By Lee Hyo-won
The 12th Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival, the only one of its kind in Korea, wrapped up Sunday after five days of festivity. Cartoon and animation buffs were able to mingle with world premier artists and take part in other fun events.
This year's edition invited, among others, Italian animator Bruno Bozzeto. His animations were screened at Lotte Cinema-Konkuk while a special section in the cartoon exhibition hall at SETEC showed his creative process, step-by-step.
At the exhibition, visitors were also able to see a retrospective of the past 99 years of Korean cartoon history, which began with Lee Do-young's newspaper comic strip in 1909. Art students from universities such as Hongik, Mokwon, Sangmyung, and Kyungmin, among others occupied various booths to showcase their talent. One of the most popular events were their on-the-spot caricatures for 1,000 won.
Nevertheless, quality animations were visible during the festival. "Tokyo Marble Chocolate" (Japan) by Naoyoshi Shitani won the grand prize for feature film. Under the professional short film section, "The Pearce Sisters" (United Kingdom) grabbed grand prize while, "Red Rabbit" (Germany) won the top award for short films by students.
In the TV & commissioned film section, "Ernst in Autumn" (Germany) and "The Horror `She is the New Thing' " (the United Kingdom) received special distinctions while "Leon in Wintertime" (France, Canada) and "Last Time in Clerkenwell" (the United States) got jury special prizes.
In our digital age, and with Korea being one of the most wired nations on the planet, opening an online event was a smart move. In the Internet animation competition, held through popular networks like Cyworld, "Their Circumstances" (Korea, the United States) by Ahn Ji-Hyun Won
Cyworld Special Distinction and "The Charming but Lonely Plantman" (Korea) by Kim Mi-young won Netizen Choice.
French Comic-Inspired Movie
, the critically acclaimed director of "Memories of Murder
" (2003) and "The Host"
(2006) ― among the highest grossing films in South Korean cinema ― announced Saturday at a press meeting his plans to direct a film adaptation of the French comic, "Le Transperceneige" ("Snowpiercer
The futuristic ice age story is slated for release in 2011, and a South Korean sci-fi writer is currently drafting the screenplay. Bong's good friend and fellow director Park Chan-wook
, winner of the Cannes grand prix for "Old Boy"
in 2004, will produce the movie. Bong himself took part in a joint film project, "TOKYO!
", with directors Michel Gondry
and Leos Carax
, which debuted in Cannes earlier this month.
The director said he came across the comic book a few years ago at a comic bookstore he frequented near Hong-ik University in Seoul. The story is set on a train called Le Transperceneige, which is the last refuge for the few survivors of a post-apocalyptic world devastated by war and glaciations. The train loops in circles through endless fields of snow and ice.
"I was completely mesmerized by the train. I believe everyone has a fantasy about trains giving off chugs and puffs, and landscapes viewed from the window", said Bong.
Also present at the roundtable were Jean-Marc Rochette, illustrator of the comic; and storywriter Benjamin Legrand, who succeeded the original author, Jacques Lob, after his death in 1990.
Legrand, a Paris-based screenwriter for film and TV, said he met Bong for the first time in 2006 at the world premier of "The Host"
at Cannes, where he was one of the judges for the film.
"I had seen his movies before he made a proposal to us. I liked his films very much, I was so surprised and excited to hear from the very person", Legrand said.
Bong admitted that although he is excited and confident, he said "It's going to be tough work. I need to use a lot of visual and special effects. There is a lot to prepare".
He had trouble with the visuals for "The Host"
, and "Le Transperceneige" ("Snowpiercer
") will be more spectacular. "But the spectacle is not what I really want to show. The mood and sentiment you can feel inside the train, the desperateness. The exterior should be only groundwork to show all that", he said.
Rochette, who, according to Bong has a style that mixes Western watercolor paintings with Eastern ink painting, gave Bong his vote of confidence, saying, "I believe director Bong has great capability to make his own creative world. I believe he can depict the picture of the world (in the `Le Transperceneige' ("Snowpiercer
")) even better than I did".
"While having drinks last night, the three of us came up with a list of Korean, French and English-speaking actors, arguing with each other who should get on `The Train of the Snow Land', " Bong laughed.
"What I have in mind is to mix up multinational features", he said, explaining how he would like to reach a global audience. "The story will have a tone similar to (the Biblical account of) Noah's Ark. I might cast Korean actors, English-speaking actors, and Japanese, Chinese or other Asian actors. I am not pursuing a multinational co-production or a movie with `multinational' written all over it", he said.
Overall, SICAF's good mix of both experimental and commercial works drew enthusiastic support and involvement by cartoon and animation fans, students and professionals. While there were a good number of family visitors over the weekend, however, the general participation rate was mediocre considering the international scale of SICAF.
Lim Chae-sung, one of the helpful volunteers for the festival, said while it was physically demanding but overall a great experience to work at the event. However, he expressed regret that despite the fact that SICAF is Korea's one and only animation festival, the participation rate was quite low.
Also, the fact that the animation screenings and cartoon exhibitions were held separately was an inconvenience. While there were free shuttle buses between the two venues, it demanded extra time and effort for festival-goers.
Organizers said in a previous press conference that they hope to involve the general public more and seek a venue where animations and cartoons can be appreciated in one place. Next year marks the 100th anniversary of Korea's first cartoon, and it is hoped that SICAF's creative content will reach out to a wider audience.