Is the Busan International Film Festival a regular event on your schedule in South Korea? Since when?
Jean-Marc Thérouanne, General Delegate, Artistic Director and co-founder of the Festival International des Cinémas d’Asie de Vesou l: It’s obvious, Martine Thérouanne, Director of the Vesoul IFF Asian Cinemas (Festival International des Cinémas d’Asie de Vesoul), has been coming since 2010, and I since 2011, i.e. for 13 years.
In 2010, Martine Thérouanne was a member of the NETPAC jury at the 15th BIFF, and this year, for the 28th BIFF, she is the president of the Jiseok jury.
2- What does your presence there entail ? Do you have any particular expectations or goals ?
JMT : Because it’s essential to be there when you run a festival like ours. The Vesoul IFF Asian Cinemas (Festival International des Cinémas d’Asie de Vesoul) is considered one of the four core festivals by the CNC, because of its specificity. In France, it is one of the twenty or so film festivals supported by the CNC on a national scale.
We’re going to Busan to fine-tune our relationships with film producers from all over Asia, from the Urals to the Pacific Ocean, and from the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean. We’re interested in all the cinematographies of the Asian continent. Asia isn’t just the Far East, it’s also the Middle East.
Busan is the Cannes of Asia, with an interesting film market that enables us to maintain contacts with Asian producers (Showbox, Fine Cut, M-Line, Lotte, iQIYI, Mandarin Vision, Nikkatsu, etc.) and Asian institutions (Film Development Council of the Philippines, Taipei Film Commission, Mongolian National Film Council, Vietnam Media Corp, KOFIC, Unijapan , HKTDC, …), with representatives of Asian festivals (International Film Festival of Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City International Film Festival, Eurasia, TIFF, QCinema, … ).
The Busan International Film Festival also provides an opportunity to meet French institutions (CNC, Institut Français, UniFrance, Alliance Française, etc.) and European producers developing Europe-Asia co-productions, such as European Film Promotion.
After meeting and having a conversation, even if it’s brief, when we reconnect to finalize projects, our human relationships feel more genuine.
We also visit Busan to connect with critics, actors, and directors. Special film screenings for different countries promote networking. This allows us to form relationships and connections, as well as assemble the various juries for upcoming editions of FICA Vesoul (International, critics, Netpac, Marc Haaz, etc.).
We also make sure to watch movies from Asian nations in the different categories.
* Gala Presentation, Icons, Wide Angle Documentary Showcase, Open Cinéma, Midnight Passion, in these five sections Asian films are mixed with non-Asian ones;
* World Cinema and Flash Forward: in these two sections, Israeli and Turkish films are mixed with all the other non-Asian films;
* and especially for sections devoted solely to Asian cinema: Jiseok; A Window on Asian Cinema; New Currents; Korean Cinema Today: Special Premiere, Panorama, Vision; Wide Angle: Korean Short Film Competition, Asian Short Film Competition, Documentary Competition; On Screen; Special Program in Focus 1: Tribute at Chow Yun Fat – Focus 2: Tribute at Korean Diasporic Cinema – Focus 3: Renaissance of Indonesian Cinema; Special Screening: Tribute at Yun Jung-hee, actress, and Ryuichi Sakamoto, composer.
The Jiseok competitive section features world or international premieres by established Asian directors.
The New Currents competitive section features the world or international premieres of young Asian talent.
These two categories are highly esteemed in the selection process for every edition of BIFF.
A Window on Asian Cinema offers a selection of the most outstanding Asian films produced in the past year.
Korean Cinema Today: Special Premiere, Panorama, Vision bring together recent Korean commercial, mainstream and independent films.
The Korean Short Film Competition, Asian Short Film Competition, and Documentary Competition are categories that showcase competitive short films and documentaries.
Screening on screen: A special program featuring Focus 1, which pays tribute to Chow Yun Fat, Focus 2, which honors Korean Diasporic Cinema, and Focus 3, which showcases the Renaissance of Indonesian Cinema. Also included in the program are Special Screenings for actress Yun Jung-hee and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, as a way of paying homage to their contributions. Each section offers a glimpse into a national film industry or theme.
This year, a tribute was paid, in his presence, to Hong Kong director and actor Chow Yun Fat, a tribute to the great French-speaking and Francophile Korean actress Yun Jung-hee (Poetry by Lee Chang-dong), who died recently, and a postmortem tribute to the immense Japanese film composer Ryuichi Sakamoto.
A retrospective on Indonesian cinema and a thematic focus on Korean filmmakers in the Diaspora were also part of the 28th BIFF.
The 28th BIFF showcased a total of 204 films.
There are a total of 134 Asian films, with 51 being Korean, 16 Japanese, 14 Indonesian, 12 Chinese and Hong Kong, 9 Indian, 3 Taiwanese and Bangladeshi, 3 Thai, and 2 each of Filipino, Sri Lankan, Mongolian, and Iranian films. The remaining countries each have one film: Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Turkish, Israeli, Malay, Burmese, Nepalese, Bhutanese, Vietnamese, Jordanian, Pakistani, Georgian, and Singaporean.
There were a total of 70 films from the four other continents, with 16 from France, 12 from the USA, 7 from Italy, 6 from England, 4 from Argentina, 3 from Poland, 3 from Germany, 3 from Canada, 2 from Belgium, 2 from Spain, 1 from Sweden, 1 from Romania, 1 from Finland, 1 from Bulgaria, 1 from Austria, 1 from Hungary, 1 from Macedonia, 1 from Denmark, 1 from Mexico, 1 from Brazil, 1 from Australia, 1 from Tunisia, and 1 from Morocco.
As the film world evolves, co-productions are becoming increasingly numerous. Jérémie Kessler, Director of European and International Affairs at the Centre National du Cinéma et de l’image animée, underlined this phenomenon in his keynote speech at the Soirée française organized by the French Embassy in Korea and UniFrance. Through co-productions, France was present in 38 films, i.e. 17% of the films selected at Busan this year. This is the measure of France’s influence through cinema. France is very attached to the plurality of cinema, so it helps filmmakers from all over the world to produce their films.
In order to fully experience the Busan Festival and make the most of the ten days, it is crucial to create a detailed schedule that includes all of the must-see film screenings and important professional meetings. This will allow you to see the maximum number of important films and meet the maximum number of people within the limited timeframe.
Having mastery over time management is crucial when implementing a successful BIFF strategy.
Busan is known for its competitive running events, similar to the character in the film “Marathon Man”!
It is crucial to control the distance between BIFF Mountain and the Double Cone. This area includes the BIFF offices, meeting spaces, BIFF Cinema Center theaters, CGV and Lotte multiplexes for screenings, BEXCO for the film market, as well as hotel lounges (Paradise, Sea Cloud, Westin Chosun, Park Hyatt, Signiel) and bar-restaurants (Peter’s Pub, Gatsby Roof Top Bar) where film events are held.
Physical stamina is put to the test in Busan.
3- How do you think the festival and its market differ from the other international festivals you’re used to attending ?
The Busan Festival is renowned for its abundant high-quality offerings. It holds the title of the largest festival in Asia.
As far as the Film Market is concerned, it’s really a concentration of Asia. It’s a chance to see the whole of Asia in a very small space. Everyone you need to contact is there. It’s also an opportunity to distribute our communications material to make ourselves known and recognized, and to collect the maximum amount of film documentation we need to prepare future editions of FICA Vesoul.
Can you recall a significant meeting or event that took place during a previous festival?
During the 16th Busan International Film Festival in 2011, we received news that Kore-eda Hirokazu would be attending. As we were preparing for our 18th Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinemas (FICA), we also planned to showcase the complete works of Kore-eda Hirokazu, who would later go on to win the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes. In order to make this tribute meaningful, we extended an invitation for him to attend the opening ceremony in Vesoul and receive an honorary Cyclo d’or. We reached out to his assistant and were granted a brief meeting during a party in the VIP lounge at the festival. During this meeting, we shared our project with Kore-eda Hirokazu, who was deeply moved by our approach. He expressed that there had never been a retrospective of his entire body of work before. As a result, he accepted our invitation to come to Vesoul.
It’s a memorable experience.
Once you’ve met the people for real, it completely changes human relationships.
On October 4, 2018, during the 23rd Busan International Film Festival, we were honored to receive the highly esteemed Korean Cinema Award in front of 4,400 festival attendees and members of the global media. This recognition was given in recognition of our dedication to showcasing and acknowledging the excellence of Korean cinema.
My wife, Martine Thérouanne, who is the director and co-founder of FICA, has received an invitation to serve as the president of the esteemed Kim Jiseok Jury at the 28th BIFF in 2023.
This recognition of your work by Busan and Korea is something that goes deep into your soul.
Over the course of 13 years in Busan, we have acquired a vast collection of unforgettable souvenirs. During our ten-day stay, we had numerous encounters – brief yet intense – with well-known figures such as Bong Jong-ho, Kore-eda Hirokazu, Wang Bing, Prasanna Vithanage, Mostafa Sarwar Farooki, Moshen Makhmalbaf, Tsai Ming-liang, Naomi Kawaze, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Brillante Mendoza, Im Sang-soo, Hong Sang-soo, Lee Chang-dong, and Im Kwon-taek. Additionally, we were fortunate to also meet Claude Lelouch, Juliette Binoche, Bertrand Bonello, Luc Besson, Isabelle Huppert, Ariane Ascaride and more. French cinema holds a strong presence in Busan and is highly adored by Koreans.
We perceive time to pass quickly and with great intensity.
What are you most anticipating at the 28th Busan International Film Festival?
I previously mentioned that the Vesoul IFF Asian Cinemas (International Festival of Asian Cinemas of Vesoul) aims to broaden its network, and the 30th edition is scheduled for February 6-13, 2024.
Interview conducted on October 14, 2023 on return from the 28th BIFF.