Most Western viewers are familiar with domestic film festivals like the New York Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, but with an exploding film market in Asia, the 19th annual Busan International Film Festival, held in Busan, South Korea, is bound to capture just as much attention as its U.S. counterparts. The festival opened last week and has seen record attendance numbers, as it showcases both an expansive market and work that reveals the tension caused by free expression in a region dominated by government control.
Beginning last Thursday and running through this Saturday, the festival will not only screen films but also host conferences including the Asian Film Market and Asian Project Market, both events that allow Western and Eastern filmmakers to mingle and discuss the possibilities of future films. Despite the heavy security and harsh government protocols in place in the Far East locale, Westerners will recognize the subjects of some of the documentaries screened here, including The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol, which sets out to detail the events surrounding the tragic sinking of the ferry back in April 2014 that resulted in the loss of 304 people, many of whom were students on a class trip. That film premiered on October 6th under heavy security and faces an uncertain future with regard to its worldwide distribution.
Americans will also recognize the subject matter of the documentary A Lullaby Under the Nuclear Sky, about the aftereffects of the leak at Fukushima following the tsunami in 2011. Along with the films being screened, there was a record attendance at the Asian Film Market, including attendance by American film companies including Arclight Films (Left Behind), Fortitude International (The End of the Tour, Daughter of God – both yet to be released), Lakeshore Entertainment (I, Frankenstein, Hot Tub Time Machine), and XYZ Films (Tusk).