By Lee Hyo-won
Director Michael Cimino and other esteemed cineastes came together as judges for the 2nd Chungmuro International Film Festival in Seoul (CHIFFS). Chungmuro, the founding ground of South Korean cinema, has turned into a cinephile's playground with some 140 films from 40 odd countries, of which 13 are competing for cash prizes in CHIFF's new competition section.
Cimino, who is best known for his Academy Award-winning film "The Deer Hunter" (1978), leads the panel of judges including Korean helmer Im Sang-soo
, producer Kim Yeong, Japanese film critic Ken Terawaki and French actress Lise Bellynck. While he has not yet viewed all of the competing films, Cimino said they were "generally of a high level". "I have a very simple definition of a good movie: a good movie makes you forget you're watching a movie", he told reporters at a press conference Monday.
Kim, who recently appeared as chair of the International Women's Film Festival in Seoul (IWFFIS), said the competition pool is diverse, and works range from artsy independent films to more commercials endeavors. Terawaki, who is known for promoting exchanges between Korean and Japanese cinema, said the movies from Russia to Thailand are a window to different corners of the world and its eclectic cultures. The colorful selection enables the festival, which was founded as a retro film event, to reflect upon current events.
The jury will award four prizes: a $30,000 grand prize; $5,000 special jury prize; $3,000 "Discovery of CHIFFS" award; and an audience's choice award for $2,000. Im, the maverick filmmaker of controversial movies like "A Good Lawyer's Wife
" (2003), and Bellynck, heroine/co-producer of Jean-Claude Brisseau's "The Exterminating Angels" (2006), agreed that it is important to focus on a filmmaker's potential, as cash awards can benefit those who make films under tough conditions.
"The festival is only in its second year. Some may criticize the incorporation of a competition, but there are many wonderful out-of-competition sections. CHIFFS is still in its early development and is trying to attract the general public, and a competition is a means of doing so", said Im.
Cimino expressed concern about the "distorted" role of film festivals in general. "Now, unfortunately, festivals have become consumed with prizes, and too many film festivals measure the quality of what they see against the general quality of Western (Hollywood and European) movies… It would be healthier if festivals returned to their original intentions", he said. Film festivals should expose rare-to-see independent movies and encourage experimentation, risk-taking and even test outlandish ideas, he said.
Cimino gave some advise for the future growth of CHIFFS, which is still in its infancy. He suggested bringing movies from the Middle East and the Americas so it is truly international as opposed to regional. Terawaki pointed out the selection's lack of gender diversity, as most of the films were told from the male point of view. To this, Cimino disagreed, saying that a heroine can play a more important role than the male protagonist, as in Heo Jin-ho
The festival runs through Thursday in the Chungmuro and Myeongdong area, central Seoul. For more information visit Open the link