[VIEWPOINT]Busan festival is ready for a new era

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[VIEWPOINT]Busan festival is ready for a new era

Yoo Seong-jong, a Busan citizen, who takes part in Pusan International Film Festival annually with his wife said, “Although our local economy is in bad shape and the whole country is stirred up about North Korea’s nuclear test, we’ve been happy for the past nine days because Busan was a ‘Cinema Paradise.’ ”
He also said the film festival has become a source of pride for Busan citizens and that it provided non-economic effects, such as satisfying citizen’s cultural demands and enhancing their self-esteem. He said he did not know how much good it brought the local economy.
As pointed out by Mr. Yoo, the Pusan International Film Festival has taken root as a cultural event that symbolizes Busan and as a film festival that represents Asia. Although the size of this year’s festival was a little smaller than last year’s, which celebrated the 10th anniversary, this year’s festival still included 245 films from 63 countries.
Especially, there were 65 world premieres shown in Busan. The international status of the festival was enhanced by the participation of director Istavan Szabo as the president of the New Currents division and many other world-class dignitaries in the film word.
Ahn Sung-ki, Korea’s national actor, called this year’s event the “10+1” festival when he conducted the opening ceremony. I think it has a symbolic meaning that represents the past and present of the film festival.
It means that the film festival has succeeded in taking a firm root in the past 10 years and is taking a stride toward another 10 years this year. The expression ‘10+1’ also signifies the task that the film festival should solve for its future development.
In the past 10 years, the festival has grown up in a big way quantitatively. Compared to the 170 films from 27 countries at the first festival, the number of participating films and countries, and also the crowds, have grown remarkably after 10 years. To make it a prestigious film festival, we need such a growth of scale.
But experts in film industry point out that quantitative growth is not enough to upgrade the Busan festival to the stage where anyone in the film world recognizes it as a prestigious one, such as Cannes or the Berlin Film Festival.
They say it is about time to promote qualitative growth, instead of scale and external growth.
In that respect, the launching of the Asian Film Market this year is noteworthy as a move to transform the Busan festival. The market gives the festival the chance to be a place for the film industry to sell and buy films, rather than just a place only for enjoying watching films.
In practice, a large number of contracts for the sales films and co-productions have been reached at the 150 booths set up by film industries. “Across the Years” directed by Im Kwon-taek was sold to Cineclick of France, and “Traces of Love” was sold to Sony Pictures through the Asian Film Market.
It is also necessary to expand education programs for the audiences. Especially, strengthening education programs for students and youth are meaningful as an investment for the future that will widen the spectrum of cinema lovers.
Some 70 events on a variety of themes were presented this year, but critics said many of them were only designed to pull in audiences for the films. Many experts said, in unison, that expanding the number of meaningful events will be more helpful for the long-term development of the festival.
What is most important is linking the energy of the film festival to the development of Korea’s film industry as a whole. Of course, it is not a task that the Busan festival alone should agonize over, but a problem everyone in the film industry should solve together.
If people bustle about only during the film festival, but pay almost no attention when the festival is over, the event will just be a feast for people interested in the event.
If people only pay attention to low-budget independent movies and various experimental works during the festival, but again prefer to see commercial ones when the festival is over, the variety of Korean movies will be diminished.
If the purpose of film festival is to promote the overall development of Korea’s film industry by introducing and nurturing a variety of films, we must start an in-depth discussion now, although that is belated.
It is also the task of those who work for the film festival to clarify the identity that symbolizes the film festival.

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik
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