Korean festival rebuilds from the ground up

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SEOUL – From July 12 to 20, South Korea's popular Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival hopes to rebuild itself from scratch this year, say organizers wishing to put behind them conflicts with the local government that resulted in a complete turnover in leadership two years ago.

 "It is true we have faced many problems," says Han Sang-jun, festival director of PiFan, an event that features lots of genre films but typically is more inclusive than its European counterparts. "The more I worked at PiFan, the more I saw the festival's potential."

 Han noted how PiFan's location in Puchon put the festival close to Korea's capital city, to draw on local resources, and close to the Incheon International Airport, making it easier to attract international guests.

With the waning of the Asia's two leading fantasitic film festivals, in Tokyo and Yubari, Japan, PiFan – in its family film-friendly suburban environment--is poised to recapture its past peak attendance of around 70,000 guests.
But more than just a good time for film fans, Han argues that PiFan is important for the film industry, too.

"Asian cinema was known for its artistic films in the past, but these days, Asian films are bigger and more commercial, a mix of genres," Han says. "They are too commercial for most film festivals, but they need help gaining exposure in other countries."

Which is where Han envisions PiFan coming in. Although he is dubious about the need to create any more official film markets in Asia, he does want to provide a place where distributors can come and see new ideas and options from around the region.

Many of the major film festivals in Korea are now around a decade old and have begun to sacrifice youthful energy for the cloak of establishment, but Han thinks PiFan can avoid such fatigue.

"PiFan already had its low point," he says. "It's time for us to start going up again."
The festival will feature 124 features and 91 shorts from 33 countries, including special programs on French science fiction classics, the giant robot anime of Nagai Go, cult directors Herman Yau and Hiroki Ryuichi.

Retrospectives will feature American B-movie maker Monte Hellman, Italian horror by Dario Argento, the fantasy films of Richard Fleischer and the 1960s Korean comedies by Lee Bong-rae.
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