Berlin: Protesters Oppose Political Meddling at Busan Festival

Senior executives and filmmakers from many of the world’s top film festivals showed their support Sunday in Berlin for the beleaguered Busan Intl. Film festival in South Korea. At a protest brunch, held at the Sony Centre in Potsdamer Platz, they waved placards, made statements and posed for group photographs.

Leading Korean filmmakers Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho, Ryoo Seung-wan and Choi Dong-hoon sent a video message.

Those in attendance in Berlin include Alberto Barbera from the Venice festival, Nashen Moodley from Sydney, Charles Tesson from Cannes Critics’ Week, former Rotterdam chief Simon Field and Berlin festival section heads Wieland Speck and Christoph Terhechte. Also attending were French producer Isabelle Glachant, critic Jean-Michel Frodon, Martin Schweighofer from the Austrian Film Commission, and Jennifer Jao from the Taipei Film Commission.

The Busan Festival has been battered by political forces since October 2014 when it made the decision to show activist documentary “Diving Bell” (aka “The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol”), which focused on the Korean government response to the deadly sinking of the Sewol ferry.

Led by the mayor, the Busan city authorities, which are the festival’s main financiers, have pressured management and sought the removal of festival chief Lee Yong-kwan. Lee has been since made to share his job and has been accused of fraud by the city. His employment contract expires at the end of this month.

“Busan needs our support. They just showed a movie, that is their job,” said Berlinale curator Hailer. “The right to program a festival without political interference must remain untouched.”

“I’m here to support a wonderful festival,” said Moodley. “We hope to send a message. We need the people of Korea to know that the world is watching.”

Korean delegates at the Berlin brunch said that an upcoming festival board meeting – at which Lee’s contract would be discussed – has recently been postponed.

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