“Although Kazakh films are not very familiar [to our audiences], the country has produced masterworks for the past five years,” said festival director Jay Jeon at the festival’s first press conference held in Busan on Wednesday morning. “Thieves” tells the tale of a man who is murdered on his way home after selling his horses at a market. Nurmukhambetov previously directed 2015’s “The Walnut Tree,” which won the Busan festival’s New Currents main competition section.
This year’s lineup includes two Venice selections, Kore-eda Hirokazu’s “The Truth” and David Michod’s “The King” as gala presentations. Other gala presentations are Wayne Wang’s U.S.-Korea co-production “Coming Home Again,” and Robert Guediguian’s “Gloria Mundi.” Busan confirmed that American actor Timothee Chalamet will visit Busan for “King.”
“BIFF might not be as Netflix-friendly as Venice is, but we do not exclude Netflix titles for the sake of exhibitors’ advantages. As long as the film is good, like ‘Roma’ [which was screened at BIFF last year], we will always screen it. That is why we invited ‘King’ this year,” Jeon said.
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The festival is introducing a new Icon section, showcasing master filmmakers’ works regardless of their origins. The new section includes Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s world premiere of “Marghe and Her Mother” and several selections from Cannes: Bong Joon-ho’s Palme d’or-winning “Parasite”; Xavier Dolan’s Cannes competition entry “Matthias And Maxime”; Ken Loach’s “Sorry We Missed You”; and Elia Suleiman’s “It Must Be Heaven.” “To the Ends of the Earth” by Kurosawa Kiyoshi, which closed the recent Locarno film festival, will also show in Icon.
The festival’s signature competition section New Currents showcases fourteen debut and sophomore films by Asian directors from Korea, China, India, Iran, Iraq-Qatar, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and Taiwan. Korean films accounted for three out of the fourteen titles.
Former festival director and current chairman Lee Yong-kwan was present at the press conference. “Normalization of BIFF was our aim back in 2018,” said Lee. “Next year is the 25th anniversary of BIFF. We will endeavor to take off again as a global film festival,” he continued.
Under the new leadership of film producer Tcha Sung-jai and film critic Oh Dong-jin, the Asian Film Market is expanding to embrace TV content. It is launching the Asian Contents Awards which recognize outstanding TV series from across Asia. “We previously announced that the Asian Film Market would secede from the film festival in 2019. As, however, the budget has yet to be confirmed, the full-scale separation will take place next year,” Lee explained.
The ten-day festival is set to close with Korean film, Lim Dae-hyung’s “Moonlit Winter” (aka “Snow Moon”). The story revolves around a girl who reads a letter intended for her mother and becomes aware of the secret that has been hidden for years. “Yoonhee” was the recipient of Asian Cinema Fund program finance in 2018.