When you think of Busan, what kind of things come into your head? I think you might answer with a professional baseball team, Haeundae Beach, or Jagalchi Market. Usually, when we recall Busan, we are reminded of a resort city where we can enjoy several leisure facilities and fresh seafood. However, when summer passes into autumn, Busan transforms into a city of film. Banners informing people about the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) hang on every street and sculptures are installed on several buildings. Also, huge Haeundae Beach turns into a village for the film festival called BIFF Village. For these reasons, nearly 250,000 people from all over the world gather in Busan to enjoy this festival. This year was the 16th BIFF, which is now considered as one of the top seven film festivals in the world.
Before we talk about BIFF specifically, I will talk about international film festivals in general because some readers may not know much about them. When most people think about international film festivals, at first they may recall the top three film festivals: the Berlin International Film Festival, the Venice International Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival. These festivals are called official film festivals and they have a lot of history and tradition, so many actors and directors want to participate in these festivals at least once in their careers. But these festivals are more of an award ceremony than a real festival, so the public is limited in terms of actively participating in these international film festivals.
On the other hand, BIFF is an unofficial film festival, so not only actors and directors but the audience as well can enjoy and actively participate in this festival. Despite many people visiting Busan during the festival, festival officials do not mind because BIFF has already prepared the proper infrastructure and foundations. Moreover, BIFF now has a permanent movie house, called the Busan Cinema Center (BCC), where the audience has optimum space when watching movies. In the past, Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) and the Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF) were representative film festivals in Asia, but nowadays, thanks to these upgrades, BIFF has proudly landed this position. Of course, BIFF was not built in a day. What is BIFF’s charming point that allowed it to attract so many people in Busan? Let us check it out!
Why Are Many People Crazy About BIFF?
Have you ever wondered about the meaning of a particular film scene when you were watching a movie? Or have you ever wondered about the story behind a movie? At BIFF, you can find out answers to these questions. After their movie is shown, BIFF holds a kind of press conference called Guest Visit (GV) where the audience can talk with actors and directors from the movie and receive very detailed responses to their questions. These programs derive high satisfaction from the audience and this is why peole prefer BIFF than other film festivals.
In addition, at the film festival, the audience can preview several movies before they are released in the theater so they can enjoy movies from their favorite actor or director earlier than most people. For example, Always (O-jik Geudaeman) was the opening film this year and Guzaarish (Cheong-won) and A Reason to Live (O-neul) were also showing at BIFF. In the multiplex cinemas, we are limited in our selection of movies. However, at the film festival, we can choose from a variety of genres from several different countries so it is one of the factors that people go crazy about BIFF.
Fantastic Attractions and Food in Busan
Busan is in the spotlight not only for operating BIFF but also for several attractions and popular foods. Pork soup with rice (Dwae-ji Kukbab) and wheat noodles (Mil-myeon) are especially famous foods in Busan, so both Koreans and foreigners wait their turns in long lines to eat these popular dishes. Also, Haeundae Beach, a popular vacation destination, changes its appearance during BIFF and is called BIFF Village. So during the daytime, several actors and directors introduce and promote their movie on the main stage. Several TV and radio programs related to movies also record shows with a live audience. Through events like these, fans can meet several actors and directors freely. When night comes at BIFF Village, many people sing and dance with each other and take in the wonderful night views of Busan. Busan has the advantage of being an ocean city so it is easy to enjoy fresh seafood.
BIFF has become a famous international film festival, but it still leaves much to be desired. At night, lots of garbage ends up on the streets. Also, there were many operational mistakes in the new building. For example, a scuffle broke out between foreigners during a screening and some movies were cancelled because of audio problems. These problems must be solved by the next BIFF. Regardless, despite its short history, BIFF now stands as one of the leading film festivals in Asia and all over the world. Therefore, many people believe BIFF can easily solve these problems and expect a better overall execution next year. I expect BIFF to remain a festival in which fans, actors and directors can enjoy together, now and forever.