Must-See Movies at 13th Pusan Film Festival

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

The 13th Pusan (Busan) International Film Festival (PIFF) ― South Korea's most reputable and Asia's largest cinema event ― will take place in the southern port city Oct. 2-10. "The Gift to Stalin" from Kazakhstan opens the festival while "I Am Happy" by Yoon Jong-chan will wrap up the event.

This year's edition features the biggest ever lineup of 315 films from 60 countries. They will be shown across 37 screens in six venues, and to facilitate festival-goers, multiplex theaters will screen works according to theme: Korean films will mostly be shown at Primus Theater; World cinema at Lotte Cinema; and Asian films at Megabox, etc.

Still, the large selection makes choosing films not that easy, and so to ease the pain the four PIFF programmers have come up with two lists of recommended works: One for cinephiles and another for regular viewers:

For Movie Maniacs

Kim Ji-seok: "Confessional" (R. Antipuesto & J. Tarog, Philippines, 2007; A Window on Asian Cinema) ― "This film blurs the line between truth and lies. The moment the protagonist's camera captures the truth, doubts arise about morality. Filipino cinema gave birth to a truly remarkable work".

"Children of the Pyre" (Rajesh S. Jala, India, 2008; Wide Angle ― Documentary Competition) "This is a shocking documentary from India that portrays children earning their living on a funeral pyre. Seven children dig through corpses and steal personal belongings in order to support their families".

Lee Sang-yong (Korean Cinema): "The Housemaid - 1960" (Kim Ki-young, 1960; Korean Cinema Retrospective) "This embodies everything about director Kim Ki-young. Plus the quality of the visuals is topnotch. The digitally restored version co-organized by the World Cinema Foundation and Korean Film Archive will be screened, and the audience will be able to savor an excellent mise-en-scene hitherto unseen in the older print".

"Evil Spirit ; VIY" (Jinsung Park, 2008; Korean Cinema Today) ― "It's an omnibus of three shorts about witches, and boasts unique styles as well as experimental visuals and finely crafted drama that inspires horror. It is the debutant piece by `Epitaph' original work Park and is inspired by the Russian novel of the same time".

Jay Joen (World Cinema): "O'Horten" (Bent Hamer, Germany/Norway, 2007) ― "This is a beautiful piece by Horten that tells the story of an aged driver in a way that is at times like a magical storybook and other times surreal".

"Wendy and Lucy" (Kelly Reichardt, United States, 2008) ― "This can be considered the best American independent film of the year. The superb script and beautiful cinematography signals a bright future for the director".

Hong Hyo-sook (Wide Angle- Documentary, Shorts): "American Alley" (Kim Dong-yung, Korea, 2008;) ― "People call military camp-side towns `American Alley". Filipino and Russian female entertainers and grandmothers cannot leave the area even if they want to, and are forced to battle harsh reality".

"The Farmer's Song" (Yoon Dochyun, Korea, 2008) ― "It captures the daily lives of farmers in Sacheon who are battling to preserve something small. It portrays the ironic situation of farmers having to farm on asphalt-covered land".

For Ordinary Moviegoers

Kim Ji-seok (A New Window on Asian Cinema): "Cape No. 7" (T-sheng Wei, Taiwan, 2008;) ― "This is an impressive directorial debut by We, who was assistant director for Edward Yang. It portrays the ups and downs of a newly formed band and the heartbreaking story of two lovers".

"Snakes and Earrings" (Yukio Ninagawa, Japan, 2008) ― "This is a hip, young film by an elderly veteran director. This is about a shocking love triangle involving body piercing".

Lee Sang-yong (Korean Cinema Today): "Crush and Blush" (Lee Kyoung-mi, 2008) ― "This is about the high flying adventures of a young teacher's efforts to win the heart of her longtime crush, her teacher-turned-coworker".

"Let the Blue River Run" (Kang Mi-ja, 2008) ― "This is about the loves and lives of 17-year-old Korean-Chinese youths. It captures their witty dialect and candid demeanor. Such an ebullient teen drama is rare to see in an era marked by depression and desperation".

Jay Jeon: "Fetish" (Soopum Sohn, Son Soo-peom, Korea/U.S., 2008; Gala Presentation) ― "This film made headlines for starring actress Song Hye-kyo. It is a tense psychological thriller about a woman shaman who chooses to live an ordinary life".

"Stone of the Destiny" (Charles Martin Smith, U.K./Canada, 2007; Open Cinema) ― "Political romanticism, romance and the good old days! This film interprets with finesse a political theme that could otherwise have been rigid. It was inspired by the true story of Scottish university students who became symbols of their country's independence movement".

"63 Years On" (Kim Dong-won, Korea, 2008; Wide Angle-Documentary Showcase) ― "This film will inspire self-examination for those familiar with the subject of comfort women (World War II sex slaves) and enlightenments for those who are not. Women who were repeatedly raped by soldiers in Japanese military brothels spent the past 63 years in silence. This movie documents interviews with former comfort women in Korea, China, the Philippines, Netherlands, etc".

"Boy Meets Boy" (Kim-Jho Gwang-soo, Korea, 2008; Wide Angle- Shorts Showcase 1) ― "This film subtly captures the impalpable attraction between two boys, drawing out fresh sentiments".

Another recommendable film is a collection of music videos by popular directors from Taiwan, Thailand, Iran, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines. The 75-minute-long film will be screened in the Special Program Section.

In an effort to service festivalgoers, PIFF introduces a mobile service. "Mobile PIFF" will enable users to check out details about the festival and featured films, related news and events and screening schedules, etc. The service also allows users to make ticket reservations, which were hitherto limited to online ( and on-site ticket booths.

Thirty percent of tickets will be reserved for the ticket booth to service those who did not make reservations. Tickets can also be purchased in advance at theater ticket booths, nationwide GS25 convenience store ATMs and the Bank of Busan (ATM, mobile banking).

Visit (Korean and English) for more information.