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BIFF 2014: And So it Begins…

The 19th annual Busan International Film Festival is set to open featuring 312 movies from 79 different countries and this author, at least, is aiming to watch as many of them as possible while still maintaining a full-time job. A few “good lucks” are always welcome.

There’s something magical about a movie theater. I’ve always loved the cinema for as long as I can remember. I love the feeling you get when those lights first go down, the almost-giddy anticipation from the moment the title first comes up and the audience chatter first dies down. Someone is about to give you a glimpse of their world, a two-hour look into their mind and soul.  Anything can happen and on that screen, anything is possible.

The 19th annual Busan International Film Festival kicks off today with Ken Watanabe and Moon So-ri set to host the opening ceremony. With each passing year, BIFF has become one of the most significant film festivals on the entire continent.  It has also become one of the greatest events this city has to offer.  

October in Busan is already a thing of beauty.  The temperature has dropped just enough to make for near-perfect days and comfortable nights.  The film festival and the stars that it brings just takes that beauty to another level altogether.  

I walked around Haeundae Beach last night as the workers put finishing touches on the stage and surrounding booths. The boardwalk was calm, but there was still a sense of excitement in the air as people posed for pictures and planned their following week. In the next 24 hours, Centum City and Haeundae will be crawling with travelers from all over the world. It’s not a bad idea to plan out your days ahead of time.


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Most of the advance tickets have sold out, but 20% of the seats are reserved for day-of purchases. I have never purchased a ticket ahead of time and I ended up watching 8 movies last year. You still have plenty of opportunity to catch a few flicks.  

The lines at the box office can be pretty long (especially weekends and holidays) so I’d advise getting there early. Write down the 3-digit movie code for a quick reference, but have a few back-ups in case your pick sells out. If you want to get the most out of BIFF, you need to be flexible.  Film festival movies are generally not Hollywood blockbusters. This is an opportunity to see many different up-and-coming directors alongside some of your old favorites. Take advantage of it. Don’t be afraid to watch a movie that is outside of your preferred genre.  

One last piece of advice I have is more of a personal request. Quite a few actors and directors will be at the screenings and some have even agreed to speak to the audience after the movie. (These little treats are marked in your guestbook with a “GV” for guest visit.) If you have the time, stick around and listen.  If you are not interested for whatever reason, try to leave as the credits roll instead of after they start talking. Remember the time, effort, and love that these directors have just poured onto the screen just to entertain you. Try to be courteous.

The show’s about to start, though. It’s time to kick back with a little popcorn and a tasty beverage or two. Time to turn off your phone and fall into another world for awhile.  To quote the late, great Roger Ebert, “I’ll see you at the movies.”


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About Chris Birdsong

Chris once had dreams of becoming a novelist, but ultimately decided to pursue his dream of affording food on a daily basis. He loves a great book or great movie, but admits the bad ones can be just as fun. Drinks and conversations get judged by the same standard. You can find him on the face books or @CBirdBusan

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