Busan International Film Festival to Show Films from 70 Countries

BUSAN, South Korea, October 6 (UPI) – The 26th Busan International Film Festival opened on Wednesday with a full list of events and in-person screenings, a striking change from last year, when it was held almost entirely online due of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asia’s largest international film festival, which runs from October 6 to 15, kicked off with opening ceremonies that took place in the open-air theater of the Busan Cinema Center, located in the heart of the second most large city of South Korea.

More than 1,000 guests attended the gala, hosted by Song Joong-ki, star of the recent Netflix hit Vincenzo, and Park So-dam, who starred in the 2019 Oscar-winning film Parasite.

After last year’s scaled-down affair, in which no opening and closing ceremonies were held, the glamor made a comeback as stars such as Han So-hee and Yoo Ah -in walked the red carpet and director Bong Joon-ho waved to the cheering crowd.

A limited number of international filmmakers, actors and industry professionals are also making the trip to Busan this year.

French filmmaker Leos Carax will arrive with his film Anette, which opened the Cannes Film Festival this year, while Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi will screen two films: Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, winner of the Silver Bear Prize at the Berlin Film Festival and Drive my car awarded for best screenplay in Cannes.

Carax will host a master class at the festival and Hamaguchi will participate in a discussion session with Bong Joon-ho on Thursday.

In total, the film festival will screen 223 films from 70 countries in several cinemas around Busan, a significant expansion from last year’s online festival.

Virus control measures will limit seating to 50% of capacity, and all festival attendees must be fully vaccinated or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

The opening film of the festival on Wednesday was Heaven: in the land of happiness, a road movie from director Im Sang-soo that stars veteran stars Choi Min-sik and Park Hae-il. The film was originally scheduled to premiere at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, which was canceled due to the pandemic.

In addition to the screenings, a full program of offline events will take place over the 10-day festival, including director talks and live interview sessions with key South Korean actors.

A new section titled “On Screen” is dedicated to series on streaming platforms, coming in a year that has seen South Korea rise to the top of the global market with hits such as Netflix Squid game.

Episodes of Hell, through Train to Busan director Yeon Sang-ho and My name by Kim Jin-min will screen ahead of their release on Netflix, while the Thai supernatural thriller Prohibited will preview before it arrives on HBO Asia.

The festival takes place as South Korea prepares to enter a new phase of relaxed social distancing as early as next month. The country is still grappling with a fourth wave of infections caused by the highly contagious Delta variant, but vaccination rates have increased rapidly in recent weeks.

As of Wednesday, 77.5% of the population received at least one injection of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 54.5% are fully vaccinated.

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