BIFAN: Maintaining Its Role As Asia’s Best Fantastic Film Festival
-Interview for Mr. Yongbae, Festival Director of BIFAN

CFM: Would you like to introduce the preparation of the 21st BIFAN? What are the highlights worthy of attention at the festival this year?

Yongbae: This is my second year heading BIFAN since being appointed Festival Director last year. Similar to last year, we’ll be showing 300 or so films from approximately 50 different countries, and we’re planning on developing facets and programs that were new ventures for us last year during the 20th BIFAN.

First, to stay true to our slogan of being ‘A Film Festival Noted for Its Films’, we formed a more solid organization of programmers. With the aim of becoming ‘A Film Festival Created by Cineastes’, film director CHUNG Jiyoung was appointed as Chairman of Organizing Committee last year, and actress CHANG Mihee was selected to take the position of Vice Chairman this year. We have also drastically increased the budget for our film industry program, B.I.G (BIFAN Industry Gathering).

We’re also preparing special exhibitions featuring Korean actress JEON Do-yeon, who won an award for best actress at the 2007 Cannes film Festival, and a master in the world of fantastic films, Spanish film director Alex DE LA IGLESIA.

With three months to go before the opening of this year’s festivities, we have unveiled the official poster for the 21st BIFAN. The poster features a three-dimensional and lively character that was inspired by the ‘Cell of Fantasy’ symbol that was rebranded for the 20th BIFAN. The newly created character embodies BIFAN’s theme of Love, Fantasy and Adventure, and we’re hoping that it imparts the energy and spirit of this year’s festival.


CFM: How about the events in this years’ B.I.G? Are there any highlights this year?

Yongbae: B.I.G is devoted to fulfilling its role as the bridge that connects domestic and foreign filmmakers.

It was launched last year to expand and strengthen BIFAN’s industry program by adding three sections to the existing NAFF (Network of Asian Fantastic Films) program. Made in Asia, Korea Now, and New Media are the sections that have been added.

I would like to introduce the breakthroughs that have been made by two of the programs. Made in Asia is the first Asian film industry program in the world to examine the film industry trends in Asia. After inviting and screening the top three box office films from ten Asian countries in 2016, Made in Asia will be adding the top films from India to the mix to screen the top films from a total of eleven Asian countries this year. The producers of the screened films will also be invited to add a networking element to the program. New Media delves into and exhibits the newest cinematic technological advances of the 21st century, and invites experts in the field to discuss the future of movie technology. This year, the New Media program is planning on introducing the continuously evolving world of VR contents.


CFM: Now there are many film festivals in the world, what do you think will be the trend for the future development of the film festival? How can you balance internationalization with the tastes of the local audience?

Yongbae: The most important and unchanging role of our film festival is to discover and introduce new waves of films while maintaining our specialty and individuality as a genre film festival. At BIFAN, we try to maintain a balance with our programming by having the Forbidden Zone and World Fantastic Red sections for our loyal genre film fanatics, and the World Fantastic Blue and Family Zone sections for our audiences looking for family-centric films.

We also have a newly established domestic competition section called Korean Fantastic, which was created for us to be able to actively discover superior quality Korean genre films. Our objective is to introduce new Korean films to our visitors from foreign genre film festivals and the film industry. We’re also planning on expanding opportunities for such films to enter the overseas market.


CFMWhat kind of Chinese films do you prefer to introduce to Korean movie fans?  

Yongbae: The Chinese films that are known to Korean audiences include films made by directors of the Fifth Generation group including ZHANG Yimou and CHEN Kaige. Artistic underground films from directors like JIA Zhangke, and WANG Xiaoshuai are also well known. Korean audiences are also quite familiar with movies from China Taiwan and Hong Kong. Chinese genre, action, and comedy films, which have undergone enormous changes and developments within the past few years, have not been introduced enough in Korea. Through our Best of Asia section last year, BIFAN screened and introduced MONSTER HUNT, LOST IN HONG KONG, and MOJIN: THE LOST LEGEND. This year, we will be showing THE MERMAID, The MONKEY KING THE LEGEND BEGINS, and OPERATION MEKONG. We also intend on inviting new films such as CHEN Kaige’s LEGEND DEMON CAT, Panpan ZHANG’s THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM, Leste CHEN’s BATTLE OF MEMORIES, XU Jing lei’s THE MISSING, and WANG Bao Qiang’s BUDDIES IN INDIA. As a film festival that shows genres with a strong personality, we at BIFAN have a vision of becoming a more attractive platform for the advancement of the Chinese fantastic film industry.


CFMKorean films have won the great reputation in the world in recent years, in your mind, what is the biggest challenge for Korean films?

Yongbae: A total of five Korean films including new titles from directors HONG Sang soo and Joon-ho BONG, and titles participating in the main competition section, have been invited to be screened at this year’s 70th Cannes Film Festival. I believe this is hopeful evidence that Korean films are still alive.

From the years between 1998 and 2007, when support and protective polices for Korean films were operating effectively, the industry experienced advancements in terms of quality and quantity. That ten year period was responsible for the growth of directors such as HONG Sang soo, Joon-ho BONG, PARK Chan Wook, LEE Changdong, KIM Ki-Duk, and KIM Jee-woon. Over the span of ten years from that point until now, governmental support for domestic films have nearly come to a complete halt, resulting in the underperformance of Korean films. Although there have been outstanding films and filmmakers over these past ten years, they don’t quite measure up to the previous ten years.

Maintaining a competitive domestic film industry within the worldwide film industry in which Hollywood takes the lead, is a dilemma for most filmmakers. Can a quality film that can compete with a Hollywood film be made on a small budget? Can we survive in the box office when domestic audiences have become used to well made movies? If the government can once again provide adequate support and enact protective polices for the domestic film industry, I believe that along with the talent of domestic filmmakers, Korean films can rediscover their vigor.


CFM: What do you think is the key element of the success of a film festival? How could the Asian films to extend their influence in the international film markets?

Yongbae: We’re currently providing a space for discussions to be held about the future of Asian films by inviting producers and directors, through the aforementioned Best of Asia program that was launched last year. In the future, I believe the Best of Asia program will take on the role of being a showcase for Asian films to be introduced to the world.

By cooperating closely with the SITGES International Fantastic Film Festival, Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film, and Ventana Del Sur’s Blood Window of Latin America, BIFAN is maintaining its role as Asia’s best fantastic film festival. For the second year in a row, BIFAN will be acting as host of Cannes Film Market’s Fantastic Fanatics Mixer. The official event, which is co-hosted by four genre film festivals, allows for the expansion of international networking between fantastic film festivals.

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