Visa woes trip up Pusan plans

Filipino film group shut out of fest

Philippine writer-director Jim Libiran may be forgiven for feeling a bit lonely as he presents his award-winning feature “Tribe” in the New Currents competition section (see review, page 4).

Helmer was skedded to appear in Busan with producer Mitchelle Moreno, cinematographer Albert Banzon and actor Apollo Labastida, but the Korean embassy in Manila refused to grant visas on short notice to allow the group to attend.

“The embassy told us the soonest they could offer them a visa was on Oct. 15, three days after the end of the festival,” said Libiran. “I know that a lot of Filipinos are currently looking for work in Korea, but it’s frustrating that even with an official festival invitation, we couldn’t bring them here.”

Pic, about the Philippine underclass, previously won picture and actor honors for its ensemble cast at the Cinemalaya Film Festival in Manila, and it already has been selected for next year’s Berlinale Forum.

This would have been the first trip abroad for leading man Labastida, a non-professional actor originally from a street gang.

“I was really hoping to show him a bit of the outside world, that there are opportunities out there that he never would have dreamed of,” said Libiran. “I’m aware that many Koreans sort of look down on people in the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia, and I can’t help but feel that this situation arose as a result of that.”

There were also red faces among the organizers of the Vancouver Intl. Film Festival recently after five out of six Chinese helmers trying to attend the event were denied visas to enter Canada.

Two of the filmmakers reapplied successfully to the Canadian embassy in Beijing, but three decided not to bother, the Vancouver Sun reported.

“It’s just a bit of an embarrassment, frankly. How can you run a festival that’s introducing Chinese cinema to the world — and you’ve got critics here and buyers here — and whoops, they can’t come? And you don’t really have a good explanation for it,” festival director Alan Franey told the paper.

Two of the filmmakers, Zhang Yuedong and Zhao Ye, were accepted and are in Vancouver, while Peng Tao, director of “Little Moth,” got his visa on the first try. However, Yu Guangyi, Zhu Rikun and Feng Yan were rejected visas by the Canadian authorities.

Vancouver’s Dragons and Tigers series, created 14 years ago, is the largest exhibition of East Asian films outside Asia. Each year the festival judges award a new director $5,000.