Busan: Documentary on Late Co-Founder Kim Ji-seok to Premiere in 2019

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Kim Ji-seok

The South Korean film festival also announced the launch of a film institute dedicated to its former head programmer and deputy director, who suddenly passed away of a heart attack last year during the Cannes Film Festival.

The Busan International Film Festival on Saturday announced plans to produce a documentary in memory of its late co-founder, Kim Ji-seok, and to launch a film institute bearing his name.

Director Kim Young Jo is set to helm the film, titled Jiseok. Production has already begun, and the helmer has been shooting footage during this year’s BIFF, including interviews with guests. He was seen recording the announcement event during the Asian Film Market at BEXCO, and asked members of the audience to stare into the camera for 30 seconds while thinking of the late Kim.

The filmmaker said he was not particularly close to the late BIFF co-founder and that he envisions the film to be one marked by hope, rather than sadness. "He was someone who allowed many obscure Asian filmmakers to follow their dreams. I see my role as one of a messenger who can help people know about such efforts," Kim Young Jo said.

Bae So Hyun is producing the project, for which domestic and overseas production will take place from November to March. The doc is slated to premiere during the 24th edition of the Busan fest in 2019.

BIFF executive director Lee Yong-kwan also announced plans to create a film institute, tentatively named the Jiseok Film Institute.

“We’ve been perusing ways to continue with commemorative projects. Producing a documentary film on the late Professor Kim Ji-seok is great, but we didn’t want it to end there. He had always dreamed of creating a film research center and we thought it would be timely for the people who survived him to realize his visions,” said Lee.

Fundraising has already begun, with major local studios and production companies pledging to financially back the initiative. Lee added that BIFF plans to open up funding opportunities to the public.

In October 2014, Busan mayor and then-fest chairman Suh Byung-soo tried to stop BIFF from screening a controversial documentary about a tragic April 2014 ferry sinking, The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol. The local film industry rose up, organizing some of the largest protests to date and even threatening to boycott the 2016 edition of the festival.

Filmmakers condemned Suh's censorship attempt, while fest organizers claimed that it suffered "political retaliation" in the form of drastic state budget cuts and unprecedented audit reviews after premiering the doc. Several founding members of the fest, including former director Lee Yong-kwan and market head Jay Jeon, were forced to resign (they were reinstated earlier this year). Kim was the only founding member left to lead the festival, and many believe that overwork and stress had contributed to his sudden death at Cannes.

Meanwhile, the new doc's filmmakers are welcoming photos and other relevant material on Kim, which can be emailed to jiseokfilm@gmail.com.