Busan film fest hit by boycott
THE 21st Busan International Film Festival (Biff) kicks off today, with an extended row over artistic freedom and a boycott by high-profile local cineastes threatening to undermine its reputation as Asia's premier movie showcase.
This year's event will screen some 300 films from nearly 70 countries, including 66 features that will be receiving their world premieres.
The World Cinema section will include a number of top award winners from the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, including Ken Loach's Palme D'Or recipient I, Daniel Blake and It's Only The End Of The World which won the Grand Prix for director Xavier Dolan.
The main focus will, as usual, be on Asian films, with the Korean drama A Quiet Dream by Korean-Chinese director Lu Zhang opening the festival, and The Dark Wind by Iraqi director Hussein Hassan bringing down the curtain.
The prestigious annual event has been embroiled in a bitter dispute with the municipal government of the host city Busan since the screening in 2014 of a controversial documentary about the Sewol ferry disaster.
The film, Diving Bell, criticised the government's handling of the sinking in April 2014 that killed more than 300 people, mostly schoolchildren.
The screening went ahead despite the fierce opposition of the Busan city mayor, and then chairman of the festival organising committee, Suh Byung Soo.
A flurry of official probes targeting organising committee members and an unprecedented cut in state funding last year were seen as exacting political revenge on the festival's creative independence.
Four major South Korean domestic filmmakers' groups, including the Producers' Guild of Korea and the Directors' Guild of Korea (DGK), have said they will boycott this year's Biff, which runs from today to Oct 15.
The groups have hundreds of members, including the Cannes award-winning film director Park Chan Wook and Bong Joon Ho, who helmed the 2013 dystopian Hollywood sci-fi movie Snowpiercer.
Several moviemakers reportedly went so far as to reject the festival's requests to screen their movies.
The zombie blockbuster Train To Busan - a huge domestic and regional hit - will be absent from the Korean Cinema Today section after its production company rejected a screening request, Yonhap news agency said.
"We decided not to submit it because... Busan mayor Suh Byung Soo never made an apology for causing the crisis," the agency quoted an official from Red Peter Film as saying.