Documentaries on screens large & small

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Documentaries on screens large & small

The number of film festivals in Korea has mushroomed in recent years, and the fall festival schedule is jam-packed. But one upcoming festival stands out as the only one dedicated to showing documentary films both in the theater and on television.

The EBS International Documentary Festival, which was launched in 2004 by EBS, the nation’s public broadcasting station focusing on educational programs, marks its sixth anniversary this year. It will be held from Sept. 21 to 27.

The festival features 50 documentary films from 37 countries under the theme “Earth! Where We Live!” The films will be screened on the EBS television channel and at various venues around the city, including EBS Space and Arthouse MOMO.

“This year, we are showing traditional documentary films and a variety of new documentary genres,” EIDF executive director Seong Ki-ho said.

“This year’s works are mostly stories about people defying social conditions and they evoke feelings of sympathy for their subjects. Many of the films are focused on the characters and storytelling,” said programmer Song Ji-hyun.

The festival opens next Monday at 7 p.m. with the film “Google Baby” by Israeli director Zippi Brand Frank. The film, which is the director’s feature debut, describes a baby production industry made possible by technology and globalization, where making a baby is as easy as the click of a mouse. According to Song, the movie gives audiences a chance to reflect on the world we live in today, where anyone, anywhere can order a baby.

The festival’s main competition section, Festival Choice, features 12 films, including the opening film, selected from among 350 submissions from 57 countries around the world. The winners will be chosen by a five-member jury led by U.S. film director and critic Thom Andersen. The Grand Prix winner will receive 10 million won ($8,301) in prize money.

The Award-winning International Documentaries section will screen, as its title indicates, works that have received critical acclaim at international festivals such as the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and the Canadian International Documentary Festival, which is also known as Hot Docs.

This year’s festival also includes a retrospective of acclaimed film director Werner Herzog. Five works by the director will be screened as part of a section called “The View of Virtuosos: Werner Herzog,” including the 2008 festival’s opening film “Encounters at the End of the World” and “My Best Friend,” which offers a glimpse into the often tumultuous relationship between Herzog and actor Klaus Kinski.

Three documentaries spotlighting the lives of three extraordinary men - former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, and world-famous novelist Ariel Dorfman - will also be screened during the festival.

More than 10 acclaimed documentary directors and masters, including Simon El Habre, winner of the Best Documentary award at Hot Docs 2009, are expected to be in town for the festival’s Master and Director Class programs.

Screenings and events held at EBS Space in Dogok-dong, southern Seoul, are free, but reservations are recommended and can be made online at the festival’s Web site (www.eidf.org).

The screenings at Arthouse MOMO, located within the Ewha Womans University campus, cost 2,000 won and reservations can be made at www.cineart.co.kr.

Films will also be aired on EBS for more than nine hours a day - from 11:30 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. - for the duration of the festival. For more information, visit www.eidf.org.


*Five films by German director Werner Herzog, left, including “Grizzly Man,” right, will be featured in “The View of Virtuosos” section of the EBS International Documentary Festival. Provided by the organizer


By Park Sun-young [spark0320@joongang.co.kr]
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