Asia’s most renowned film festival took over the South Korean seaside city of Busan for 10 days jam-packed days last month.
It wasn’t just the close to 300 different films featured within Busan International Film Festival that had the city bustling, with a surprise visit from both the legendary Quentin Tarantino and an unexpected typhoon.
One of our film programmers was lucky enough to be there to experience it all (broken umbrellas included). Here she shares some of her personal highlights from the event.
This would have to be Korean blockbuster Snowpiercer, from director Bong Joon-ho, who made a name for himself internationally with the monster film The Host in 2006. Snowpiercer is a sci-fi action thriller based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, and set in a dystopian future where a failed global warming experiment has plunged the world into a second ice age that has killed off most life on earth. The only survivors live on a long train powered by a perpetual motion engine that continually circumnavigates the globe. The train is divided into a rigid class system, and the overcrowded underclass in the back carriage plot a bloody revolution to move through the train and take control of the engine. Mostly in English and starring an international cast including Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris, the film was nonetheless a wholly Korean financed film. And despite being the most expensive Korean film ever made at around $40 million, it achieves the kind of impressive CGI visuals and action set-pieces that would have cost a lot more in the Hollywood studio system. What made the film a particular highlight was that I had to battle a typhoon to get to and from the screening and ended up back at my hotel completely drenched.
Irrfan Khan was notable for strong performances in two films showing at the festival – The Lunchbox and Qissa. He’s been working solidly in both Indian and international cinema for decades, but came to greater prominence with his starring role last year in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. In Qissa, he plays the tragic patriarch of a family who are forced to leave their homeland following Indian partition in the late 1940s. In the very moving The Lunchbox he stars as a lonely widower on the verge of retirement. Over the course of the film, he forms a tender connection with an unhappy housewife via a daily exchange of notes after the lunchbox meant for her husband is wrongly delivered to him. Despite being very different characters, in both roles he delivers a quiet power and stillness in his performance, that is both rare and utterly magnetic.
Not so much favourite, but rather the most interesting and compelling director in my opinion, would have to go to the prolific Quebecois Xavier Dolan. At the mere age of 24, he had his fourth feature film Tom at the Farm show at the festival following it’s Venice debut in September. Equally revered and maligned, his signature stylistic flourishes were pared back in this tale of Stockholm syndrome, signalling a maturing of his filmmaking – he has firmly marked himself as an auteur to watch.
FILM YOU CAN’T STOP TALKING ABOUT
Ida. Who would have guessed that a black and white Polish film about an 18-year-old novice nun could be the film getting the biggest buzz on the festival circuit right now? Pawel Palikowski’s (My Summer of Love) film about a young woman’s heartbreaking journey of discovery in post WWII Poland is exquisitely beautiful and quietly devastating.