Busan Film Festival: Asian kaleidoscope

Only Cannes could claim the same elegance of a sea front location. But the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) has a more extensive acreage and is more artfully laid out. There are cinema houses adjoining. Also, BIFF takes possession of a whole city for 10 days – prompted by the pride that South Koreans have in their language and culture.

Saidah Jules and Kirti Kulhari
Actresses Saidah Jules and Kirti Kulhari, who starred in the Indian entry Jal, attended the event 

BIFF is a multi-canopied showcase of Korean and Asian films. It now draws the world’s biggest names in cinema, both creative and commercial. In 2013, it screened 299 films (including 94 first timers) from 70 countries in seven spanking new theatres on 35 screens, not counting market and private screenings.

The staggering number of side-bar events sent viewers scurrying from films to talks to market events, outdoor jamborees, a film museum and film-related concerts. At the huge Bixco conference building, the BIFF Market bustled with business and script projects over four charged days.

The ample space outside the BIFF Film Centre provided for impromptu meetings, browsing, musing, music and parades. Add to this, four to six parties every night thrown by participating countries and the festival itself. Alas, there was not, and never has been, an official Indian presence here despite India’s spot in world cinema.

It is the young, more at this festival than at any other, who pack the cinema houses. Another notable point about BIFF is that an opening card on screens says that, out of respect for the film, house lights would come on only after the end credits. The disciplined and courteous crowds sit silent and attentive till the auditorium is lit again. The Q and A sessions are lively and thoughtful. This is indeed a city of film enthusiasts.

The festival’s closing days were marked by an In Conversation session between two cine greats, the irrepressible, restless American director Quentin Tarantino and the Korean Joon Ho Bong, director of the runaway sci-fi hit Piercing through Snow. The film is based on a failed global experiment that freezes the world and kills almost all who inhabit it.

A class system evolves aboard the Snowpiercer, a train that is powered around the planet by a perpetual-motion engine. The closing film was Korea’s The Dinner, directed by Kim Dong-Hyun – a family melodrama on a close-knit family falling victim to economic crises.

With most films scripted around disaster or gloom, welcome relief came from the thought-provoking Chinese film, Einstein and Einstein, directed by Cao Baoping. This is a quaint quasi-comedy on a 13-year-old girl’s growing up trauma.

Like many others in BIFF this year, the film provides insights into the lack of child-care and parenting in Asia’s non-linear family life. Another running theme was the displacement and lack of belonging in the shifting sands of mixed parentage or work in alien lands.

The winners’ club
Ahn Seonkyoung’s Pascha (Korea) and Byamba Sakhya’s Remote Control (Mongolia/Germany)
Special Mention: Hannah Espia’s Transit (Philippines).
The only Indian film Girish Malik’s Jal did not win.¬†

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