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In Jeonju, springtime is for movie-lovers

Once a year hundreds of foreigners from around the world flock to the picturesque city of Jeonju, in Jeollabuk province, where one of Korea’s top festivals is held. Praised for both its audience record and its organization, the 7th Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) is set to take off next week for a 9-day run. Beginning April 27th, over 190 films from 42 countries will be presented to the general public. Both Koreans and expats, seeking a reprieve from the smog and bustle of the capital, will trek south to enjoy the fresh air, sunny cobbled streets, and Jeonju’s famed traditional cuisine, while taking in some of the most diverse and progressive cinema on the planet.

The opening night film will be Berlin Silver Bear Winner Offside by top Iranian director Jafar PANAHI, whose works have stirred up controversy among Iran’s conservative elite. Known best for his acclaimed feature from 2000, The Circle, PANAHI’s films display a profound social conscience and deal particularly with the plight of Iranian women.

The JIFF Main Program offers two competitive sections called ‘Indie Vision’ and ‘Digital Spectrum’. Indie Vision will present debut films or second features that represent the true spirit and vision of independent filmmaking. A Woosuk University award of US$10 000 will be awarded by an international jury to the film that corresponds most with the festival’s slogan, ‘Freedom, Independence, and Communication.’

This year, Jonathan Rosenbaum, film critic for the Chicago Reader and author of several books on film, has been invited to sit on the Indie Vision jury. Japanese indie-director NAGASAKI Shunichi and Korean actress and director PANG Eun-jin of Princess Aurora will also be jury members. The Indie Vision program will feature films from Canada, Russia, India, Europe, Argentina and Japan.

Digital Spectrum will present innovative short and feature films from around the world that were made in the digital medium by both new and established directors. This year’s selection will include Heavenly Path a new film by Korean director KIM Eung-soo (Desire, Way to Go, Rose ) about a man’s mysterious disappearance and another man’s search for him. On the Digital Spectrum Jury will be media artist Harun Farocki of Germany, film professor and author Nicole Brenez, and Korean art critic and professor, SUNG Wan-kyung.

The Cinemascape section will showcase films by masters and prominent new directors. Shorts and feature films by directors as diverse as Japanese cult and horror masters TSUKAMOTO Shinya and KUROSAWA Kyoshi, French director Philippe Garrel, avant-garde London-based artists The Brothers Quay, and the world’s oldest active director, 97 year-old Manoel De Oliveira, will be included here. There will also be a special focus on documentaries dealing with strikes and labor movements worldwide.

There will be no shortage of locally made films. Korean Cinema Showcase will present mainstream and limited release features such as SONG Il-gon’s Magicians, PANG Eun-jin’s Princess Aurora and JUNG Ji-woo’s Blossom Again. Korean Shorts: Critics Week will present Korean Shorts selected by JIFF critics for their inventive merit, and Korean Cinema on the Move will highlight independently produced Korean features. This is one of the few opportunities for frustrated foreigners who love Korean movies to get to see them with English subtitles.

Indian filmmaker, Ritwik Ghatak, who is largely unknown in Korea, will receive a special retrospective of his work. A section called Discovery: Allegories of Resistence, will spotlight forbidden films from the Soviet Union circa the 1960’s and ‘70’s, including Ardrei Tarkovsky’s masterpiece Andrei Rublev (1966).

For all you weekend nightowls, the ever popular section, Midnight Obsession is back, and will this year present the early horror films of Canadian director David Cronenberg, along with recent dark and unsettling features from around the world. These three-movie sets start at 12am and play until just before dawn for the low price of 10 000 won.

The family-focused Outdoor Screening section will feature commercial Korean films and several foreign films including Roman Polanski’s Oliver Twist. And for all you aspiring actors, the 7th JIFF will hold an Actor’s Masterclass with Korean star CHOI Min-shik of Old Boy and legendary Japanese actor TAKENAKA Naoto to deliver lectures and answer questions. With Korea-Japan as a theme this year, the JIFF closing film will be Don’t Look Back, a Korean-Japanese co-production and the feature debut by director KIM Young-nam.

The festival is two and a half hours south of Seoul and easily accessible by bus from Seoul’s Express Bus Terminal in Gangnam. All films will have English subtitles unless otherwise noted. More information is available from the festival’s English website at

By Nigel D’Sa

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