Fests unspooled head-to-head on July 14-23

Who will be the Seoul survivor?

South Korea’s 9-year-old PiFan film fest is duking it out with upstart Real Fantastic to be the region’s top dog in fantasy film confabs.

PiFan, based in the suburb of Bucheon, was headed this year by Zeong Chosin, the helmer behind local hits “Wet Dreams” and “Wet Dreams 2.”

Real Fantastic, anchored in downtown Seoul, was captained by Kim Hong-Joon, the filmmaker and university professor who ran PiFan for several years — until he was unceremoniously ousted last December. Looking to assert their autonomy from Bucheon’s city hall, which Kim says interfered in PiFan’s programming decisions, Kim and six former PiFan staffers set up Real Fantastic, matching their fest’s dates precisely to PiFan’s July 14-23 sked.

Opening night was attended by such notables as An Cheong-Sook, new head of film funder and regulator KOFIC, and Kim Dong-Ho, the venerable head of Korea’s only A-list festival, Pusan.

In contrast, PiFan’s opening night was a thinly attended affair, and the local press all but boycotted the event.

PiFan had a lineup of 170 films, as strong or better than last year’s, while Real Fantasy boasted some 60-plus titles. But neither was able to land premieres of local summer blockbusters.

“There are people going around calling me a third-rate comedy director,” says Zeong. “I realize that they hate me for doing this. But that need not make me a bad festival director.”

Kim Hong-Joon, for his part, isn’t calling Zeong a bad fest director, just “stupid.”

Whether this skirmish becomes an annual spectator sport remains to be seen. Zeong says PiFan was a one-off for him. Kim says he won’t take his Real Fantastic bandwagon to other cities until he has evaluated how successful this one was.

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