Jeonju Festival Mixed Cinema And Civic Pride

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Jeonju Festival Mixed Cinema And Civic Pride

The Jeonju International Film Festival, which in a radical departure in Korea has focused on alternative and digital films, concluded Thursday. The festival, which was first held last year, aims to establish a Korean venue for experimental films comparable to the Sundance Film Festival in the United States. Three of the organizers resigned abruptly just three months before the staging of the festival, however, and there were some resulting glitches in the administrative arrangements.

The closing event on Thursday began with the presentation of awards. "This is My Moon," a Sri Lankan film directed by Asoka Handagama, won one of the Wooseok Awards along with Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Mysterious Object by Noon," a black and white documentary/travelogue made by the filmmaker during his travels in Thailand. Both films were from the Asian Independent Cinema Section and Handagama's film was chosen as the closing film of the festival.

Depicting the disturbing story of a Sinhalese soldier's rape of a Tamil woman who falls into his bunker in the battlefront during the Sri Lankan civil war, "This is My Moon" is a bitter indictment of the inhumanity of war. The festival's jury said their focus was particularly on films which carried a narrative style different from that of mainstream films.

In the N-Vision section, which presented digitally-made films, the winners were Jan Bucquoy's provocative "About Pleasure and Hysteria ?The Sexual Life of the Belgians" and "Once and Future Queen" by Todd Verow. "The Cutting," by two Belgian filmmakers, Peter Missotten and Bram Smeyers, won Jury's Awards, and Wang Xiaoshuai's "Beijing Bicycle" was awarded the Jeonju Citizen's Award.

The organizers deserve credit for attempting to diversify the film tastes of Koreans, but their results were mixed. The trials and tribulations of festival-goers can be summarized as a lack of preparation and limited funding, but there were other problems as well.

For starters, the opening and closing ceremonies consisted largely of introductions of regional celebrities and government officials. The festival was also tinged with an air of provincial boosterism, leading many watchers to question the dubious relationship between Jeonju civic pride and alternative cinema. There seemed at times to be a conflict between the stated artistic aims of the festival, and the agendas of its sponsors, the city of Jeonju and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. At any rate, a film festival which claims to be international should not have forgotten to add English subtitles to the movies it offered.

by Park Soo-mee

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