The recently held 16th edition of the Busan International Film Festival attracted a total of 196,177 viewers during its nine-day run. This surpassed the overall audienceship records of the past years – 182,046 in 2010 and 173,516 in 2009. Held 6 to 14 October 2011, the festival screened a total number of 307 films. Of these titles, 45 were international premieres and 86, world premieres (works previously debuting in their home countries).
“We were only targeting around 280 titles this year,” claims festival programmer Ms. Cho Young-Jung, “but there were just too many good films going around.”
The move to streamline the number of offerings came about as a reaction to comments from festival regulars -mostly programmers, market participants, film journalists and other cineastes- a couple of years back. Most felt that the BIFF, then PIFF (Pusan International Film Festival), was getting a bit “too big”.
“There are just too many things going on,” quipped Russell Edwards, Variety Magazine correspondent from Australia.
From a total of 245 films from 63 countries in 2006, the number of titles mushroomed into a record of 355 Films from 70 countries (with a total of 803 screenings!) in 2009.
Aside from the Opening and Closing screenings –Song Il-Gon’s Always (Korea) and Harada Masato’s Chronicle of My Mother, respectively- the 16th BIFF boasts of eleven film sections: “Gala Presentations” unveiling the latest works of acknowledged film masters; “A Window on Asian Cinema”, a competition module presenting snapshots of the Asian experience through 49 entries from 16 countries; the all-premiere screenings of the “New Currents” exhibition; “Korean Cinema Today”, with two subsections, “Panorama” and the more experimental “Visions”; “Korean Cinema Retrospectives”, with a tribute to maverick director Kim Kee-duk and the premiere of the restored version of Kim Soo-yong’s 1963 classic Kinship; “World Cinema”, featuring diverse masterworks from all over the globe; a comprehensive selection of short films entitled “Wide Angle”; outdoor “Open Cinema” screenings of 7 films from 5 countries; “Flash Forward” featuring avant-garde pieces; five “Special Programs in Focus”, including retrospectives on China’s Yonfan and his controversial works, new Portuguese auteurs, Asian Westerns, Australian cinema, and other special screenings; and the more adult fare of the “Midnight Passion” module.
The works were projected on 36 screens at five theater venues –four at the Centum City Complex (Busan Cinema Center, CGV Cinema, LOTTE Cinema, and the Community Media Center) and one at Haeundae’s MEGABOX. All in all that makes a total of 235,907 seats. With 196,177 seats accounted for (sold or complimentary), that translates to 83% of maximum potential realized, audience-wise.
A total of 11,268 guests were invited to the 16th BIFF –with 2,440 from the press media. Also, 6,470 of the guests were locals (Koreans), with the rest from all over the world.
This year’s Asian Film Market also boasts of significant gains over its first six editions. With their move to the newly-opened BEXCO (Busan Exhibition Convention Center), the four-day AFM attracted a total of 1,080 badge holders representing 585 countries from 42 countries –a 38% increase compared to last year’s attendance. Also, the market posted a remarkable 113% increase of exhibition booths set-up –that’s 109 booths from 28 countries, compared to last year’s fifty-one. Market screenings also saw a rise from last year’s 39 to 60 films from 11 countries. Online screenings also saw a significant boost from the previous year’s 186 to 258 this time around.
Aside from the screenings, a flurry of other activities awaited each BIFF visitor. This time around special events included four “My Life, My Cinema” Master Classes (with France’s Isabelle Huppert and Luc Besson, Japan’s Kore-Eda Hirokazu, and China’s Yonfan); four traditional Hand Printing ceremonies (with Huppert, Besson, Yonfan, and Kim Kee-duk); a photo exhibition entitled “Isabelle Huppert: A Woman of Many Faces”; two “Cinema Talk Beyond Cinema”, a treat for film historians (with guests Philip Jablon and Tony Rayns); five “Open Talks” where fans can meet/greet festival celebrities on-site in Haeundae Beach, like Takeshi Kaneshiro promoting the film Wu Xie; eleven casual “Outdoor Greeting Events”; for more topical discussions, thirteen “Meet the Guest: Talk to Talks” under the Big Roof at the brand new Busan Cinema Center; six “Seminars at the BIFF Academy” –with topics ranging from Asian Westerns, to new Portuguese Cinema, to 3D Film Production; thirteen teams of “Cinema Together”; 290 Guest Visits for screenings with directors and film personnel in attendance; 13 major press conferences; and 165 individual interviews with noted film guests.
Numbers-wise, this year’s edition of the Busan International Film Center can be called an unqualified success. Next time around, let’s talk about its content –the heart of any festival, the films featured. (Photographs by the author)
About the contributor
Ed Delos Santos Cabagnot is the Editor-in-Chief of film.culture360.net and a regular guest of the Busan International Film Festival. This 16th BIFF, he presented a paper entitled “St. FPJ of the Golden Gun, Save Our Souls!” as a part of the Special Focus on Asian Westerns.