Kim Dong-ho, one of the most reputable names in Korean cinema, now has returned to the film festival he headed for 15 years. BIFF, which will enter its 21st year in October, ran into a major crisis last year. Now BIFF is ready to open a movie feast. Kim Dong-ho recently spoke with Chinese Film Market about how to organize a successful film festival.
Kim Dong-ho, one of the most reputable names in Korean cinema, now has returned to the film festival he headed for 15 years. BIFF, which will enter its 21st year in October, ran into a major crisis last year.
Kim founded the Busan International Film Festival in 1996. He was the festival director until 2010 and developed the festival into the premier film festival in Asia. After he retired from the festival in 2010, he became the Honorary Festival Director of BIFF. Since 24th May, 2016, Kim have been serving BIFF as its Chairman focusing mainly on resolving the conflicts between the Busan International Film Festival and Busan City.
According to the festival, Kim’s role will be to ensure that the festival goes ahead as normal this year, Oct. 6-15. His wider role may be to try to end the conflict over artistic independence that has raged between festival organizers and the city authorities.
Kim Dong-ho has been a formidable force in Korean culture for five decades. He majored in law at Seoul National University, entered government service in 1961 at what is now the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. Throughout his government career, he effectively implemented creative changes with his soft skills and charismatic leadership. In the 1970s, he set up cultural committees and established a five-year cultural development plan. He led the construction of major cultural institutes, such as the Korea Independence Hall in the 1980s. He co-led BIFF after being chosen by what is now known the Korean Film Council. After 20 years or so in the government, he tried his hand at directing and directed one short film, “Jury” (2013).
As the festival’s chief organizer, he believes BIFF is at the point where it must maintain its founding principles and integrity. And to do that, this year, it must show films, especially new films by new directors that reflect its principles and must be attended by high-profile film industry guests. Now, BIBF seemed to be ready to welcome everybody. Kim said to us, one of the highlights of this year’s Festival is the discovery of Asian films which has been consistently carried out by BIFF over many years.
CFM：Can you tell us about the preparation of the 21st Busan International Film Festival(BIFF)? What are the highlights worthy of attention in the festival this year?
A: I have been serving the Busan International Film Festival as its Chairman since 24th May, 2016, focusing mainly on resolving the conflicts between the Busan International Film Festival and Busan City, which has been going on for the last two years, to guarantee the Festival’s punctuality this year. I’ve worked towards restoring relationship between BIFF and different groups in the film industry, including making changes to the articles on BIFF’s operations. One of the highlights of this year’s Festival is the discovery of Asian films which has been consistently carried out by BIFF over many years. We try to discover new up-and-coming directors and draw attention to their films. This intention is well reflected in this year’s selection as 18 films out of 56 invited Asian films are new directors’ debut films. These are the highlights of this year’s Festival. As an opening film, A Quiet Dream by a Korean Chinese director ZHANG Lu will be screened while as a closing film, The Dark Wind by an Iraqi director Hussein HASSAN will be screened. This is another highlight of the festival this year. Not to forget the Retrospectives for late Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami who passed away on 4th July this year.
CFM: With many years’ effort, BIFF has become one of the most important film festival in Asian area, even internationally. You have made outstanding contributions to the establishment and development of BIFF. What are the unique advantages and characteristics of BIFF? How should the film festivals in Asia expand their influence in the world?
A: The main strength of BIFF is that we are discovering and supporting Asian directors. We started the New Currents section for this purpose. An exemplary case of this is a Chinese director Jia Zhangke who has won New Currents award in the 3rd BIFF and his films were first introduced to the world. Subsequently, he became one of the great directors in the world. The same goes for the great Korean directors like KIM Ki-duk and LEE Chang-dong. With the intention of finding and developing Asian directors, since the 3rdanniversary, BIFF has successfully opened the Asian Project Market to help Asian directors to receive funds for production. Moreover, in year 2005 when BIFF had its 10th anniversary, we started the Asian Film Academy to educate Asian directors. Not only that, we are doing the Asian Film Market as well as the Asian Cinema Fund to sponsor Asian directors for script development and post production of documentary films. This is the advantage and background to the success of BIFF. Hong Kong International Film Festival and Shanghai International Film Festival are also managing a project market and film market. I can see that they are successfully managing the markets.
CFM: You must attend a variety of film festivals. Which is the most impressive or your favorite film festival? 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?
A: Perhaps, I am the person who has attended the most number of film festivals in the world. Among the festivals I’ve attended, Cannes, Berlinale, and Venice are the most influential and impressive festivals. However, as the size of those festivals is rather big, it could be disadvantaging sometimes. On the other hand, small festivals like Udine Far East Film Festival in Italy and Deauville Asian Film Festival in France that have familial atmosphere are very attractive to me. They left a deep impression on me and I sincerely hope that more festivals like them would be held.
CFM: What are your comments of Chinese film at BIFF in recent years? How do you think about the development of Chinese movies in recent years? How do you see the prospects of Sino-ROK cooperation in the film industry?
A: I think the Chinese film industry’s rapid progress deserves an attention. Over the recent years, the Chinese film market has grown tremendously. Until 5,6 years ago, there were only about ten thousand screens in China. Now, the number has jumped to nearly 30 thousands and the volumes of film production, audience, and film sales have increased rapidly. I offer my congratulations for this. Since last year when President Xi Jinping visited Korea and the Korean-Chinese film co-production agreement was made, co-production between the two countries has been very active. I hope this mutual cooperation between Korea and China would be enforced and that those co-produced films would attract many audiences in both markets.
CFM: The film festival is a combination of urban development and film industry, what are the key factors of the successful cooperation between the two sides?
A: The relationship between film industry and urban development is very important. For example, in 1999, Busan Film Commission was established. In 2000, Busan started to turn into a film city with Korean Film Council and Korea Media Rating Board moved to Busan. Similarly, International Film Festival Rotterdam which has been held annually over 30 years has significantly contributed to developing the culture of Rotterdam city. In cities of China, there have been recent movements towards creating film festivals like Qingdao and Xian. I believe that film festivals would help the city develop culturally.
CFM: What do you think is the key element of the success of a film festival? There are a number of Chinese film festivals, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, etc., is there anything Chinese Film Festivals need to be improved?
A: I think the success of a film festival depends on characteristics and an identity of the festival. There are Hong Kong International Film Festival, Beijing International Film Festival, and Shanghai International Film Festival in China. Hong Kong International Film Festival is now having its 41st anniversary this year, 6th anniversary Beijing International Film Festival, and Shanghai International Film Festival is having its 19th anniversary. I believe if the festivals keep on defining their identity with quality selection of films and programs, they would successfully become one of top festivals in Asia.