Jeonju film fest thumbs its nose at conventionIt’s edgy. It’s delicious. It’s cinematic democracy in action. It’s the Jeonju International Film Festival, which begins on April 27 in a city known for its great food and for hosting dozens of alternative and digital films by some of the most controversial filmmakers in the world.
If you think that’s an overstatement, check out the names of directors who have visited the festival within the past five years. There’s Roger Corman, the king of American B-movies; Mike Takashi, the director of the horror flick “Audition;” Frederic Fonteyne, the French director of “Pornographic Affair,” and Zhang Yuan, the Chinese filmmaker who made “Seventeen” and “Crazy English.”
The festival’s slogan says it all: “Freedom, independence and connection.”
The festival, which is Korea’s second-largest after Busan, was one of the nation’s first international film festivals to provide screenings of inexpensive digital productions as a way, it said, of injecting democratic ideals into filmmaking.
One of the major draws of the festival since its first run in 2000 has been an omnibus film compilation titled “Digital Short Films by Three Filmmakers.” In 2002, the festival organizers set up another program called“Digital Video Diary” in which amateur filmmakers and artists submit digital documentaries and movies based on their personal experiences.
This year, the festival opens with “Offside,” a film by Jafar Panahi that deals with female soccer fans in Iran who dress up in boys’ clothing to enter a stadium. (Women are banned from attending sports matches there).
In this year’s “Digital Short Films by Three Filmmakers,” one of the event’s most ambitious projects, three directors ― Pen-ek Ratanaruang of Thailand, Darzhan Omirbayev of Kazakhstan and Eric Khoo of Singapore ― were invited to present their stories of love, alienation and capitalism.
Other sections of the program focus on digital cinema as an alternative genre.
Digital Spectrum offers Kan Lune’s “The Art of Flirting,” the first Singaporean feature film to win top honors at the Malaysian Video Awards, and “I’m Authentic” by Christian Barbe, which explores the connection between love and sex.
In “Stranger than Cinema,” the organizers list films by Peter Tscherkassky, who uses digital tools to distort the sound, light and optical effects of renowned classic films as a way of experimenting.
Indie Vision, a section devoted to debut or second features by independent filmmakers, has screenings of 12 films by directors who take unusual approaches to contemporary issues.
“Main Push Cart,” by Ramin Bahrani, is a poignant sketch of loneliness and the struggle for survival experienced by a Pakistani emigrant in New York who sells coffee and bagels on a cart for a living, but dreams of becoming an actor.
“Drifting States,” by the Canadian director Denis Cote, delves into issues of migration and industrial development in Quebec; the low-budget film was shot in only 12 days.
Ashim Ahluwalia investigates the gloomy side of the American dream in “John and Jane;” “Smiling in a War Zone: The Art of Flying to Kabul,” by Simone Aaberg Kaern and Magnus Bejmar, follows the journey of a woman who is determined to fly to Afghanistan to help a girl who wants to be a pilot.
As a retrospective of a veteran director this year, the festival features seven feature films by Ritwik Ghatak, the Indian director of “The River Named Titash” and “The Citizen,” who is known for his uncompromising style.
“Discovery: Allegories of Resistance,” a section featuring overlooked filmmakers, this year will feature movies that were banned or censored by the Soviet Union. Previous festivals have highlighted Cuban and Maghreb films. This year’s list includes “Andrei Rublev” by Andrei Tarkovsky, “I am Twenty” by Marlen Khutsiev, “Check Point” by Alexei German and “Long Goodbyes” by Kira Muratova.
Korean Cinema Showcase screens a line up of experimental films that were intended for commercial mainstream theaters. As a special screening, classic films by Korean-Japanese filmmakers during the colonial period that were recently discovered by the Korean Film Archive will be screened. The showcase introduces works by three Korean-Japanese film professionals who worked in the Japanese film industry until 1950, including Kim Soon-myung (known in Japanese as Ube Takashi) who worked as a producer, and Lee Byung-woo (Kan Inoue) and Kim Hak-sung (Seiichi Kanai), who were both cinematographers.
On May 5, the festival closes with “Don’t Look Back” by Kim Young-nam, a joint production by Japanese and Korean producers dealing with three young Koreans in traumatic situations.
by Park Soo-mee
The Jeonju International Film Festival runs from April 27 through May 5 at different venues in the city. For more information, see www.jiff.or.kr. Admission is 5,000 won ($5) except for the closing and opening films, where admission is 10,000 won.