The Crisis of Busan International Film Festival

The Busan International Film Festival is one of the most significant film festivals in Asia, which held annual in Haeundae-gu, Busan. The mission of the BIFF is introducing new films and first-time directors, especially those from Asian countries. However, the BIFF has undergone the crisis since 2014, because it had struggled with political issues over the past few years. Fortunately, in 2018, after the reinstatement of the heads of the festival, organizations that boycotted the festival have been retracted.


What is happening for the BIFF in 2014?The BIFF crisis began with the documentary The Truth Shall Not Sink with Sewol. This movie talks about a tragic accident in which more than 300 people, mostly high school students, lost their lives but it also reveals the corruption of the Korean government. Therefore, the Busan government banned this movie, but the Festival organization insisted on release this movie under tremendous pressure. While the film’s inclusion did not initially cause much fuss, by the time the festival opened, both screenings of the film had sold out and there was a great deal of attention being paid to it by both the media and the public. However, the BIFF also suffered a blow for this action. Many reporting had “condemned” the political interference in the festival’s affairs. According to this issue, many people asked what a film festival should be? The mayor demanded that the festival cancel the screening of the documentary, which means censorship and political interference loomed. Should the film festival relate to political aspect? should a film festival be virtuous?  Would it necessarily be a bad thing to see the emergence of festivals that are more independent of government and commercial funders, operating on a smaller scale, with a strong commitment to cinema as a participant in local public culture?


As an audience, I hope to see that BIFF can cast off the politics that has overshadowed the influential event. And I believe that the 2018 BIFF will be a good start. Just like the founder Kim Dong-Ho said ‘The annual festival, which has long championed independent Asian cinema, is determined to “preserve its identity” despite being embroiled in the high drama of its own for the past three years’. In my opinion, apart from a good movie has gorgeous visuals, the more it should have a profound ideological. A good film festival should too. A good film festival should choose the good movie that reflects the reality of society, to help or to improve or to solve the social public problems. In addition, what the film festival should be. Kim(2015) proposes that the film festival is still in development. Not only BIFF but many other film festivals also face the big challenge and undergo the transformation. Time will tell.


Kim, D, lordanova, D, & Berry, C 2015, ‘The Busan International Film Festival in Crisis or, What Should a Film Festival Be?’, Film Quarterly, 69, 1, pp. 80-89

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