BUSAN: Filmmakers Rally for Fatal Ferry Fiasco

BUSAN — As red carpet preems and celeb parades continue, this year’s Busan is also serving as a rallying point for Korean filmmakers supporting the passage of a special bill aimed at determining the truth behind the country’s deadliest ferry sinking.

A group called the Korean Filmmakers Coalition Petitioning for the Special Sewol Bill, will hold a press conference today at BIFF Hill in the Busan Cinema Center, to call for “a better awareness of the disaster and its aftermath to international filmmakers,” according to the group’s press release.

April’s sinking of the Sewol caused the death of 304 people including some 250 minors and, with the cause of the disaster still unknown, the government and involved agencies have been accused of a cover-up and incompetence.

The group includes celebrated directors Park Chan-wook (“Oldboy”), Kim Ki-duk (“Pieta,” “Moebius”), Lee Chang-dong (“Oasis,” “Peppermint Candy”) as well as leading actors Song Kang-ho (“Snowpiercer”) and Moon So-ri (“Oasis,” “Peppermint Candy”) who have signed a petition urging for a full public inquiry. With 1,123 signatures collected, Ko Young-jae, an indie film producer and the group’s spokesperson, says the petition is the biggest one to be launched in the country’s film industry involving a non-film issue.

Earlier in the week, Korea’s ruling Saenuri Party and the opposition NAPD reached a compromise after months of wrangling over the bill’s terms when they agreed to jointly recommend four candidates for an independent counsel to investigate the sinking. The victims’ families and the filmmakers group argue the bill’s terms are far from adequate, saying it lacks a full investigative and prosecutorial authority necessary to punish those responsible and prevent another such tragedy from recurring.

The group, which has been steadily growing in number during the past two months, has supported and joined in with the victims’ families jointly holding daily hunger strikes in downtown Seoul.

Flashmobs, a protest parade and ribbon-making activities have been planned by the group during BIFF, with explanatory flyers to be distributed by its members to international visitors to the festival.  The group’s spokesperson told Variety that they aim to renew awareness to the “unresolved national tragedy and to continue to share the pain with the victims’ families.”

Another ferry-related controversy at this year’s Busan is the screening of “The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol,” a documentary co-directed by Lee Sang-ho and Ahn Hae-ryong focusing on the use of the diving bell. Use of that piece of equipment might have saved lives in the largely failed rescue attempt.

Busan Mayor and Festival Chairman Seo Byung-soo has been accused of interfering with BIFF’s programming when he publicly declared his opposition to the screening.

Clearly irked by the topic, festival director Lee Yong-kwan refused to answer a question about the Sewol issue at Thursday’s press conference for opening film “Paradise in Service.”

With its first screening slated for Monday, the filmmakers’ group said it will not involve itself with the screening controversy.

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