Busan International Film Festival- A unique star in Asian Film Festivals

Film festival began in Europe, which has a tough root with the European nations,  is a kind of production made by western culture. It is easy to find multiple film festivals and enthusiastic audiences in western culture countries; film festivals play an indispensable role not only in the film industry but also in the diplomatic field. However, eastern Asia has an entirely different cultural background, which means the traditional film festival circuit probably cannot work efficiently in this area. Therefore, how to create a film festival which could reach specific target audiences in Asia is a complicated task for film festival committees, and this article will compare Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) and Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) to analysis what are the key elements to a successful Asian film festival.

BIFF was founded in1996 in Busan. It is a very young festival with only 23 years history consider with other Asian film festivals such as Indian International Film festival which was founded in 1952. BIFF is held in October just before TIFF, and now it has 13 program sections in total. Despite some general sections, BIFF is famous and success with some particular programs such as A Window on Asian Cinema, Korean Film Today, Korean Film Retrospective and Midnight Passion. Neves (2013) mentioned that Asian film festivals provide a unique opportunity to create Asia-Asia interactions in different fields. For instance, Chinese director Ke Guo brought his documentary about comfort women which called Twenty-Two to BIFF and joined A Window on Asian Cinema section; the film caused numerous discussion related to comfort women issues and brought different countries and their governments’ attention.

Website of BIFF

(Figure 1: The website of BIFF)

Another example is the opening film section, from the history we could know that each year’s opening films are all from East Asian countries, this gives BIFF a clear definition that BIFF is a film festival celebrated with a specific East Asia genre. As for Korean Film Today and Korean Film Retrospective, these two sections focus on the Korean domestic market and create the local film culture in Korea; BIFF also provides various opportunities to Korean filmmakers. Therefore, the Korean film industry is becoming stronger, and numerous Korean high-quality films are being shown in recent years. Midnight Passion is another special section in BIFF; it contains horror and action films, and these films will be projected during the night. This program reaches the taste of East Asian audiences, watching horror movies at night is a kind of habit for local audiences. As a result, BIFF becomes an irreplaceable film festival in East Asia; it even has more reputation and influence than other Asian film festivals.

However, TIFF shows another side of the actuality of Asian film festivals. TIFF is a member of the A-class film festivals which means it should be a famous film festival in the world, but it loses its audiences little by little. The website of TIFF looks humdrum as there are no program sections or guide on it. Moreover, local people do not have the interest to join TIFF since TIFF’s committee always change its target. Thus, how to find a suitable way for TIFF is quite essential, and probably the best way for TIFF is to learn from BIFF and creates its way on the Asian film festival market.

Website of TIFF

(Figure 2: The website of TIFF)

There are still some other Asian film festivals such as the Shanghai International Film Festival; it also plays a vital role in the Chinese and Asian film market. It is hard for film festivals to adapt to the Asian culture and market, but we can still find good ideas and have exciting experiences in the crash between film festivals and Asia.


Neves, J. (2012). Media Archipelagos: Inter-Asian Film Festivals. Discourse, 34(2-3), 230. doi:10.13110/discourse.34.2-3.0230

BIFF|4-13 October, 2018, Viewed 11 September 2018. http://www.biff.kr/eng/

31st Tokyo International Film Festival (2018), Viewed 11 September 2018.  https://2018.tiff-jp.net/en/

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