[FOUNTAIN]Restore the true spiritTsai Ming-liang is a Taiwanese filmmaker who depicts the alienation of the modern life in unconventional language. He has been honored at the Berlin International Film Festival and Venice Film Festival for his films Vive L’Amour (1994), The River (1997) and The Wayward Cloud (2005). He is also well-known for his special connection to the Pusan International Film Festival.
Mr. Tsai was back in Busan again this year, holding a master class along with Hungarian film director Istvan Szabo. In front of a packed audience, he opened the class by arguing that film is not simply about business. “If the world is filled with action dramas, movies will mean nothing more than an escape from reality. Films need to deal with the suffering and reality we confront. Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks is not a factory of dreams but a factory of money.”
The reality Mr. Tsai finds himself in seems to be as harsh as his bitter remarks. He is certainly far more successful now than his early days, when he had to sell tickets on the street. However, he still makes films as if he were fighting a war. In the middle of the master class, he abruptly said that he would never come back to Busan again. Of course, his words should not be taken literally. He still loves Pusan and its growth, but he deplored the reality that he and other auteur filmmakers are given little space at the festival.
The Eleventh Pusan International Film Festival has been a great success. The festival has improved in size and quality and is now seen as a success story in the international film industry, with many other festivals using its development as a benchmark.
However, the problem is that aside from the growing prestige of the festival, the range of the Korean film industry has diminished. While Korea has been growing into one of cinema’s leading lights, the standardization of its market has increased, in common with other nations that have a major film industry.
The Pusan film festival can’t take all the blame. Like all countries, its movie industry is shaped by the need to make money in the U.S. market.
And so Busan’s first-rate film festival has become adorned with glitzy events and top stars, but some feel sorry that the unique culture of drinking liquor on the beach and discussing films all night is disappearing.
Mr. Tsai’s argument that films are not just a commodity may sound unrealistic, but the Pusan International Film Festival needs to listen to him with respect now that it has turned into a new cultural force. He embodies the original spirit of film festivals, which were launched to promote low-budget, experimental and diverse films.
by Yang Sung-hee
The writer is a culture and sports desk writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.