Opening night unspooled world preem of 'Midnight'

The 10th edition of the Puchon Intl. Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) kicked off Thursday amid signs that the event was winning back the support of the local film industry.

PiFan was devastated by an industry-led boycott last year over the firing of popular festival director Kim Hong-joon, and the possibility of a repeat boycott loomed until just weeks before the festival opening.

Nonetheless, fest’s lengthy opening night ceremony contained signs of industry support such as a newly inaugurated award named after the late Shin Sang-ok and sponsored by distributor Cinema Service. First recipients were veteran actor Kim Hee-ra (“Bloody Tie”) and thesp Choi Min-shik (“Oldboy”), who declined in favor of local supporters of Korea’s Screen Quota system.

For its opening night film, fest unspooled the world premiere of LJ Films’ “Midnight Ballad for Ghost Theater,” the first musical produced by the Korean film industry in decades. General opinion on the film, which played as sort of a cross between “Beetlejuice” and Tsai Ming-liang’s “Goodbye, Dragon Inn,” was that its amusing bits failed to make up for an overall lack of dramatic momentum.

Fest’s program, boosted to 250-plus titles for its 10th edition, is winning praise for its retrospective sections and for its premieres of works from Korea, Singapore, Blighty and the U.S.

Many overseas guests are also expected to take a detour into local theaters for a look at films in general release, including “Hanbando,” a political thriller by Kang Woo-suk that, despite a critical drubbing, looks likely to rack up serious coin in its opening weeks.

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