By Lee Hyo-won
Every summer, Bucheon, the small city sandwiched between Seoul and Incheon, turns into Asia's ultimate paradise for fantastic cinema. From July 18 to 27, the 12th Puchon (Bucheon) International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) invites 205 fantasy flicks from 35 countries. Film buffs, get ready to taste the brilliance ― and eerie, fascinating shadows ― of the human imagination.
PiFan will "Waltz with Bashir" for its opening ceremony. The sensitive autobiographical animation by Israelian director Ari Folman appeared at Cannes in May. Sci-fi romance "Cyborg She
", a Korea-Japan co-production by "My Sassy Girl
" helmsman kwak Jae-Yong
, will wrap up the festival.
The main program, Puchon Choice, lists 12 titles including Na Hong-jin
's hit thriller "The Chaser"
and "Blair Witch Project" director Daniel Myrick's "The Objective". "Death Bell"
by Director Chang
, a high school horror story about a bloody college entrance exam, makes its world premiere.
World Fantastic Cinema will feature 30 of the latest fantastic pieces from zombie stories to harrowing crime thrillers. The festival also launches two new sections. Strange Homage will show six films by master filmmakers including Kim Ki-young
's 1960 black and white thriller "The Housemaid - 1960
" and the Korean premiere of Tom Kalin's critically acclaimed "Savage Grace". The Off the Fantastic section showcases 20 wacky selections.
Special programs include, among others, Fanta Masters: Gregg Araki devoted to the American indie filmmaker; Chills from the Cold Land: Contemporary Russian Genre Films for the scoop on Russian films; and the Grindhouse Revisited featuring B-rate gore flicks.
A highlight of PiFan is its new pan-Asia film project market and industry showcase of genre cinema, NAFF (Network of Asian Fantastic Films).
Festivalgoers should not miss master classes and lectures by cineastes. Ryoo Seung-wan
and Kim Tae-jeong will give talks about the influence of Hong Kong action films on Korean cinema 2 p.m., July 19 at CGV Bucheon. Asian masters will give lessons on stunt and action directing July 19-22 at Gyeonggi Art Hall, Gyeonggi Art High School. Films used as reference include the raw action Thai flick "Ongbak" and "Shaolin Girls" from Japan.
CGV Bucheon will host the screenings. Tickets cost 4,000 won (morning screenings), 5,000 won (general and Fantastic Platform films) and 10,000 won (opening and closing ceremonies and midnight screenings). Outdoor screenings are free. Tickets can be reserved at www.pifan.com or www.ticketlink.co.kr or at the box office.
Of the 205 titles, festival programmer Park Jin-hyeong recommends the following films from their respective sections.
"Let the Right One In" (Sweden, 2008, Korean premiere): Twelve-year-old Oscar suffers from other children's mean pranks and ostracism. One day after a bizarre, horrendous set of events, a mysterious girl appears before him. He soon realizes that she is a vampire but his yearning for friendship is stronger than his fear.
"Rule Number One" (Hong Kong/Singaore, 2008, Korean premiere): In this movie, the victims are none other than armed police. In an obscure city, veteran officers must face bloodthirsty slaughterers and zombies.
World Fantastic Cinema
"Om Shanti Om" (India, 2007, Korean premiere): A 2007 Indian box office smash, "Om Shanti Om" is set in 1970s India. Om, an aspiring actor, is murdered but is reincarnated in the present day as a movie star. He attempts to trace the cause of his death in his past life and take revenge. This will be a chance to meet Bollywood's hottest star Shahrukh Khana onscreen.
"Shadow Spirit" (Japan, 2007, Asian premiere): The masterpiece among Natsuhiko Kyogoku's novels comes to screen. In post World War II Japan, the investigation of mangled corpses take on a new, grotesque dimension. The superb mise en scene and star-studded casting do wonders to the original novel.
"Savage Grace" (Spain/France/U.S., 2007, Korean premiere): This dramatization of the shocking Barbara Daly Baekeland murder case is ridden with provocative issues such as matricide and incest. Director Tom Kalin, a champion of New Queer Cinema, brings a graceful mise en scene that is heightened by Julianne Moore's hypnotizing acting.
Off the Fantastic
"Love Songs" (France, 2007, Korean premiere): Ismael, his girlfriend Julie and their "Friend"
Alice are young, free-spirited Parisians. But one day, Alice dies in an accident and grief-stricken Ismael unexpectedly falls for someone else. The esteemed director of "My Mother" explores his limitless imagination through fantastic musical scenes.
"Dream Team" (Thailand, 2008, Asian premiere): One learns the value of friendship and the ideals of life through sports. This is typical of most sports dramas. However, when the protagonists are preschoolers, and the game is tug-of-wars, everything changes. This is a touching, adorable story about children learning ways of the world and their parents. Let's go dream team!