The largest film festival dedicated to genre films in South Korea, Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival announced the huge 289-film lineup for its 21st edition (July 13-23) on Thursday. This year’s festival includes 63 world premieres (including the short film section) and 29 international premieres.
The festival will open with the world premiere of Room No. 7 (7호실), the second feature film by director Lee Yong-sueng. The film stars Shin Ha-kyun, boy band member Do Kyung-soo and Kim Dong-young as employees of a run-down DVD viewing shop. Lee previously directed office drama 10 Minutes (10분), which was in the New Currents competition of the Busan International Film Festival in 2013. The film is produced by Myung Films and will be distributed by Lotte Entertainment later this year.
The festival’s closing film is Yuichi Fukuda’s Gintama (銀魂), based on the hugely popular manga that mixes the samurai and sci-fi genres together. The festival’s screening will be the film’s Korean premiere.
The Bucheon Choice competition section features 11 films, including Mattie Do’s Dearest Sister, Jeon Kyu-hwan’s The End (숲속의 부부) – the final work of late actor Kim Sung-min – and Giddens’ Mon Mon Mon Monsters (報告老師！怪怪怪怪物！).
The second edition of the festival’s Korean Fantastic competition includes the world premieres of Im Heung-soon’s Ryeohaeng (려행), Che Seung-chul’s Play of Hostage (인질의 극), Lim Jin-seung’s Outdoor Begins (아웃도어 비긴즈), Chang Hyun-sang’s Coffee Noir: Black Brown (커피 느와르: 블랙 브라운) and Shim Chan-yang’s mockumentary Beyond the Dark Night (어둔 밤).
This year’s special retrospectives include one devoted entirely to the works of actress Jean Do-yeon, who made her debut 20 years ago with Chang Yoon-hyun’s The Contact (접속) (which was screened in BiFan 20 years ago). The retrospective, co-sponsored by the Korean Film Archive, features 17 of Jeon’s films. The actress will attend the festival for a special seminar.
Recognizing discussions surrounding feminism happening today in South Korea, the festival will hold a retrospective called Terrible Women: Monsters and Villainess to explore the role of women in genre films. In addition to screenings of films such as Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (女囚701号/さそり), Takashi Miike’s Audition (オーディション), John Water’s Serial Mom, and Brian De Palma’s Carrie, there will also be forums about the “female monster” and the rise of female filmmakers and characters in Korean cinema.
The festival is also exploring politics with a tribute to late filmmaker Hong Ki-seon, which includes screenings of political works such as The Road Taken (선택), his contribution to human rights omnibus If You Were Me (세 번째 시선) and the world premiere of his final film The Discloser (일급기밀). One of the festival’s seminars will also examine the future of government policies for the film industry with the new liberal administration led by president Moon Jae-in and the ongoing reorganization of the Korean Film Council after it was revealed that the right-wing administration under impeached president Park Geun-hye had a blacklist that excluded outspoken figures from the cultural industry from state-funded programs.
Spanish genre icon Alex de la Iglesia will also be attending the festival for a special retrospective of his works, including his latest film The Bar and the first Korean theatrical screening of his 1991 debut short film Mirindas Asesinas.
The highlight of this year’s special screening is Bong Joon-ho’s Okja (옥자), which has sparked a heated debate in the film industry about the presence of online streaming platforms and the objection raised by local exhibitors. Bong is expected to attend the screening. There will also be the first public screening of the Korean Film Archive’s remastered print of 1981 horror thriller Suddenly in Dark Night (깊은 밤 갑자기).
While Beijing and Shanghai Film Festivals have entirely shut out South Korean films due to the ongoing feud over South Korea’s installation of the THAAD anti-missile system, BiFan is screening a number of high-profile Chinese films, including high school drama Fist & Faith (熱血高校之青禾男高), Ding Sheng’s Railroad Tigers (鐵道飛虎), and Leste Chen’s The Battle for Memories (記憶大師). It will also screen Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid (美人魚) and Soi Cheung’s The Monkey King 2 (西遊記之孫悟空三打白骨精) – both Hong Kong-China co-productions – as part of its Made in Asia industry event
The festival’s Network of Asian Fantastic Films industry program will host 16 genre projects from across Asia, including new projects by the Philippines’ Mikhail Red, Japan’s Yoshihiro Nishimura, and Malaysia’s Dain Iskander Said.