With the coming of spring comes another iteration of the Jeonju International Film Festival. While the scope of the Jeonju International Film Festival is quite large, on a year by year basis there’s surprisingly little change between the essentials. This is because unlike other major South Korean film festivals, there’s no sense of expansion being a priority in and of itself on a yearly basis. I spoke at length on the subject with Lee Jee-eun, the head of the media outreach team, and she made a point of emphasizing the fresh new feeling that’s supposed to come to the festival every year.
Lee Jee-eun is, admittedly, herself an example of such an attitude, having acquired her obviously temporary position here by virtue of an open interview process, having to rely on the power of her resume with past work doing marketing for such films as “Bunshinsaba”. Although marketing a festival is very much a different story. Rather than attempt to coalesce around a single theme the Jeonju International Film Festival makes it clear that any independent film, of any genre, is welcome at any year of the festival.
This explains such apparent eccentricities as special sections ranging from the written work of Song Gil-han, to films directed by Michael Winterbottom, a look back into the Soviet scripts of Aleksey German, and then into Modern Italian Cinema. The films even in these individual sections have very little to do with each other. Writers frequently inhabit a wider variety of genres than is common for other production staff, Michael Winterbottom does “normal” films as often as he does political documentaries and Modern Italian Cinema…look, Italy’s a big country. Not everything their filmmakers produce is necessarily going to have a lot in common.
Although the political angle- that is a definite theme that has been talked up a lot at the many press conferences held here. But this is less due to intentional effort than it is a sign of the times. Reliable readers of my film reviews may have noted an uptick in political content as of late and this isn’t due to discrimination on my part any more than it is the festival planners at Jeonju. Politics has been a very thorny issue as of late, and the election casts a long shadow over any subject matter.
I’ll get more in to that later when I interview director Park Moon-chil of “Blue Butterfly Effect”. Eagle-eyed viewers may recall that I interviewed Park Moon-chil at Jeonju four years ago. I got much of the same vibe from the festival back then, too, even as that was a year of controversy with “Project Cheonan Ship” dominating headlines with eerie pre-“Diving Bell” efforts at censorship and more internal rumblings questioning whether the festival was giving too much attention to more mainstream films in an attempt at gaining publicity.
I note the oddness of this demeanor because, even with large numbers of sell-out shows on Monday, the Jeonju International Film Festival did then and does now feel surprisingly quiet to me. Part of this is just a matter of the festival taking place in Jeonju, a relatively obscure (if tourist friendly) area a couple hours’ drive far to the south of Seoul. It feels somewhat discordant to me, seeing all these movie theaters in such a small area that it’s hard to imagine there can be enough business for them year-round.
Although as you can see, they go a bit farther than just watching movies. Next, Jeonju in a bit more detail.
Article by William Schwartz
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