The 19th edition of Jeonju International Film Festival took place from 3rd – 12th May 2018.
Jeonju is a city in the south-west of Korea. For most guests, it is a four-hour bus ride from Incheon International Airport in Seoul, and is located between the more famous cities of Seoul and Busan. Jeonju has a population of about 650,000 and it is well known as a historical centre for Korean culture. The Korean food in Jeonju is especially good - Koreans generally say that the best Bibimbap comes from Jeonju.
The official slogan for this year’s festival was ‘Outlet for Cinematic Expression’.
Films and Facilities
There were several major improvements this year compared to earlier editions:
Firstly, the ‘Jeonju Dome’, a newly constructed giant tent used in the previous edition of the festival, has now been upgraded with a better screening and sound system, more air conditioners and better ventilation. The Jeonju Dome was used for the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as for concerts and other festival related activities. It is located along the festival’s famous ‘Cinema Street’, a long stretch of road dedicated to the film festival’s activities, including some of the main screening venues, CGV and Megabox theatre chains, the festival lounge and numerous shopping and eating districts. The Cinema Street is decorated with banners, posters, pop-up stalls, lights, photo booths, all related to Jeonju IFF. This funnelling of activities into a single street ensures that at all times both passers-by and guests imbibe the festive mood of this warm and exciting event.
Secondly, the festival witnessed an all-round growth: last year, 80 guests were invited to the festival, this year that number increased to 130; likewise, compared to the 223 films shown last year, this year the number rose to 245; also, the number of screenings increased from 530 to 580.
It was a disappointment to see that out of the 245 films, only one film came from South East Asia - Lav Diaz’s Season of the Devil. For a festival that calls itself ‘International’ this is certainly an oversight. Sadly, when I spoke with a Korean journalist about this issue, she mistakenly thought that Taiwan was a South East Asian country.
One other notable fact was that out of the 12 prizes given at the festival, seven were won by women directors - this, despite an overwhelming majority of the competition directors being male. Is this a reflection of the change brought about by the #metoo movement of the past year and the Hollywood industry pushing for gender equality? Or merely a timely coincidence? Whatever the reason, it is certainly a welcome trend.
Kim Inseon’s film Adulthood won the NETPAC Award “for balancing a multi-faceted story in a sophisticated way. Part drama, comedy, satire, at times romantic, even thrilling, always twisting expectations every step of the way. This debut film announces the arrival of an important voice in filmmaking.”
While many film festivals around the world struggle with lack of funding and falling attendance, Jeonju International Film Festival appears to be growing steadily both in size and reputation. Yet, there is room for improvement. The near-complete lack of representation of South East Asian cinema, especially at a time when South East Asia is throbbing with vibrant films, is a gross oversight that needs to be corrected. Nevertheless, Jeonju IFF is still a pleasant festival to be a part of, because of the city’s energy, its delicious Korean cuisine, its historic culture, numerous youthful volunteers and the unforgettable Cinema Street, conveniently linking all these elements together into a delightful whole.
Report by - Kan Lume, Singapore ( Jury CHairperson) Edited by - Latika Padgaonkar