Korea's Jeonju Fest to Open With Asian Premiere of Vincent Cassel Drama 'Partisan'

Courtesy of Sundance International Film Festival

The event's expanded lineup features 200 films from 47 countries, but organizers were disappointed that no submissions concerned the highly politicized 2014 ferry disaster.

The 2015 Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) will kick off on April 30 in the South Korean city of Jeonju. This year's event, its 16th edition, will open with the Asian premiere of Ariel Kleiman's Partisan. The gritty Vincent Cassel-starring drama, which bowed in Sundance, is among an expanded lineup of 200 films from 47 countries.

One of Asia's top indie film events, JIFF isn't new to showcasing controversial works, with previous festivals screening the likes of Project Cheonan Ship, about the sinking of a local navy ship for which North Korea was blamed, and Mizo, which made headlines after being virtually banned by the Korea Media Rating Board. Organizers thus regretted that none of the submitted films this year focused on the traumatic 2014 Sewol ferry disaster.

"Had there been films about the Sewol ferry disaster, we would have been glad to even create a special section for it. Unfortunately, there were no such submitted films," said Kim Young-jin, JIFF's head programmer.

Last October, the Busan International Film Festival premiered a highly contested documentary on the tragedy, The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol. While the film attracted attention far and wide, including from Michael Moore, it has become associated with recent rifts and conflicts in the local industry.

Fest-goers, however, can expect to see several new changes at this year's edition.

The notable increase in the number of films, roughly 20 more than last year, can be attributed to the availability of more screens. The newly open CGV Jeonju Hyoja theater will serve as the festival's main venue.

The fest's signature Jeonju Digital Project, which awards money to three screened projects, has been rebranded as Jeonju Cinema Project.

"We began the program inviting top filmmakers to create digital works when the medium was still a novelty. But 'digital' has become outdated, and so we have removed the word. We will continue to push forth its adventurous spirit, however," said festival director Ko Suk-man.

Another shift sees the project now invite emerging filmmakers to develop feature-length works, whereas past editions had seen established directors like Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Jia Zhangke and Bong Joon-Ho create shorts.

"We wanted to place more value on unearthing [new filmmakers] and help create a viable model that would be meaningful to the [local indie film] market," said Kim.

As part of this year's Cinema Project, Argentine director Benjamin Naishtat, grand prize-winner of 2014's international competition, will present El Movimiento, while local filmmakers Lee Hyun-jung and Kim Hee-jeong, also JIFF veterans, will offer Samnye and Snow Paths, respectively.