filmmaker, Han Gong-ju, is the promising debut feature from director Lee Su-jin. The director’s previous work such as; Papa and Enemy’s Apple have all been invited to major film festivals with Han Gong-ju being no different. This feature has already won a number of awards including the Citizen Reviewers’ Award and CGV Movie Collage Awards at the 18th Busan Film Festival. The inspiration behind the film is the director’s wish to portray a girl who is in exile and, in a way, being punished for an incident where she was the victim. Lee Su-jin wants to support people who find themselves in these positions, by highlighting their plight on the silver screen.

Pascha

European Premiere

Film info

2017. Directed by Ahn Sun-kyoung , starring Kim So-hee, Sung Ho-jun, Shin Yeon- sook, Lim Hyung-tae, Gong Jae-min, Cert TBC , 97 mins.

Awards

Official Selection New Currents
Busan Int. Film Festival 2014

Is it acceptable for a Forty-something woman to be in a relationship with 17 year old boy? The idea of love between two people with such an age gap and the social exclusion that it can bring is the subject of Pascha.

Ga-eul is a 40 year old screenwriter who lives with 17 year old Joseph and their cats. The family of the two lovers cannot comprehend the relationship. Ga-eul’s family are especially baffled by every aspect of her life; raising a cat and living off of vegetables, let alone having a 17-year old lover! Ga-eul’s family see her as the family’s dirty little secret. More and more obstacles from society are placed between the lovers and their happy ever after; poverty, death, opposition against vegetarianism and the couples pregnancy. Joseph encapsulates the couple’s plight best;

“I am afraid I might lose courage. There are just too many things for us to fight against and what if I can’t say a word, behaving foolish in front of them?” Can a love like this survive no matter the odds in today’s society?

Pascha asks many questions of not just Korean society but society in general and will have you second guessing many of your assumptions. This is a worth well way to spend 90 mins if you are tired of the standard Hollywood romantic comedies from an emerging talent in director Ahn Sun-kyoung.

10 Minutes

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UK Premiere

Film info

2017. Directed by Lee Yong-seung , starring Baek Jong-hwan, Kim Jong-gu, Cert TBC , 93 mins.

Awards

Winner of the KNN Audience Movie Award
Busan Int. Film Festival 2014

BERLINALE FORUM
Berlin Int. Film Festival 2014

Winner of the Fipresci Award
Hong Kong Int. Film Festival 2014

Kang Ho-chan has big dreams of becoming a TV station producer but his family barely get by since his father’s retirement. As the sole breadwinner for the family his father has high hopes for his son’s career. However Kang repeatedly fails to obtain a job the local station no matter how hard he studies. Tired of dodging debt collectors and needing to put food on his family’s table he takes a part time job in the media department of a government office. Though the work isn’t too bad Ho-chan still wishes to get his dream job. One day he is offered the opportunity by his boss to take a full time position. Should Kang forget his dream about becoming a TV producer and take the safe option of a stable job?

10 Minutes is another film screening at this year’s London Korean Film Festival which holds up a mirror to contem- porary Korean society. This time the film looks to highlight the struggles of Korea’s corporate world. Korea is well known for its long working hours and heavy work loads, the prospect of giving up on ones dreams in order to pick up a steady pay check thanks to student loans is not uncommon.

The film is a winner of the KNN Audience Movie Award in the New Currents section of the 18th Busan Film Festival as well as a number of other awards in various high profile film festivals.

The Dinner

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European Premiere

Film info

2014. Directed by Kim Dong-hyun , starring Jeong Ui-jun, Park Se-jin, Cert TBC , 125 mins.

Awards

Closing Gala
Busan Int. Film Festival 2013

Official Selection
Shanghai Int. Film Festival 2014

Meet your everyday family: an ailing divorced single mom daughter; the youngest son a chauffeur; an eldest son who tries to keep the family together and their impoverished older parents who are always reluctant to ask them for money. Since retiring an elderly couple only meager income comes from small amounts from their children all of whom have forgotten their mother’s birthday. The oldest son, In-cheol worries about his livelihood after early retirement after seeing what has become of his parents. In-cheol’s wife, Hye-jeong experiences her own problems due to infertility. The youngest son, In-ho struggles with money problems as well as he tries to save money by doing freight and chauffeur service work, but it is never enough to repay his student loan. The only daughter, Gyeong-jin is a single working mother who is always busy herself in raising her own son with autism and battles her ex-husband over custody. Each fam- ily member have their own burdens to bear but when more misfortune befalls them will the family be able to survive?

The Dinner has been heralded for its unashamedly depiction of realism. Through one family director Kim Dong- hyun (A Shark, Hello Stranger) creates a cutting true representation of Korean society. Not unlike the British filmmaker, Mike Leigh with Another Year or Life is Sweet this kitchen sink drama is both touching and revealing about contemporary life and its problems.

Alive

European Premiere

Film info

2014. Directed by Park Jung-bum , starring Park Jung-bum, Lee Se- ung-yeon, Park Myung-hun, Cert TBC , 150 mins.

Awards

Official Selection International Competition
LOCARNO INT. FILM FESTIVAL 2013

Official Selection
Jeonju International Film Festival 2014

Jung-chul lives hand to mouth, always looking to make a quick bit of cash to rebuild his house after a flood destroyed it. After not being paid on a construction job Jung-chul looks to confront his boss at his house but finds the man gone, leaving behind his son. Dismayed and desperate to make it through the harsh winter, Jung-chul looks for work at a soybean paste factory where his sister, Soo-yun, works. Soo-yun used to be a dreamer who mourns her childhood fantasy of becoming an actress with this being a great source of friction between her and Jung-chul believing this to be a foolish idea. The factories owner is pleased with Jung-chul’s work and listens to his advice when Jung-chul suggests that they could increase production. But Jung-chul becomes careless putting his own survival into question. If he can just get through this winter then maybe he will be alright.

Alive, directed and starring Park Jung-bum is the filmmaker, Park Jung- bum's return since the 2010 award winning The Journals of Musan. The director confronts the idea of what it means to stay alive and how that relates to the lower classes in Korean society and how the struggle to stay alive becomes can consume one’s life.

The King of Jokgu

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European Premiere

Film info

2014. Directed by Woo Moon-gi , starring Ahn Jae-hong, Hwang Seung-un, Jung Woo-sik, Cert TBC , 104 mins.

Awards

Official Selection
Busan International Film Festival 2014

Man-seob used to be the king of Jok-gu, a fusion of football and volleyball. He was infamous for his unstoppable foot spike while serving in the army. He returns to school after completing his military service only to find the Jokgu court has been removed. He inquires to why the court has been removed to anybody that will listen but discovers that no one cares. Everyone is too preoccupied with finding a job and their careers, all sense of romantic or fun notions has vanished. Man-seob meets Anna, the school queen, who he falls in love at first sight. To win her heart he relies on what he does best and looks to organise a Jokgu championship.

Filmmaker Woo Moon-gi whose short films include The Boy Physics and Lost in Transportation, has shown a unique talent in ‘exquisite combination of sensitive character comedy and sharp satirical drama’ have competed well at numerous film festivals. Not only a talented director, Woo Moon-gi has turned his hand to a number of other areas in filmmaking including contributing as an art director of Sunshine Boys, a director of a music video for musician ‘Peppertones’, and an actor in short and feature films such as The Legacy.

If you are interested in a earnest, coming of age comedy with a little bit of sport thrown in then The King of Jok-gu is the film for you.