Busan: Exec Programmer Kim Ji-seok Says His Life is a Hou Hsiao-hsien Film

Born and raised in Busan, the BIFF executive programmer Kim Ji-seok is truly a Busan man. Most internationally known of BIFF’s co-founding troika, Kim has been one of the festival’s guiding forces since its first edition. His fingerprints have been indelibly carved on the program, more specifically in the BIFF’s signature Asian selections. “We never knew we would last for so many years, let alone become Asia’s largest film festival,” Kim tells Variety. “In the 20th year, we want to go back to our roots, instead of doing anything glamorous.”

What is the most significant change that has happened to BIFF in two decades?

That we all got old. I sometimes look up at our old photos and get astonished at how young we were then. A more serious answer would be that we now have the Busan Cinema Center, the luxurious dedicated venue for the BIFF.

What is the story behind selecting “Zubaan” as the opening screener?

“Zubaan” is a fine directorial debut feature of India’s recognized screenwriter Mozez Singh. Also importantly, Guneet Monga, the film’s producer was the key. He is especially talented in discovering young directors, making films where both artistry and popular appeal are blended in one, and selling them abroad. My absolute trust in him and the quality of “Zubaan” made me choose it without hesitation.

There are fewer films in the New Currents competition this year.

True, but we have more films from those regions to which we have not paid enough attention so far. I believe this edition will help us further broaden and diversify our selection of Asian films in the future.

As a programmer, what were your main goals for the 20th edition?

We wanted a program that can show our identity as a 20-year-old festival which has constantly showcased Asian auteur films. The Asian Cinema 100 was definitely worth doing in that sense. It perfectly represents our history and our future goals.

You’ve spent 20 years with the festival. It seems like you can identify your own life with the fest’s history.

I got married the year we started the fest, and my son says that he wants to work for the BIFF too. In that sense, my life is a Hou Hsiao-hsien film itself: you can see the upheavals of the BIFF history by looking at my life.

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