BUSAN — Local South Korean film “Pascha” and Mongolian-German co-production “Remote Control” shared the top prize at the 18th edition of the Busan International Film Festival.
The films, by Ahn Seonkyoung and Byamba Sakhya respectively, were named as winners of the festival’s New Currents prize for young film-makers. They were joined by “Transit” a Filipino film about migrant workers in Israel, which had long been the critics’ favorite, but which in the end earned a ‘special mention.’
The festival closed on Saturday evening with a pageant in perfect crisp weather at the two year old Busan Cinema Center and the screening of “The Dinner” by local director Kim Dong-hyun.
Over its ten days the festival enjoyed 218,000 admissions, fractionally down on last year, but still the second successive year that its ticketing total exceeded 200,000, and a noteworthy score considering the typhoon weather conditions which affected travel around the city on Sunday and Monday.
A further opening up of the Center’s lobby to the public and the creation of the BIFF Terrace made the spectacular, but previously austere, building a place where people were more likely to linger.
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“We feel we have finally reached our goal of being a festival where filmmakers and audiences can come together,” said a delighted festival director Lee Yong-kwan.
Lee also expressed considerable satisfaction with the locations market BIFCOM and the BIFF conference series, saying that feedback gave them confidence to expand these segments in future years.
The festival welcomed 7,730 accredited professional guests, 55% from overseas.
In its 18th edition, the Busan festival screened 299 films from 70 countries, including 94 world premieres and 40 international premieres. They played out at 35 screens at 7 different venues.
In a final communique the festival claimed the successful discovery and introduction of several lesser-known directors, especially those from Kazakhstan and Mongolia.
“Remote Control” (pictured) is the debut feature of Mongolia’s Sakhya, who has an extensive track record of writing, editing, lensing and line producing the works of other Mongolian film-makers. The picture blurs the border between reality and fantasy and tells the story of an alienated youngster who believes he can connect with a woman in another apartment block by using a TV remote control.
“Pascha” is the second film by Ahn and tells the story of a 40-something woman and her 17 year old lover, their cat and the hostility they suffer from conventional society. The jury described it as an “intimate and highly original expression of an unusual love story.”
The New Currents jury included Iranian director Rakhshan Banietemad, Japanese director Aoyama Shinji, Cannes’ Critics Week selector Charles Tesson and Variety’s head critic Scott Foundas.
Away from the heat of the competition the festival put on a massive 71-title retrospective of the works of prolific Korean director Im Kwon-taek. Im duly responded by using Busan as the platform for announcing his 102nd feature production.
There was also high drama late in the week when U.S. maestro Quentin Tarantino swept into to town on a hastily arranged visit which festival organizers turned into an on-stage encounter with “Snowpiercer” director Bong Joon-ho.
The local media got itself into a flurry over the increasing level of undress it perceived on the red carpets, and by a controversy which broke out between Korean Cinema Programmer Nam Dong-cheol and Kang Dong-won, the male lead of Kim Ji-woon’s Screen X flick, “The X” over the issue of taking part in official festival events.
BIFF’s world cinema section also saw some sweeping changes, with its formerly competitive section, Flash Forward, becoming an audience award. This year it was won by Maximillian Hult’s “Home.”
BIFF World Cinema programmer Pak Dosin said “we have always striven to focus on what the audience likes and giving opportunities for quality films from everywhere to be shown in theaters after the festival. That is our focus and we’ll work toward that goal in the future.”