Film festival set to fire off a volley of war movies

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Film festival set to fire off a volley of war movies

The boundary-pushing Jeonju International Film Festival returns this month with some 250 movies under the theme of war. The festival is often called the "Sundance in Asia," referring to Robert Redford's festival in Utah, for its reputation of showing controversial films.

Despite focusing on noncommercial and alternative works, the festival has done surprisingly well the past two years, selling about 80 percent of its seats. The success can be attributed to the programmers' discerning tastes, which compel them to choose movies rarely seen in other film festivals, and movies that aptly convey the diverse and dynamic views of regions besides Europe and America.

The festival had some flaws and snags last year, such as poor screening facilities and conflicts between the programmers and city officials. Those problems have been ironed out this year, the organizers have insisted.

With "War Cinema" this year's theme, the movies will highlight public perceptions of war and violence, particularly in light of the changes that have occurred worldwide since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The festival will open on April 26 with "KT," a Japanese-Korean co-production that dramatizes the 1973 abduction of Kim Dae-jung.

On the war theme, the "Scar and Memory" program will look at classic films by the masters of Korean filmmaking, featuring movies depicting the aftermath and memories of the Korean War. Yoo Hyeon-mok's "An Aimless Bullet," shot in a shockingly realistic monochrome, deals with the disturbing story of a man suffering postwar trauma. "Gilsotteum," by Lim Kwon-taek, depicts the reunions of separated families. "War and Animation" examines how tragedies and social issues are dealt with in humorous ways through animation.

"Shadow of War, Specter of War," is a selection of war propaganda films from China and Japan that show how the movies were used to drum up public support for those countries' war campaigns. Also, a number of seminars and forums will be held on the war and cinema topic.

Continuing a tradition from previous years, the organizers will repeat the "Digital Short Films by Three Filmmakers" feature, an ambitious project that has come to serve, essentially, as the festival's identity. The three filmmakers showing 30-minute digital films this year are Korea's Moon Seung-wook (best known for "Nabi," or "The Butterfly"), Japan's Suwa Nobuhiro ("M/Other"), and China's Wang Xiaoshuai ("Beijing Bicycle").

Another program dealing with the digital medium is "Digital Video Diary," in which visual and video artists look at the possibilities of using digital video to record the details of everyday life, both the important and the trivial.

To mark the World Cup, the festival will present "Soccer and Films" ?a collection of movies dealing with the sport, such as Paolo Sorrentino's "Extra Man," Kim Soo-yong's "Glory of Barefoot," and Tomy Wigand's "Soccer Rules."

The festival's popular red-eye screening, which shows three films from midnight until dawn and draws hundreds of blanket-toting cinephiles, will feature the controversial films of an Australian, Ulrich Seidl.

Other standouts will include a retrospective of the U.S. independent producer Christine Vachon, digital documentaries and Czech animated films.

The JIFF runs through May 2. For more information, call 02-063-288-5433.

by Park Soo-mee

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