South Korea’s Bucheon Fantastic Fest to Open With Cannes Title 'Captain Fantastic'

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
'Captain Fantastic'

The 20th edition of Asia’s largest genre film festival has been revamped with an expanded lineup of 302 films from 49 countries.

The Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BiFan) will fete its 20th anniversary with its biggest lineup ever, including everything from Asian zombie animations to David Bowie documentaries and an expanded industry showcase spotlighting China among key neighboring markets.

Asia's largest genre cinema event will kick off with the American family drama Captain Fantastic on July 21 in the South Korean city of Bucheon. The second feature by actor-filmmaker Matt Ross, Captain Fantastic took home the best director award in the Un Certain Regard section of this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film stars Viggo Mortensen as a man raising six kids alone in the deep woods of the Pacific Northwest who feels torn about returning to the city. The fest will run through July 31, wrapping with South Korean filmmaker Yeon Sang-ho’s latest animated feature Seoul Station¸ which is the prequel to the Cannes title Train to Busan.

This year’s record lineup — with the number of tiles up 67 from last year — features a total of 302 films from 49 countries spanning across East to West. Fans can look forward to a special David Bowie tribute and French cinema showcase in time for the 130th anniversary of Korea-France bilateral relations as well as iconic Asian gems. Festival-goers will in particular be able to watch top box-office hits from 10 key Asian markets including China and Hong Kong as well as South Asian territories including Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. The industry side of these Asian territories, moreover, will be introduced through various programs in BiFan’s signature industry NAFF (Network of Asian Fantastic Films), which will open July 25-28.

Malaysia, moreover, will receive spotlight through NAFF’s Project Spotlight, the annual pitching program that introduces a different country. Other events will introduce the rise of the Korean film industry and K-pop stars, as well as discourse on freedom of expression in Korean film industry—the latter being a most relevant topic given recent conflicts between Korean filmmakers and authorities.

"Genre films have over the years become mainstream in Korean cinema," said Bifan general manager Jay J. Kim. "We are interested in reflecting this along with what is going on in neighboring Asian markets. For example, animated features always top the Japanese box office while comedies tend to perform strongly in Indonesia."

In addition to introducing the latest regional works, BiFan will also look back to its past 20 years through the special showcase, 20 Years, 20 Favorites. The section features Western modern classics such as American Psycho, Amelie and Velvet Goldmine to Asian gems including The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, The Chaser and Samurai Fiction.

Moving forward, this year’s fest is expected to take on a different character under the leadership of two new incoming heads, Choi Yongbae, the star producer behind such iconic works as Bong Joon Ho's The Host, as fest director, and Chung Ji-young, the iconic filmmaker behind such politicized works as Unbowed and National Security, as chairman.  "I hope BiFan will be a film festival remembered first and foremost by the films it shows. We also have two new programmers specializing in Chinese and Southeast Asian films, respectively, so fans won’t be disappointed with this year’s lineup," said Choi. 

Special guests this year include Cannes deputy director Christian Jeune and producer Garrick Dion, who was behind the multiple Oscar-winning film Whiplash, as well as Korean maverick filmmaker Na Hong Jin, who made a splash at this year’s Cannes with his box-office hit The Wailing (a.k.a. Gokseong).