By Nigel D'Sa
The 9th Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) is nearing, and an impressive line-up of films has been announced for this year's event.
Set in its picturesque namesake city in Jeollabuk-do (province), JIFF runs May 1-9, bringing together innovative and independent films and filmmakers from around the world.
This year's program boasts a record total of 169 films with opening night going to Manda Kunitoshi's The Kiss in its International Premiere.
Japanese writer-turned-director Manda has already gained notice and won prizes at Cannes for his previous films, making this latest work highly anticipated.
JIFF's curtain-closer will be the Korean omnibus film "If You Were Me 4", produced by the National Human Rights Commission.
Each film in the series has a human rights issue as its theme with past concerns ranging from discrimination to forced surgery and bringing together a group of talented directors.
This year's project features five shorts on the theme of contemporary Korean youth and the stress of education and growing up.
The participating directors were Bang Eun-jin
"), Kim Tae-yong
("Family Ties" - "The Birth of a Family
"), Lee Hyeon-seung
"), Jeon Gye-soo
("The Ghost Theater
") and Yoon Seong-ho
("Milky Way Liberation Front
JIFF has renamed its 'Indie Vision' section the 'International Competition' section, raising its profile and adding a second-best film prize, the 'Daum Special Jury Prize' worth $7,000 alongside its existing first prize, the Woosuk Award worth $10,000.
The jury this year consists of one of Korea's top directors Bong Joon-ho
), actress Eom Ji-won
("Tale of Cinema
"), Iranian director Abolfazi Jalili, author and critic Chris Fujiwara, and Turkish culture writer Defne Gürsoy.
Ten Korean features will have their World Premiere with one of the highlights being documentary director Kim Dong-won
's latest, 63 Years On, about the 'comfort women' enslaved by the Japanese military in stations across Asia during WW2.
The film provides an historical investigation along with interviews with victims still living in Korea, China, and the Philippines. Kim is best known for his 2003 film "Repatriation", which raised the documentary genre to commercial prominence in Korea.
In the Korean Cinema on the Move section, ten new independent features mostly by debut directors will be showcased. Among the most interesting is "Synching Blue" by Seo Won-tae, a director whose short films have garnered praise for their visual arrangements. This high-definition (HD) feature is about a man who seeks comfort in adult web sites but is unable to function in a relationship with a real woman.
"Children of God"" by director Lee Seung-jun is a documentary about the coexistence of life and death along a holy river in Nepal where people go to cremate their loved ones. "My Dear Diary" by debut directing duo Kim Baek-jun and Jung Seong-wook examines the ups and downs of a woman in her late 20's, as she seeks love in the beautiful and bumpy city of Busan. Another Busan-set film, "House of Freshness" is a fiction deceptively presented as a documentary that centers around a family running a sashimi restaurant.
In the Korean Cinema Showcase section, director Kim Eung-su
("Desire") returns with his latest, a documentary titled The Past is a Strange Country, about the lives, 20 years later, of radical students who protested in the 1986 pro-democracy riots. "Epitaph"
, a well-crafted horror film by the Jung Brothers will screen along with Hong Sang-soo
's latest, "Night and Day"
, the first HD film from the acclaimed auteur, shot mainly in Paris and presented in competition at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year.
In the HD Cinema: Special Screening section is the world premiere of Hong Hyun-gi
's "Thirsty, Thirsty
", the tale of a meddlesome loan-collector with a heart of gold who is unable to make his quotas and even has a loan collector pressing down on him. Despite harsh realities and dog-eat-dog conduct, the film portrays its characters in a sympathetic light. Korean Shorts: Critic's Week will present 19 highly regarded short films by young directors in the past year, while the Jeonju Local Cinema section will screen four shorts made in and around the city.
A number of Korean family-oriented features will show on the free outdoor screen at JIFF, including director Kim Hyeon-sik's "Scout"
, about a college baseball team and set in Gwangju just days before the tragic events of May 18, 1980; "Going by the Book
", Ra Hee-chan
's comedy-caper about a befuddled police officer; "Forever the Moment
", a true tale of the victory of the Korean women's handball team at the 2004 Athens Olympics; and "The Happy Life"
, director Lee Joon-ik
's rock-redemption movie about a group of dissatisfied family men in their 40's who rediscover their passion for playing rock 'n' roll.
The latest films by world class directors include Rolf De Heer's Dr. Plonk, John Sayles' Honeydripper, Alexander Sokurov's Alexander, Francis Ford Coppola's Youth Without Youth, Wakamatsu Koji's United Red Army, Raul Ruiz's La Recta Provincia, Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg, and Manoel de Oliveira's Christopher Columbus: The Enigma.
Highlights this year include a retrospective on Hungarian master, Béla Tarr along with his latest film The Man From London. The Stranger Than Cinema section will focus on New German Cinema 'godfather' Alexander Kluge and the Jeonju Digital Project 2008 with screen works by three prominent African directors. The Discovery section will provide an exploration of Vietnamese and Central Asian cinema with many of the most outstanding works in the last 25 years gathered together.
The notorious Midnight Obsession section will present gruesome horrors by three top directors. George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead, his latest in the zombie franchise he created will screen along with Bug by veteran director William Friedkin (who turned heads with his classic horror The Exorcist) and the comic-horror The Cottage by UK director Paul Andrew Williams.
A screenwriter's Masterclass featuring Korean writer-director Kong Soo-chang
", "The Guard Post
") and Chinese writer Lu Wei (Tuyu's Marriage, To Live) will be offered to those keen to learn more about the art of the screenplay. More information on the festival can be found at JIFF's official website: Open the link
or by calling (063)-288-5433.