Without the late Kim Ji-seok, former deputy director and executive programmer of the Busan Film Intl. Film Festival who passed away in May at the Cannes Film Festival, this year’s BIFF was always going to be different. As the festival styles itself as the hub of Asian independent cinema, the veteran programmer that handled the festival’s selection of Asian screeners for more than two decades had to be acknowledged in some way beyond a memorial service.

The best best way to commemorate Kim was to launch Platform Busan, a program that gathers Asian filmmakers in Busan and help them build up a community through which they can share their filmmaking experiences in different countries across Asia, and seek partnerships. Kim had designed the program himself before his death. 

“During a lunch last year, Kim said that if anything happens to the festival and we have to minimize it, with very basic fundamental values remaining, the one thing he would still care about would be the new voices of Asia,” said Boo Jun-feng from Singapore, who participated in the BIFF’s filmmaking workshop, Asian Film Academy, in 2005. “[Through Platform Busan] I expect that we get to meet, collaborate and even bring solutions to issues such as censorship.” 

Pete Teo, musician-turned-filmmaker from Malaysia, emphasized the importance of building up a community of independent filmmakers in the region.

“I belong to the generation of the Malaysian New Wave. […] When we started we felt alone, but at BIFF we realized that there are so many people like us in Asia. […] That’s the reason why organizations such as BIFF are really important. In the independent side of the creative industry, you’re alone and you’re weak, you feel that you have no help and you being independent will persuade you to give up. But by being with your peers all over the region, we share the same interest, ambition and the same problems, and it suddenly feels more possible,” he said. 

Teo also mentioned online distribution, and the necessity of a platform to gather Asian films.

“We talk about digitalization. It is one way to cross the border easily, if you could make it work. … Where are the distributors? Where are the online services? Maybe that’s what BIFF can do. It’s where we all grew up, and we all trust. It is the perfect place to organize that platform,” he said.

On the other hand, BIFF is not a stranger to the being a filmmakers’ network. The festival always had panel discussions and forums where Asian filmmakers shared production information and talked about potential co-productions. Kim Young-woo, the BIFF programmer in charge of Platform Busan, explained how it is different from other programs, and what it will develop into.

“In a sense, Platform Busan is all those previous forums and discussions put together, and in that regard, it might not seem very special,” said Kim. “For Platform Busan, however, we invite filmmakers at different stages of their filmmaking career; for example, Boo Jun-feng from Singapore had his two features in Cannes, while there are younger ones who only made short films. We aim to offer programs, not just seminars, that participants in each category would be in need of,” he continued. “We’re also considering programs that are specifically designed for each [filmmaking] profession, like editors and scriptwriters.”