The EBS International Documentary Festival will begin on Sept. 22, featuring 43 titles from 21 countries and exploring multiculturalism as a key theme, the Education Broadcast System said.
During a Thursday press conference at the Korea Press Foundation in Seoul, Jung Gyu-ho, general director of EBS' TV production division, said that this year's festival will cast a wider net.
"This year, we wanted to expand our horizons by creating an atmosphere of multiculturalism by inviting filmmakers from around the globe to participate, but, at the same time, we will remain focused on the most important aspect of the festival, which is to help popularize this medium to the public", Jung said.
The week-long festival will open with the screening of acclaimed German filmmaker Werner Herzog's, "Encounters at the End of the World". This visually stunning documentary portrays Antarctica in all of its ethereal beauty while chronicling the day-to-day lives of the 1,100-member community at the McMurdo Station.
Previous editions of the festival had focused solely on Asia. In this year's competition, however, entries from around the globe were invited to compete.
The EIDF will screen competing documentaries at two theaters: EBS Space and Art House Momo. Like previous editions of the festival, the cable network will also dedicate an eight-hour block of their channel line-up to both competing and noncompeting selections.
Also during the festival, EBS will televise past Academy Award-winning documentaries in both long and short form, along with a regional series focusing on works from and about Latin America.
There are 12 films each from different countries competing for the top prize of $10,000, and a total of 310 entries were submitted for competition, the festival's largest ever.
Five judges will determine the winner of the competition. Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Christine Choi will head the jury. Also on the panel will be Lee Choong-jik, a professor at Joongang University's film school; Antoine Coppola, Cannes Film Festival advisory board member; Ikeya Kaoru, winner of the Silver Hugo award at the 2002 Chicago Film Festival for his documentary "Enan no Musume"; and Hyeong Gun, the 2007 Chicago International Documentary Festival juror and producer.
Seong Ki-ho, the executive director of EBS, expressed his displeasure with the general lack of interest the Korean public traditionally has when it comes to documentaries.
"It's not an overstatement when I say the market for documentaries in Korea is dead", Seong said. "With the promotion of multiculturalism for this year's festival, it is my sincere hope that, with each successive festival, it will help popularize documentaries and vitalize a market that has been ignored for too long".
Seong said there is a socio-economic factor at least partly to blame for documentaries' unpopularity in Korea.
"Documentaries are a relatively new form of filmmaking in Korea because freedom of speech and expression were severely restricted before democracy was implemented", he said.
By Song Woong-ki