Busan Film Festival opening parties old and new at an in-person ceremony

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Oscar-winning director Bong Joon-ho was on hand to present an award to Im Kwon-taek at the Wednesday night opening ceremony of the Busan International Film Festival. The in-person event included many hallmarks of past ceremonies, but was smaller due to the reduced numbers and ongoing social distancing precautions.

Held in the huge open hall of the Busan Cinema Center, the proceedings began with a long parade of celebrities and dignitaries along an L-shaped red carpet that resembled an oversized fashion show.

Korean fashion brand Artistry’s ambassadors were the first, setting the tone for an ever-glamorous event. They were followed by selected Korean independent film directors and actors, by an obviously delighted Japanese director Hamaguchi Ryusuke and three actors from his recent movie “Drive My Car”. Among the foreign visitors was Sabrina Baracetti from the Udine Asian Film Festival in Italy. The jury of the New Currents competition made its entrance, but without its president, the Indian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, stuck in Canada.

Among the most important entries were those from stars who are currently making waves in television series. They included Kim Sang-ho, director of the Netflix series “Move to Heaven”; Jeon Yeobeen, lead actress of “Night in Paradise” and the television series “Vincenzo”, and co-star Song Joong Ki (elegant with her hair down and wearing a black gothic dress); and “My Name” actors Park Hee Soon and Han So Hee (stylish in a flirty black blazer, paired with a short black skirt and leggings). The couple were joined by supporting cast Ahn Bo Hyun, Chang Ryul and Lee Hak Joo.

Their presence was more than a front, given the ever-growing international profile of Korean television dramas – “Squid Game” and “Hometown Cha-cha-cha” are currently making global headlines – and the newly found place in the world. festival for streaming series.

The hosts of the ceremony, Song Joong Ki and Park So Dam, had warm words for those who had braved the COVID restrictions – everyone present must be fully vaccinated or tested regularly – and the cool evening weather.

Park said the festival represented a moment of solace and consolation, bringing a sense of hope in the recovery of the film industry, which has been depleted by persistent anemic box office receipts and cinema closings.

The scaled-down festival, which runs until October 15, will feature 223 films from 70 countries that will be screened this year. And Soong said there was aggressive competition for screening tickets, which he said showed strong support for the festival.

Lee Yong-jin, son of Lee Choon-yun, received the Korean Film Award which went to his late father, former president of the Korean Academy of Film Arts. The younger Lee remembered his father as a “good parent and a funny man”.

Bong and director Im Sang-soo were on stage to present the Asian Filmmaker of the Year award to Im Kwon-taek, who totaled 102 films as a director. The veteran called his wife on stage to receive a gift of flowers.

Arguably the highlight of the event was the presentation of Im Sang-soo’s film “Heaven: To The Land of Happiness”, with several actors on stage. The film had been selected for the 2020 edition of the Cannes film festival, but after its cancellation, it left Busan free to clinch the title as the first choice of the gala.

The story of two men who meet on a trip stars Choi Min Sik and Park Hae-il.

Choi told Busan, “I missed you very much.” Explaining that he did “Happiness” a year before the pandemic, Im said, “Tonight in Busan is my movie night.”


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