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BIFF exec on Pinoy participation, women directors at Korean filmfest

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BUSAN, South Korea – The 24th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) closed its curtains on Oct. 12, drawing a total of 189,116 people.

For 10 days, it showcased 299 films from 85 countries including six from the Philippines. Of these, 118 had world premieres and 27 had international premieres.

Filipino films showcased at the festival were “Mindanao,” “Basurero,” “Verdict,” “The Halt,” “John Denver Trending” and “Lingua Franca.”

In 2018, the Philippines became the “Country of Focus” at BIFF to mark the Filipino film industry’s centennial celebration. Many Filipino films were shown at the 2018 BIFF to commemorate the event.

“Last year, the Philippine cinema celebrated its 100th year. We welcomed a huge delegation and several big figures from Manila,” BIFF Festival Director Jay Jeon told Manila Bulletin and other Asian media outlets participating in the Kwanhun-Korea Press Foundation (KPF) Press Fellowship program.

BIFF Festival Director Jay Jeon said last year, the Philippines sent a big delegation to BIFF to celebrate the Filipino film industry’s centennial (Photo by Jonathan Hicap)

BIFF Festival Director Jay Jeon said last year, the Philippines sent a big delegation to BIFF to celebrate the Filipino film industry’s centennial (Photo by Jonathan Hicap)

As to the quality of Asian films at the annual film festival, he said the BIFF has “been exploring and finding out new talents all over Asia.”

“We are selecting and showing Asian arthouse movies, probably the only festival in Asia. Busan is the only major film festival in Asia. I think dozens of masterpieces have been made only in East Asia because of disparity of economy.” he said. “Outside East Asia, Muslim countries that are not rich, for this disparity, few excellent films have been made outside East Asia. But recently this disparity, imbalance and inequality have been improved so we can see excellent movies not only in Asia but also in Central America even in West Asia.”

He added that “in the past few years, there have been some excellent Asian works being awarded [at BIFF].”
As to women directors, Jeon said that “out of 299 invited from 85 countries, around 28 percent of films are made by women,” which is about the same as last year.

He said that at BIFF, “we don’t care (about) any kind of censorship. We are just presenting films that we like or we want to support. That’s our policy.”

Jeon explained that BIFF is unique as it “is the first festival that doesn’t depend on Hollywood movies. All the major festivals and big festivals are very dependent on Hollywood movies and Hollywood stars. But we could make success without them. Of course, Timothee Chalamet visited Busan. He met a huge number of audience.”

Asked why Korean films find success abroad, he said “because our government is supporting. We are producing 300 full-length feature films (every year). About 100 features come from the independent side and and 200 feature films come from the mainstream side. Korea is a big country in film production. There are so many talents and ambitious guys who want to be big. And plus, the Korean government is supporting the film industry. The Busan Film Festival is also supporting Korean filmmakers to go abroad.”

He revealed the Korean Film Council, which tracks down Korean box office receipts, aims to set up the Korea-Asia Film Center in Busan.

“Probably the Busan Metropolitan City will pay some money to its office in Busan. So the plan will be approved by the Asian (counterpart) next month. They will be coming to Busan in November,” he said.

The challenge now facing the Korean film industry is video streaming, he said.

“It think we need to face a big change in the way we consume movies and TV dramas. I’m talking about the video streaming platform. Probably in the near future, Korean film industry will be threatened by them. All of them are heading to Seoul. They will undertake business from next February 1. They will be investing so much money in Korean filmmakers. You know why they will they do that? To attract one or two million (Korean) subscribers, they should produce Korean productions,” he said.

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