Busan Fest to Help Distribute, Sell Closing Film 'The Dinner'

The South Korean festival’s organizers say the decision to close with Kim Dong-hyun’s micro-budget film reflects their determination to support local indie cinema.

BUSAN — The Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) wraps up its 18th edition on Oct. 12 with Kim Dong-hyun’s The Dinner, which the South Korean event plans to further support by handling distribution and overseas sales. No Korean independent film has ever opened or closed BIFF, and the choice reflects the festival’s determination to support the growing local indie film sector, organizers say.

"Choosing a film as an opener or closer implies that the festival will assume responsibility for its distribution and overseas sales," BIFF festival director Lee Yong-kwan told the press Thursday.

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"When I first saw The Dinner I had no idea Kim Dong-hyun had directed it, nor that it was an incubating project at the 2011 Asian Cinema Fund. I was just happy to come across such a well-made film," he said, referring the festival’s funding initiative. “I did, however, want to show an indie film as an opener/closer one day. This year a record number of indie films were made in Korea, but the indie industry is still struggling. Over 100 indie titles were made, but I wonder how many of these will actually be released in theaters. This is where the Busan International Film Festival will step in."

Kim said his film’s selection as BIFF’s closer means a lot to the local indie industry. "It is a great honor that my film was selected to close the festival. I think it holds great symbolic meaning -- my film was chosen not so much because it was a great piece but because the festival is paying attention and supporting the indie/arthouse scene. As much as mainstream Korean cinema is flourishing, there are also a lot of talented indie/arthouse filmmakers out there."

He went on to say he does not have box-office expectations for his film, which was made with a miniscule budget of $92,877 (100 million won). "It would be great to be distributed in a lot of theaters, but I don’t have any expectations because breaking even would mean very little for such a tiny budget. But considering that [the record-breaking Korean indie film] Old Partner began with just seven theaters -- not that I dare compare my work to this film -- I really believe in the power of the script more than anything else to bring in audiences."

The Dinner is the third feature by Kim, whose 2005 film A Shark was previously invited to BIFF. It is a stark drama about the tragic downfall of a normal middle-class Korean family as its members are beset by divorce, unemployment, and ill health among other misfortunes.