BY MICHAEL FRAIMAN
Check out our BIFF FILM GUIDE
I know, I know. Movies are cool. But film festivals? Even when you speak the language, navigating a pretentious labyrinthine orgy of independent art is a daunting prospect. All these movies! All these names! Can’t I just save my money and download the popular ones later?
No, you easily-intimidated Westerner, you! The Busan International Film Festival (Oct. 6-14) is actually a terrific way to see movies you may literally never get the chance to see again. And even though the whole thing seems harder to tackle than some NFL linebacker I don’t know the name of because I’m obviously a movie guy (is a linebacker even someone you tackle?), for the more culturally adventurous among you, we’ll break down the heaping loads of information about the BIFF, starting at the top.
FIRST OFF: WHAT IS IT?
The BIFF is arguably Asia’s most influential film festival, and inarguably its largest. When it began in 1996, it screened 170-odd films, and that number has nearly doubled to 307 this year. There is a definite slant towards Korean/Asian cinema, but it is unquestionably international. Most movies will have English subtitles. (You can find which do and don’t on the screening schedule legend—every movie that doesn’t have a little letter next to it does.)
WHAT MAKES THIS YEAR SPECIAL?
There are three answers:
The biggest change is the new Busan Cinema Centre. They began constructing this glossy behemoth back in 2008 and only finished it this September. I don’t think anyone has properly seen it yet, but I suspect it’s freakishly big. There are a lot of stats on the thing which you can look up on your own word count; basically, it’s next to Centum City both in terms of proximity and magnitude, and looks like if an alien mothership landed and was transformed into a future-themed amusement park that also showed movies.
Secondly, the festival has physically moved to the swanky eastern area of Haeundae. (You can find a map of the area here—it’s all near Centum City and the new centre.) The fest has been traditionally held in Nampo-dong’s PIFF Square, but this year, it will only host the pre-opening ceremony on Oct. 5.
Lastly, the whole thing used to be the Pusan International Film Festival. This is the first year they’re calling it “Busan”, eleven years late, and claiming it means something about moving towards the future, presumably connected with their alien-dinosaur of a theatre complex. Be a part of history!
I ONLY CARE ABOUT CELEBRITIES. TELL ME ABOUT CELEBRITIES!
Not too many big-name Hollywood folks tend to make it across the various ponds. (In fact, only a handful of American films will be screening—namely Terrence Malik’s The Tree of Life and the funky Mel Gibson one where he talks through a beaver puppet.) This year, the four featured names in Busan will be Luc Besson, of Leon the Professional and The Fifth Element fame; Isabelle Huppert, who’s appeared in The Piano Teacher and dozens of French films; Yonfan, the mono-named Hong Kong director of A Certain Romance and Colour Blossoms; and Kim Ki-Duk, the Korean filmmaker who directed 3-Iron and the deftly beautiful Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring.
YOU MAY NOW BE VAGUELY INTERESTED—SO HOW DOES ONE BUY A TICKET?
Know that a regular screening ticket price is 6,000 KRW (8,000 KRW for 3D). For context: I hail from Toronto originally, where a TIFF ticket is like 20-something dollars. Six bucks, for Christ’s sake! See a movie! See all the movies!
Starting Monday, September 26, you can purchase ticket online via credit card (theBIFF website is reasonably easy to navigate), in any of the venue theatres or at any Busan Bank ATM. Advance ticket info is available here, and you can find info on regular ticket sales here , while prices are listed here.