Jeonju wraps with awards, lectures

Over 70,000 attended nine-day festival

SEOUL--Over 70,000 tickets were sold for this year’s Jeonju International Film Festival, one of South Korea’s top three international film venues, ending Friday after a nine-day run.

With 200 films from 42 countries, the festival launched its first project market this year, mainly targeting producers and directors of small and medium-budget independent films, both domestic and international.

The top prize for “producer pitching,” an award including production grants of 5 million won ($3,800) for a producer working on a low-budget commercial film, went to “Suicide Specialist X.” The winners of “documentary pitching” went to “First Love-1989, The Memory of Sumida,” while the SJM Grant, by a local foundation, awarded 20 million won each to “Moslpo” and “So Far From the Bamboo Grove,” which will be based on a controversial memoir by a Japanese-American author Yoko Kawashawa Watkins on post-war Korea. 

Separately from the market, award winners were announced during Friday’s closing ceremony.

Sherad Anthony Sanchez’s “Imburnal” won both the Woosuk Award, the festival’s top prize worth $10,000, and the Netpac Award, given to the festival’s best Asian feature film.

Separately, the JJ Star Award was given to the most popular digital film went to Lee Seo’s “Missing Person,” a film illustrating the anguish of modern Korean society.   

“Expectations ran high for the first Jeonju Project Promotion, whose goal was to discover new producers, increase circulation of low-budget commercial films and rebuild Korean film industry,” said a jury’s comment about the producer’s pitching. “Although it’s unreasonable to rank a diverse range of experience and talent of producers, we examined the projects in terms of planning, potential for production development, pitching skills, financing plans and their future vision within the industry.”

After opening the festival with “Short! Short! Short!” made up of experimental shorts by 10 independent Korean directors, satellite events including live concerts of underground music and outdoor screenings entertained the festival’s out-of-town visitors between screenings throughout the fest.

Adding an academic touch, a group of noted film critics including French television producer and film critic Raymond Bellour and co-editor of Cineaste Richard Porton were invited for a special lecture series on contemporary issues of film criticism.

On Sunday, a special producer’s forum was held in the city's center, exploring challenges and strategies of producing low-budget feature films in Korea, followed by a talk on the future of documentary films, a topic that had drawn increasing attention here since the smash hit of an independent Korean documentary “Old Partner.”

“There’s definitely more interest among documentary directors here to explore a wider range of topics and incorporate humanity into their films as opposed to more politically-driven ‘activist’ documentaries from the country’s past,” said Goh Young-jae, the president of Studio Nurimbo who produced “Old Partner.” “The effort to question the notion of a documentary has gone fiercer compared to the past.” 

Jeonju closed with “Machan,” a film by Uberto Pasolini depicting men from a slum village of Sri Lanka creating a national handball team to get visas to Europe. Pasolini is best known as a producer of “The Full Monty.”