Islamic culture films premier at Jeonju festivalJeonju may be just another small city in the country, but this town in North Jeolla province has turned hip since yesterday with the start of the 6th Jeonju International Film Festival.
When it started in 2000, the festival’s mandate was to be a forum for “alternative, digital and underground films.” This year, cinephiles can immerse themselves in a feast of 173 films from around the world through May 6.
The film festival shines with not only interesting but also politically aware retrospectives, under the theme “freedom, independence and communication.” The festival starts with “Digital Short Films by Three Filmmakers 2005,” featuring shorts by Apichatpong Weerasethakul of Thailand, Song Il-gon of South Korea and Shinya Tsukamoto of Japan.
One of the most innovative sections created by programmers is “Discovery: Magreb Cinema,” where films from Morocco and Tunisia will be shown in Korea for the first time. Festival programmers say they planned the section to “give a thorough look into Islamic culture, whose image as the source of terrorism is nothing but a manipulation by some powerful countries.” Some directors of showcased films will be in Korea to speak with audience members during the festival.
Three movies from North Korea are expected to be of high interest: “Welcome to Pyongyang Animal Park,” a coming-of-age film about a young woman; “The Spirit of the Korean Celadon,” a drama with fun, unconventional musical sequences; and “The Blood Stained Route Map,” a North Korean action film about protecting the Dokdo islands from encroaching Japanese.
Other categories true to Jeonju’s spirit are “Indie Vision” and “Digital Spectrum.” Both are competitive and pit digital-meets-underground films from around the world in various genres. Jeonju also carries a reputation for presenting the latest films by master filmmakers, and this year is no exception. From Jean-Luc Godard’s documentary “The History of Cinema ― Chosen Moments” to Oliver Stone’s “Looking for Fidel,” the latest projects by master filmmakers will be shown in the “Cinemascape” section.
A fine selection of independent short films ― which rarely play in theaters ― will comprise “Korean Shorts: Critics Week.”
Several established Korean directors have assembled a collection of shorts under the title, “If You Were Me 2.” The collection, which will be shown in the “Korean Cinema on the Move” section, is an amalgam of absurdities in society recorded by digital cameras. You may already have more than enough films on your wish list, but there is also a retrospective about Somai Shinji, a Japanese underground director from the 1980s. Another only-in-Jeonju joy is a section called sonimage, where live jazz piano performances accompany silent films.
At night, midnight-till-dawn screenings will take place under the title, “Midnight Obsession.” The festival ends on May 6 with the much-anticipated Korean film “Antarctic Journal.”
Along with the festival, Jeonju city is hosting several traditional culture events. Jeonju almost automatically reminds food fans of bibimbap, mixed rice with assorted toppings, a must-eat Korean cuisine. At night, you find what’s known as “makgeolli alley,” a group of small restaurants and bars specializing in the fermented rice wine. Just order a kettle of the liquor and you’ll find an amazing number of side dishes arriving ― for free.
by Chun Su-jin
For more information, visit the official Web site at www.jiff.or.kr.