Busan: Director Bong Joon Ho Condemns Chairman's Wish to Cancel Documentary Premiere

The South Korean filmmaker supports Busan fest's right to show a controversial film

Bong Joon Ho is no stranger to protests, with revolution being the central theme of his critically acclaimed film Snowpiercer — and the South Korean filmmaker has objected to the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) chairman’s take on a controversial documentary.

The 19th edition of the South Korean event that opened Thursday has been making headlines for including The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol (aka Diving Bell) in its lineup. Co-directed by journalist Lee Sang-ho and filmmaker Ahn Hae-ryong, the film documents the failed, highly politicized rescue mission of Sewol Ferry, which resulted in 304 dead or missing.

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BIFF chairman and Busan mayor Seo Byung-soo wished to respect the wishes of victims’ families, who have hand-delivered a letter objecting to the film’s premiere at BIFF. Local filmmakers have protested against Seo potentially affecting the festival programming.

“In my personal opinion, I don’t think the Busan mayor had any ill intentions. The Busan festival is almost 20 years old, and this is his first year [as chairman], so I don’t think he was very aware of how an event like this is programmed and run,” said Bong.

The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol will premiere as scheduled on Oct. 6 in the festival’s Wide Angle Documentary Showcase section.

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While Bong endorses the artistic freedom of BIFF, he is also among some 1,000 cineastes who are protesting on behalf of the ferry disaster victims and their families. Esteemed filmmakers, actors, producers and writers have come together to join in a nationwide movement calling for a full inquiry into the accident, which remains under investigation amid accusations of incompetence and a cover-up.

The filmmakers’ coalition is slated to hold petitioning events and other campaigns throughout the festival, which continues through Oct. 11 in the southern coastal city of Busan.