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The 15th Pusan International Film Festival was held from October 7-15 in Busan. Though a bit short on funds (I blame Chuseok), I managed to put some money aside since I decided long ago that I wasn’t going to miss it. And I’m so glad that I didn’t!

Outdoor Venue

At 3am, my friends and I took the slow train (even though I said ‘never again’) because it goes straight to Haeundae. Busan Station is pretty far from the PIFF venues so we decided it’d be better to do it this way. We got to Haeundae Station right before 6am and we took the subway to Centum City. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to buy tickets in advance, so we had to show up early to wait in line.  Luckily, they reserve 20% of tickets for sales the day of. There was already a line in front of the ticket booths even though they weren’t going to open until 8:30am.

 

The line for the ticket booth at 7am

We were only able to buy tickets for movies playing at Centum City, so I decided to buy 4 tickets since I wouldn’t have the chance to go to other venues. So that meant 4 films!

 

Ticket booth

One of my friend’s friends also bought us tickets to the outdoor movie playing at the Yachting Club, so that brought my film count to 5. Each film was between 2-2.5 hours so I watched around 12 hours of films on Saturday. I hadn’t slept much the night before (3am train ugh) so by the end of the night my eyes were bloodshot. I also got up early the next morning to watch one more film. I was delirious by the end of it but it was still worth it!

Here are my thoughts about the films that I watched:

  • Udaan, Vikramaditya Motwane (India)
    This film is about a boy, Rohan, who reluctantly returns home after getting kicked out of boarding school. His domineering father has no interest in his son’s happiness and orders him to give up his dreams of becoming a writer to pursue an engineering degree. Rohan wants to break free from his unfulfilling life, but his sense of  responsibility to his younger brother keeps him at home. Udaan is a beautifully told coming of age story that made me feel like I was at Rohan’s side cheering him on. My only criticism for the film is the lack of any significant female presence; though, I recognize that the story focuses on Rohan’s struggle for independence.
  • Bleak Night, YUN Sung-hyun (Korea)
    This film left an impression on me. At first, it was difficult to understand what was happening because the film jumps right into the story and swiftly transitions between the past and present. My mind kept jumping to conclusions while I was trying to piece everything together. The film begins with a father trying to shed light on his son’s mysterious death. He visits the school to talk to some of his son’s classmates, but they all seem reluctant to talk about their dead friend. The film shows bits and pieces of the past through different characters’ points of view, but the circumstances surrounding the main character’s death are still unclear. The true story gradually unfolds in the last few moments. I expected this film to be a thriller for some reason, so I felt that the pacing was a bit slow at times. But overall, it was a well-told story and the acting was impeccable. I left the film with a heavy feeling thinking about the troubled relationships and the haunting isolation the main character hid from the world.
  • Blood Ties, Kim Homer Cabagio Garcia (Philippines)
    This film begins with a funeral and closes with another as it follows one family’s struggle to cope with the traumatizing events. The film engages different themes such as social class, violence, and corruption, but the underlying theme of family emerges with the message that ‘family is everything.’ I will write more about this film in a later post.
    Here’s an interview I had with Kim Homer Garcia, the director of Blood Ties.
  • Here Comes the Bride, Chris Martinez (Philippines)
    A highly entertaining romantic comedy about a bride who experiences an unfortunate turn of events on her wedding day. Lots of famous stars were in this big budget film produced by Star Cinema, such as Angelica Panganiban, John Lapus, Jaime Fabregas, and Tuesday Vargas. And the guy who played her fiancé was hot (had to say it).  The film was screened on Saturday night at a large outdoor venue. I was surprised to see so many people watching a Pilipino comedy because when I was growing up, these movies were only available as VHS rentals at the local Pilipino video store. I really enjoyed this film and recommend it to fans of Pilipino movies or anyone interested in seeing a light-hearted comedy.
  • Zoom Hunting, CHO Li (Taiwan)
    I really liked this one! Zoom Hunting shows the consequences of spying when it’s taken too far. One day while snapping pictures on the balcony, photographer, Ruyi, accidentally captures a couple making love in one of her photos. She tells her older sister, writer Ruxing, about her discovery and the two become engrossed in the couple’s secret affair. The sisters spy on the couple to inspire their work, but they must navigate the uneasy balance between creative expression and ethical conduct when their curious act of spying takes a dangerous turn. The film explores the techniques of gaze and perspective from the female point of view by putting the women (as photographer and writer) in control of the narrative.
  • Chassis, Adolfo Alix Jr.(Philippines)
    This film was amazing. I read the synopsis and expected it to primarily be a critique on poverty, but the film goes beyond socioeconomic issues to tell the story of a woman’s transitory yet unchangeable life in the delivery docks. I’ll write a separate post on this film later.
    Go to Vimeo to watch the trailer

Three films from the Philippines? Trust me, I wanted to see them all. I wanted to watch Ways of the Sea but I ended up watching Udaan instead because they didn’t have seats for 4.

Going to PIFF was a great experience. I love films and I’m so glad I was able to attend a film festival in Korea. I totally recommend it to anyone who will be here next year!

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