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Jeonju Festival Lineup Reveals Complexity of Film Selection in Asia  

Jeonju, South Korea’s second largest film festival, Monday revealed a lineup that highlights the political and cultural complications of compiling a representative selection in Asia.

The festival will open with world premiere of “Yakiniku Dragon” by Korean-Japanese director Chong Wishing. It will close with Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs,” which has been accused of appropriating Asian culture.

“We’re aware of the controversy (“Dogs”). The film deals with political issues in Japan and the U.S. It is part of our role to foster discussion of such work,” said festival programmer Lee Sang-yong.

At a press event held in Jeonju and Seoul on Tuesday, the ten-day film festival (May 3 – 12) announced its biggest ever line-up, spanning 202 features and 44 shorts. Programmers noted a decrease in Korean documentaries.

“Over the past few editions, the TV industry could not pick up subjects that are suitable for TV productions [for political reasons] and therefore, many of those materials had to be produced as (feature) films,” said programmer Kim Young-jin.

Last year, the “THAAD effect,” China’s ongoing boycott of Korean culture, due to political and military tensions, meant that Jeonju struggled to program Chinese films. “This year, there were no specific issues. Some [Chinese] distributors even approached us, but others gave lukewarm responses. I believe things will get better towards the end of the year or early next year,” said Kim.

China may also be producing fewer festival films. “Today’s Chinese cinema is far different from what it was before 2010. After the era of underground cinema, independent cinema has become absorbed into the industry. There are fewer low-budget, arthouse films these days.”

To expand its outreach, the Jeonju Cinema Project, the festival’s centerpiece film-funding exercise, has raised from three to five the number of projects that receive investment, production and distribution support. Three will be Korean projects, while the other two will be international productions. The foreign pair will be selected through a pitching event at the Jeonju Project Market.

The festival will present special focus sections on Chilean filmmaker Raul Ruiz and Russian director Aleksey German Jr., while dedicating a section to Disney’s 30 animated features.

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