Busan Film Festival: Bring On the Popcorn

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Busan Film Festival: Bring On the Popcorn

Spring is the season for young lovers, but autumn is the season for movie lovers, at least in Korea. Yes, the Busan International Film Festival is back for its sixth annual blast of cinema, selling and schmoozing.

This year's festival will open at the Busan Exhibition Convention Center on Friday and will feature 203 films from 61 different countries until its closing on Nov. 17. The noncompetitive film festival invites a spectrum of motion pictures from humongous hits to low-cost experimental films. The festival has in its short history become the showcase for the Asian film market.

But all is not business. The festival offers several special programs and retrospectives - it is all more than enough to keep the most dedicated cinephile full-to-bursting over the nine-day gala.

"Window on Cinema" features 28 films from 11 countries, and tries to give viewers a sense of the breadth of Asian filmmaking today. "Go" looks at the troubled lives lived by Korean-Japanese young people in today's Japan. "Hollywood, Hong Kong," by the underground favorite Fruit Chan, looks at shantytown life in Hong Kong. And perhaps most timely, "Kandahar" is about an Afghani woman who flees to Canada, but then tries to sneak back into the country to rescue her sister from the oppression of the Taliban.

"New Currents" focuses on 11 films that hint of the future of Asian cinema. "Flower Island" is the first feature-length offering by Song Il-gon, the director who won the Grand Jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival three years ago for his short film "The Picnic." The Indian film "Maya" is about an ancient and brutal rite of passage that destroys a little girl. "Whispering Sands" is a quiet story of a village girl in Indonesia who longs for independence from her jaded, possessive mother.

Historical films and the active participation of budding directors are also watching as movies coming out of this wellspring have taken the world by surprise. For example, the closing film "Suriyothai" shows the life story of the British Queen faced with Burmese raid and "Once Upon a Time in India" draws an Indian farm village vexed under British reign.

"Wide Angle" is a section for short films and documentaries from all over the world. "World Cinema" this year highlights European cinema, especially films from Scandinavia.

Of course, you can get caught up on many of the most recent and best films from the peninsula in "Korean Panorama." The horrifying "Sorum" will be shown, as well as the highest-grossing film in Korean history, "Friends." There will also be a retrospective of one of the most prominent Korean directors from the past 50 years, Shin Sang-ok. Starting in 1952, Shin made some of the most notable films in Korea's golden age of movies.

This year's festival opened a month later than in its previous years so as not to compete with the Chuseok holidays. Since the weather is cooler, the festival is unfortunately passing on the popular outdoor movie screening this year.

One thing is for certain: the festival is as hot as ever. Tickets for the opening film, Bae Chang-ho's "Last Witness," sold out in barely three minutes.

Recommended List

"Maya" / Digvijay Singh / India

"Kandahar" / Mohseh Makhmalbaf / Iran

"Secret Ballot" / Babak Payami / Iran

"Bread and Milk" / Jean Cvitkovic / Slovania

"Mulholland Drive" / David Lynch / USA

"Millennium Mambo" / Hou Hsiao Hsien / Taiwan

"No Man's Land" / Danis Tanovic / France & Italy

"Lovely Rita" / Jessica Hausner / Austria

"Bad Guy" / Kim Ki-duk / Korea

"Camel(s)" / Park Ki-yong / Korea

"Let's Not Cry" / Min Byeong-hun / Korea

"Take Care of My Cat" / Jung Jae-eun / Korea

by Park Jeong-ho

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