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“I am pleased to see that a considerable number of young female filmmakers are emerging and imposing themselves”

Industry Report: Europe and the Rest of the World

Pak Dosin • Senior programmer, Busan International Film Festival


The senior programmer explains the status of non-Asian movies at South Korea's biggest film festival and shares the gathering’s goals

Pak Dosin  • Senior programmer, Busan International Film Festival
(© Busan International Film Festival)

On the occasion of this year's Busan International Film Festival (BIFF, 4-13 October), Pak Dosin shared the gathering’s goals when it comes to non-Asian films. Pak is a senior programmer at the BIFF and, in particular, is in charge of selecting films from English-speaking countries. He also handles selection duties for the Midnight Passion section, dedicated to genre films.  

Cineuropa: Has the share of non-Asian films in the programme of the festival changed over the years?
Pak Dosin: Since the beginning, non-Asian films have made up about half of the film selection. Already when the festival was founded in 1996, it was important to have the opportunity to show these movies to the local public. By this time, it was very difficult for the Korean audience to have access to these works. This has changed a little throughout the years and thanks to the internet, but still, it is very difficult to get to see independent productions. Most of the films are only available at the festival. So far, the share of non-Asian films has made up around half of the total festival programme, and I think it will most probably stay like that. Non-Asian films are more popular with our audience than Asian movies, except for Korean ones.

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How important are non-Asian guests to the festival?
When it comes to the talents, we try to invite as many as possible, as long as it fits within our budget. For talents from the USA, it's difficult. We are not very competitive, but we like to have guests that will be present for the Q&As. The audience responds very well to it.

How do you select the non-Asian films?
There are several methods: films can be submitted, but we also look for them actively. This means we visit festivals abroad and often get private screenings. I might watch up to 600 films a year and select around 30.

What are you looking for when it comes to non-Asian and European movies?
Our focus is on discovering new Asian talents. As for the non-Asian talents, we leave the discovery to others. In this section, the main aim is to offer a showcase of works and talents to the audience. We have several sections in the programme to do so: one is the World Cinema strand, where festival awardees are shown; another is Icons, where works by well-known talents can be seen; and finally, there’s Flash Forward, destined for upcoming filmmakers. We tried to use this section as a platform for non-Asian newcomers that we would look into ourselves, but it didn't work out very well. At this level, we are not competitive enough.

What do you think of the latest developments in European cinema?
I am pleased to see that a considerable number of young female filmmakers are emerging and imposing themselves, especially since 2015. Moreover, the films are of a very high quality. I am happy to see that the funding of independent films in Europe is doing well. I can see how well Telefilm Canada is doing, too. In Korea, it's rather difficult at the moment. With the boom in series production through Netflix and others, a lot of resources are going into that. Everyone wants to work for them. This means that independent cinemas lack qualified staff.

How do you evaluate the importance of Busan as a marketplace for non-Asian films?
The focus is clearly on Asian films and talents. Since then, we have implemented our market and are constantly developing it. We have had more and more visits from professionals from Europe as well as the foreign press since then. But since 2014 and the political conflicts around the festival, this has changed rapidly. In the last three to four years, we have been recovering slowly. For European films, we are not a powerful enough marketplace for now. We focus on showcasing European talents, though. And to do so, we collaborate, for example, with European Film Promotion, which has been present in Busan virtually since the beginning – for 25 years now.

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