[INTERVIEW]Puchon International Film Festival'At these small fantasy festivals you can see films that are even more creative and original than those in mainstream cinema.'
Perhaps the busiest man during the festival is Zeong Cho-sin, a 38-year-old filmmaker and PIFAN programmer, who will leave the position this year. The Joong-Ang Ilbo English Edition spoke with Mr. Zeong at the Boksagol Cultural Center.
IHT-JAI: What has the response been from festival guests so far?
Zeong: There is a feeling of friendship among the guests, partly because there is a relatively small number of festival-goers. The reaction has been quite good. They are surprised by the scale of the event, although I think that has more to do with the bureaucratic exhibitionism of the municipal government (laughs).
IHT-JAI: Fantasy films from Korea are drawing special attention in the European film industry. Mario Dorminsky, the director of the Portuguese Fantasporto Festival noted that eight films from Korea have been chosen this year to be screened at their festival.
Zeong: Local film festivals in Pusan and Jeonju are responsible for this phenomenon. As Korean films' exposure has increased through these festivals, the level of interest has grown exponentially in the past few years.
IHT-JAI: How do you convince distributors and prominent filmmakers to come to Puchon? What are the merits of PIFAN?
Zeong: It's been difficult. The dispersion of the screening rooms has been a major disadvantage. But we couldn't ask the municipal government to build a multiplex theater just for this film festival, in a city where only 800,000 people live. That's not fair to the local residents. As I visit more and more festivals, however, I don't think there is any one ideal city in which to hold a successful film festival, unless you are organizing a commercial festival. In that case, you would probably need a place with recreational facilities, a vacation spot of some sort, where people can relax and come to screenings purely to entertain themselves.
IHT-JAI: There is a certain amount of "absurdity" in every horror or fantasy film that is inevitable, simply because of the nature of the genre. In some films, however, this has reached the the point where audience started questioning the programmers' tastes. Can you talk about this?
Zeong: (laughs) I think I know which film you are talking about. Unsuccessful selections are inevitable, because lot of the time we have to decide whether we will accept a film or not just by seeing the trailer. We have to reserve the films ahead of time. Otherwise we lose all the good films. In other cases, if we think the style of a certain director and his work fits into the context of our festival, we will carry his film, even though we know the quality is not guaranteed.
IHT-JAI: What do you think are the most interesting elements about fantasy film festivals?
Zeong: If film festivals in general have been established to show alternative films to the public, whose tastes have been literally manipulated by Hollywood films, fantasy festivals have been organized to represent those films that have been excluded from the renowned festivals in Cannes, Venice or Montreal. And I think the most interesting aspect about these small fantasy festivals is the fact that you can see films that are even more creative and original than those those represented in mainstream cinema.
IHT-JAI: What do you want to say to the visitors in Puchon?
Zeong: I hope the visitors can be more understanding about delays and accidents that may occur during the festival. The film projectors we are using in Puchon are used only nine times a year. And during the festival, we change the films every three, four hours. Accidents are unavoidable. Korean audiences, especially those who visit film festivals, lack understanding. I understand that expectations are high, but it also comes down to how much you love the films. If you go to a Human Rights Festival, for example, they wouldn't make the same complaints they do here, because there is more trust between the audience and the hosts. I envy that.
'You don't know what the future holds for you, but at least you try to change your situation.'
Yuki Amami plays Miki Bonomiya, a tormented woman whom villagers believe to be possessed by a spirit, in "Inugami," which literally means spirit of a wild dog. According to legend, the dog spirit is inherited by the women of the Bonomiya family.
The movie, Amami's sixth film, is based on Masako Bando's 1998 novel. A handsome teacher visits a remote Japanese village and falls in love with Miki, who makes rice paper in the traditional way. Set in a mountainous village in Japan, "Inugami" puts viewers into a Zen-like trance as it unveils Miki's lonely life in this magical world.
Amami spoke with the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition about her interpretation of the film.
IHT-JAI: How did you prepare for "Inugami"?
Amami: I read the novel first and tried to picture the world the author evokes. I tried to convey to the viewers this world and the life I saw while reading the book. Also, I had to stay faithful to director Masato Harada's vision. The movie is about the blood line of a family, and he wanted to respect the legend. The myth of inugami still exists in the Shikoku region, and it is not as scary as it is in the movie. Also there are many more folk customs which are not known to the outside world.
IHT-JAI: Do you think the movie is about predestination?
Amami: I didn't think so, at least when I was acting. When suddenly Miki's lover Akira appeared, and Miki decided to finally leave the village she had never imagined leaving, she has made the conscious decision to escape the family curse. Her blood cannot be changed, but the escape becomes symbolic － she is not only getting out of the village but she is also leaving her former identity behind to become an independent woman. You don't know what the future holds for you, but at least you try to change your situation.
IHT-JAI: "Inugami" can be a mystery, a thriller, a folk tale or a romance. How would you best classify the film?
Amami: I definitely think it is a love story. Love is there throughout the movie, and the element of love is easy for viewers to immediately relate to themselves. Without the element of romantic love, this kind of movie loses its sophisticated touch.
IHT-JAI: What makes the movie appeal to international viewers?
Amami: First, there are breathtaking shots of the landscape, which was shot in Gifuken near Nagoya and Gotenba near Mount Fuji. Even though I'm a modern urbanite, I loved being in the beautiful setting and feeling the air and so forth. Second, the movie explores various Japanese traditions, especially papermaking. And there's an element of magic, too. In "Inugami" you can see something unexpected from what people usually associate with Japanese culture.
IHT-JAI: What's next for you and your movie career?
Amami: Even though I'd love to stay in Korea for the saunas and facial care, I have to return to Japan right away because I'm shooting a Japanese drama, "Fighting Girls," with a Korean actress, Yun Son-ha. It's scheduled to finish in August, but it will start airing in July in Japan.
by Inēs Cho