Dialogue: PiFan fest director Han

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This year, Han Sang-jun took over the reigns of the popular Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival -- the largest alternative and genre cinema event in Asia -- following serving as a programmer there last year. Han's background is eclectic: journalist, academic, translator, Han also served as Korean programmer at the Pusan International Film Festival from 2000 to 2002. Han talked with The Hollywood Reporter's Korea correspondent Mark Russell.
 
THR: How is it going so far?

Han: Marvelous! The weather is fantastic! (laughter) The opening night was well received and judging by online reservations, the attendance of PiFan is on its way back to the heyday of the festival. I gave complete freedom to the programmers this year and they seemed to do a great job attracting audiences.

THR: Which films have been popular so far?

Han: Oh many, but among are numerous Japanese contemporary movies such as "The Yakiniku Movie: Bulgogi," "Ghost vs Alien," and "The Matsugane Potshot Affair." Also the midnight screenings of Masters of Horror series, created by Mick Garris, was completely sold out. The French science-fiction section, including Alain Resnais's "Je t'aime Je T'aime," is in demand as well.

THR: What were the challenges that the festival faced in preparation?

Han: The biggest one was probably the time constraint. I barely had time to hire staff for programming and such, which didn't give us ample time to prepare this year.

THR: When the old festival management clashed with the city government two years ago, it led to a lot of problems between PiFan and the local film community. How has programming been this year?
 
Han: Last year there was the boycott by the local film industry, because of the scandal at PiFan the year before, so that was really hard. This year is much, much better. As time goes on, everything is getting better.
 
One difficulty we face, though, is that PiFan is different from the European fantastic film festivals. There are certain genres that people think of when they think of those fantastic festivals. But we are much broader. For example, last year we tried to get Michel Gondry's "Science of Sleep," but Gondry said that he film was not suitable for a fantastic festival. We have a more inclusive view of "fantastic" though, with a lot more family films and such.
 
THR: Are film festivals really necessary for the film industry? How is PiFan necessary?
 
Han: Asian cinema is having a boom these days, not just Korean films, but Thailand, Hong Kong, etc. In the past, Asian cinema was known for its artistic films, but these days Asia is bigger, Korea is bigger, and everyone is making commercial films in a mixture of genres. A lot of the films being made these days are too commercial for most film festivals, but they are not big enough to find a market outside of their home country easily. That's why I think fantastic film festivals are needed.
 
I would be pretty hesitant about starting yet another film market, but I think PiFan can act much like one. If we can attract distributors from around the region, we can act like an unofficial market and help Asian films around the region. This year, some Korean buyers are attending PiFan to check out films.
 
THR: I hear that you are a filmmaker yourself.
 
Han: Yes. I directed two films so far. One was called "The Outing of Professor," which is based on "Alphaville" (Jean Luc Goddard) and talked about the death of cinema. It screened at the Pusan Asia Short Film Festival. The other was "Your Name Is Argentina," which is loosely based on Emile Zola's novel "Human Beast" and screened at the Jeonju International Film Festival.
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