The Busan International Film Festival kicks off its 18th edition Thursday, October 3rd to October 12th. Last year, the prestigious festival attracted 221,002 film goers, the largest attendance in its history and included live performances by trending Psy and the usual lineup of Korea’s biggest stars and some top international names.
This year will be just as big, sans Psy, and for the first time in the festival’s history it will not open with a South Korean or Chinese film, instead going with an Indian production as the opening selection.
Showcasing the latest regional and international premiers from diverse Asian nations, the festival will screen over 300 feature films from 70 countries, 28 of which are short films and 53 that will be making their international premiere. Film aficionados will also enjoy a nice mixture of World Cinema, some of which have already hit the film festival circuit in venues such as Cannes, Sundance and Veniceâ¦ just to name a few.
The festival will take place on 35 screens at 7 theaters around the city with most centered in the Haeundae area. And since advance tickets for the opening film Vara: A Blessing and the closing film, The Dinner were sold out in a matter of seconds, I’m here to make your film-going experience easier by selecting 30 film picks for this year.
Of course, don’t be afraid to veer off the list âit’s just a my own simple little guide to get you on your way.
As with most things where taste is involved, it’s extremely difficult to choose films. My criteria is based on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes critic ratings, my own subjective taste on script, theme and plot, director’s past work, film reviews, the BIFF program synopsis, and other research. My choices are no doubt a gamble, so feel free to roll the dice on your own as you see fit.
Highlighted film titles are also links which will direct you to the BIFF website for showtimes and theater information.
When you’re done viewing, you can head over to the official site to purchase your tickets.
1. Transit by Hannah Espia (Philippines) (New Currents section) Running time: 92
Philippine laborers face deportation, identity crisis, child angst and sense of family urgency in Israel. It’s Hannah Espia debut film, which has been selected to represent the Philippines at the Oscars.
2. Adele: Chapters 1 & 2 (aka Blue is the Warmest Color) by Abdellatif Kechiche (Palme d’Or at 2013 Cannes Film Festival winner) (World Cinema Section) Running time: 179
AdÃ¨le, a 15-year-old lesbian girl, is trying to experience adulthood by being experimental. She embarks on a complicated, decade long love journey with Emma, an older-age art student.
3. Fruitvale Station by Ryan Coogler (Grand Jury and Audience Prize at Sundance)(World Cinema section) Running time: 85
This true story follows Oscar Grant. His new year resolutions consisted of being a better son, father, and partner to the mother of his child. Things take a tragic turn when he is shot in cold blood by police officers. Did he accomplish his goals before dying?
4. Snowpiercer by Bong Joon-ho (The Host; Memories of Murder)
After an Ice-Age strikes earth, the last human survivors obey a social order on a train. Low living conditions cause a revolt between rebels and higher authority. Will they compromise or fight to the death?
5. All Is Lost by J.C. Chandor (World Cinema ) Running Time:106
An unnamed man-in his 39foot yachtâ is lost in the Indian Ocean. With his resources dwindling, will he survive the sharks, unpredictable storms, and avoid another ship collision?
6. The Rocket by Kim Mordaunt (Oscar Entry for Australia)(Berlin film festival best debut) (Flash Forward section) Running time: 96
A young boy in Northern Laos is an outcast. He should have been dead alongside his stillborn twin. He defied those odds. What other odds will he defy?
7. The PastBy Ashgar Farhadi (Oscars Entry for Iran)
Deep secrets are the cause of this family’s interweaving conflict. Each revelation changes perspectives, opinions, and ultimately how to find resolutions.
8. Inside Llewyn Davis by Coen brothers (World Cinema section) (Cannes Film Festival-Grand Prix)
A struggling musician tries to escape his misadventures. It will take a lot to jump over obstacles surrounding love, his craft, friends, and strangers. Will he eventually play the right note?
9. The Unforgiven by Lee Sang-il Running Time: 135
This is a Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood’s, Unforgiven. A film about a Samurai’s honor& revenge, a vicious cycle of violence surrounding the aforementioned.
10. What they don’t talk about when they talk about love by Mouly Surya (Indonesia)
At a school for blind girls, love is expressed differently. Sound, gestures, fragrancesâ¦everything is heighten to bring a new-found way to express the need to love and be loved in cinema. How will the couples respond to their different senses?
11. Moebius by Kim Ki-duk Running Time: 89
A woman cuts off her sons penis after her husband cheats on her. The family goes through a trial of sexual pleasure, pain, and outerworldly tension. This film was banned twice in South Korea.
12. Child’s Pose by Directed by Calin Peter Netzer (Romania’s Oscar Entry)
After facing manslaughter charges, a Romanian son is put through a manipulative fiasco. This film is about a psychological war between a mother and son. Will the mother win the war?
13.Sacro Gra by Gianfranco Rosi (Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Winner)
A documentary film which juxtaposes Rome’s infrastructure (a huge circular road) with the people (interesting characters) surrounding it. Are we connected to our concrete jungle? Watch to find out.
14. Bends by Flora Lau (Hong Kong, China)
This debut feature by Flora Lau brilliantly explores the rift between Hong Kong and Shenzhen (mainland China) by navigating the troubled lives of an affluent house wife and her chauffeur. Two cities, two humans seek emotional connection. Will it happen?
15. Godsend by Moon Si-Hyun (assistant director for Pieta, Kim Ki-duk)
A woman who desperately wants a child seeks to persuade a girl who is considering abortion to give her the child instead. They eventually meet at an isolated area to await the birth, but they’re interrupted by mysterious, criminally minded men. An irony of birth and the will to stay alive take center stage.
16. Dreamland by Petra Volpe (Switzerland/Germany)
A young prostitute is directly involved in the lives of wealthy pregnant woman, a social worker, and a divorced man. They navigate the dark side of Zurich by coming face to face with their desires and moments of alienation.
17. A Touch of Sin by Aoyama Shinji (China/Japan)
No Punishment. No salvation. The film questions the raison d’Ãªtre in this world. Minors living in a coal-mining town go through an existential exploration through sin all in the name of finding a reason to live.
18. Pascha by Seonkyong Ahn (Korea)
A 40-year-old woman is sexually and emotionally involved with a 17-year-old boy. Nope, this isn’t a spin-off of the film 40-year-old virgin, it’s a remarkable tale of a cat-loving woman willing to reject social norm by exercising her free will. The age gap, however, is a minor problem compared to other burdens faced in the film.
19. Ikal Mayang: Telling Women Stories by Dira Abu Zahar and Sofia Jane Hisham (Malaysia) (and 4 others)
This is an omnibus of 6 short films which highlights the multidimensional lives of women in Malaysia. It’s a universal take on the need to humanize the very thought of what it means to be a woman.
20. The Story of an Old Woman by Alexey Gorlov (Kazakhstan)
This film explores the human dichotomy involving money and love when an elderly woman is sent home after being neglected at a hospital. This experimental film was shot in one single take. Quite demanding for a director.
21. Our Sunhiby Hong Sangsoo
Sunhi is a student seeking a better recommendation letter to study abroad. She is a femme fatale reeling in her male peers for her benefit. Will she succeed or will it work against her?
22. Thuy by Kim Jae-Han
A Vietnamese is woman married to a Korean man in rural South Korea. When her husband suddenly dies, she embarks on a quest to figure out how it really happens. She is faced with several road blocks. Will she find answers (justice) as a minority in a majority-ruled society?
23. R100 by Hitoshi Matsumoto
This is a surrealist film about an ordinary man who joins a secret society with rigid rules. Fantasy and the false sense of reality sets the tone of the film, as the main character tries to make sense of his decisions and its impact.
24. Safe by Moon Byong-gon (13min) Palme d’Or at Cannes for short film.
A desperate woman working as a cashier steals money from gamblers to pay off her debts. Her life is now in jeopardy after a gambler finds out about his shortcomings. Is there as silver lining? Find out if she escapes or if mercy is granted.
25. Temporary by Behzad Azadi (Iran) (15min)
A young single mother accepts a dangerous financial offer. It’s a film about desire and the decisions women make when they’re under tense circumstances.
26. No Shadow Kim Jong Woo (South Korea)(32min)
A Korean-Chinese girl struggles with her hyphenated identity and social class status in South Korea. Will she succumb to the pressure or rise above expectations?
27. 1001 Apples by Taha Karmi (Kurd)(74min)
This is an experimental, posthumous film which seeks to highlight the Kurdish genocide (ethnic cleansing) committed by the Iraqi government, which killed 182,000 Kurds in 1998. It interviews survivors of the ordeal.The interviewees forgive and reconcile with the world by giving apples filled with memories for the victims.
28. Gureombi- The wind is blowing by Sung Bong Cho (South Korea)
Locals in Jeju island are in a long fight against the construction of a naval base. The film centers on the need to respect the elements of nature and the will of the people. The film also documents a wind of the history against the power and money.
29. Midnight Passion: Dawn of the Dead in 3-D & Miss Zombie
For the mindnight passion, I’ve decided to check out either the 3-D remake of Dawn of the Dead or Miss Zombie. I’m leaning more toward Miss Zombie, a philosophical contemplation on âhuman qualities. Who are the real Zombies? Humans orâ¦well, zombies?
30. Village in the midst by Im Kwon-taek (retrospective)
To show respect to one of the great masters of Korean cinema, I’ve chosen to watch Village in the midst. An unmarried woman leaves the Seoul to teach in a rural village. She ends up dealing with suppressed sexual desires in the community. Will she stay or leave and go back to Seoul?
You can read more from Wilkine at The Vanguard Element.