As film festivals the world over explore the crossover between feature film and television, Netflix original series “Hellbound” and ”My Name” and HBO Asia’s “Forbidden” are being given house room in Busan’s newly-created On Screen sidebar section.
“There is a sweet spot between the film and TV industries and we’re keenly exploring that. It’s challenging to plunge in and expect TV broadcasting companies to participate in BIFF, but there will be others industry players that could,” said Nam Dong Chul, program director at the Busan International Film Festival.
“Hellbound”, produced by Climax Studios and directed by Yeon Sang Ho (“Train to Busan,” “Peninsula”), was shown to Korean audiences at Busan’s BIFFxGENESIS outdoor theater on Friday. The audience, mostly teenagers and young adults, appeared excited at the opportunity to gather in small groups for an activity, despite the pandemic.
The action drama, adapted from a webtoon also by Yeon, begins dramatically when an unremarkable café is invaded by monstrous supernatural creatures who seek out a particular man, set him on fire and spark mayhem in the city. Yoo Ah In, recent winner of the best actor prize at the Asian Film Awards for his performance in “The Voice of Silence,” plays a charismatic cult leader.
Yoo is not the only movie star making the transition between film and TV. Nor is the crossover limited to actors. Directors who have mostly worked in film are similarly making the transition. “Squid Game” director Hwang Dong-hyuk is best known for movies “Fortress” “Silenced” and “Miss Granny.” In the Busan selection, “Forbidden” co-director Josh Kim is better known for documentaries and his first feature, “How to Win at Checkers (Every Time).”
While the new fluidity between film and series provides talent with wider creative options, for production companies the expansion offers a diversification of revenue at a time when theatrical box office is COVID-affected and remains weak and SVoD subscriptions are surging in Korea.
“[The shows that we are looking for are] series that contain similar elements films might have. And they must be a premiere, preferably a world premiere,” said Nam. “Forbidden” and “My Name” tick those boxes, while “Hellbound” premiered in Toronto.
Studio Santa Clause Entertainment’s “My Name” is an action thriller that stars Han So Hee (“The World of the Married”) as a tenacious young woman, driven to do whatever it takes to avenge her father’s death.
Busan is unapologetic for an entry into the TV sector that is late compared with other festivals and markets – such as Tokyo, Toronto, Berlin or Hong Kong’s FilMart – which have already created bigger and more international spaces for series.
“Given BIFF’s large scale and positioning in Asian film, including TV is part of our growth. Korean content will always be a strength since our event is held here (in Korea),” said Nam.
Nam says that the large numbers of cast and crew from “My Name” and “Hellbound,” who not only showed up in Busan but also took part in Q&A sessions and fringe events, is vindication of the festival’s move.
“Hellbound” and “My Name” will be available on Netflix from Oct. 15 and November 19 respectively. “Forbidden” is slated to be on Asian regional streaming service HBO Go later this year.