Mysterious visitors change lives in 3 films at Jeonju Fest

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Mysterious visitors change lives in 3 films at Jeonju Fest


From left, directors Hong Sang-soo, Naomi Kawase and Lav Diaz from left, during a hand-printing ceremony after a press conference held Saturday on Cinema Street in Jeonju. By Park Sun-young

JEONJU - A bunch of mysterious guests have invaded the Jeonju Digital Project, the centerpiece of the international film festival’s award-winning program.

This year, three internationally-known Asian filmmakers - Korea’s Hong Sang-soo, Japan’s Naomi Kawase and the Philippines’ Lav Diaz - have contributed a trio of films whose main plot revolves around the arrival of an unexpected visitor that gets the action going.

“For the past ten years, the Jeonju Digital Project has become like a kind of trademark and is recognized by various film festivals around the world,” JIFF Director Min Byung-lock said after a press preview on Saturday.

The Jeonju Digital Project won the Jury Award at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2007, the first time in the history of the film festival that a project of this kind had won the prize.

Every year, three directors from around the world are invited to contribute a 30-minute short and awarded 50 million won ($38,760) to get the job done. Their work is then premiered at the festival.

“We have invited three well-known directors who are already recognized internationally to participate in the project, so we are expecting the project to win awards at international film festivals again this year,” he added.

“Visitors,” the title of this year’s project, features films: “Lost in the Mountains” by Hong, “Koma” by Kawase and “Butterflies Have No Memories” by Diaz.

“After I finished the film, I was surprised to realize that the three of us were working with the concept of the visitor, without realizing it in advance. I think it was fate,” Kawase said.

As the Japanese director noted, the dramatic tension in all three films is built around the sudden arrival of an unexpected visitor.

In the film “Koma,” Kawase explores the relationship between fragile and often tense history between Korea and Japan through the relationship that develops between a third generation Korean-Japanese man, who unexpectedly visits the small and quiet village of Koma, and a Japanese woman, a somewhat mysterious inhabitant of the village.

Korean director Hong’s “Lost in the Mountains” tells the story of a woman’s love-hate relationship with the people closest to her, including a friend, a teacher with whom she had an affair and her ex-boyfriend. It starts when she makes an impromptu visit to see her friend, who lives in Jeonju.

“Butterflies Have No Memories,” the film by the director Diaz, depicts the lives of the inhabitants of a remote island far from the Philippines who suffer economic difficulties after a gold mining company withdraws from the town. One day, a sudden visit by a Canadian woman born and raised on the island makes their already troubled lives even more complicated.

“The film is about the prosperity development brings and the environmental destruction it causes,” Diaz said.

“The idea to film in black and white was my sort of strategic decision to bring into relief the dark side of the Philippines’ history, hidden behind its beautiful natural scenes,” he added.

Don’t worry if you missed the chance to see this award-winning film over the weekend.

It will be screened one last time at 2 p.m. on Wednesday at CGV, a theater affiliated with the festival.

Those who haven’t been to the festival in a while needed feel left out either.

A special DVD set featuring all 27 films produced as part of the project over the last nine years is being released in celebration of the festival’s 10th anniversary under the title Jeonju Digital Project 2000-2008.

By Park Sun-young []

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