The 23rd Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN, June 27-July 7, 2019) took place in a special year that marks the centennial anniversary of Korean Cinema. Recognized as a major international showcase for genre films, BIFAN showcased 284 films from 49 countries (166 features and 118 shorts) in its 23rd edition. They included 64 World Premieres, 38 International Premieres and 79 Asian Premieres. Korean superstar Jung Woo-sung attended BIFAN 23's star-studded opening ceremony on June 27 at the Bucheon Gynmasium, where the festival's new director (and veteran film producer) Shin Chul declared BIFAN's determination to take part in the advancement of the next 100 years of Korean cinema. The opening event was broadcast live nationally for the first time via the national television network SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System), and was followed by the screening of BIFAN 23's opening film The Gasoline Thief, a Mexico-Spain-USA-UK co-production directed by Edgar Nito.
In addition to the carefully curated programs including ‘Bucheon Choice,’ ‘Korean Fantastic’, ‘World Fantastic Red’, ‘World Fantastic Blue’, ‘Forbidden Zone’ and ‘Family Zone’ sections, BIFAN 23 also presented several retrospectives and specialty screenings such as the ‘Robots: Future Beyond the Human Race’ program featuring classic robot movies; ‘Earth is Mine: Original Beastly Creature’ program that showcased Godzilla, Gamera and other monster movie classics; ‘Women in Comedy, Loud and Fabulous’ program; ‘Beyond Reality’ program that featured 40 eye-catching VR titles, and a special section honoring the career of celebrated Korean actress KIM Hye Soo. Additionally, veteran producer/Hollywood executive Chris Lee (Academy for Creative Media System Director, University of Hawaii) served as the 13th Dean of the Fantastic Film School (FFS) under BIFAN's Network of Asian Fantastic Films (NAFF).
Japanese writer/director Shusuke Kaneko, famous for his trilogy of Gamera films, heads the ‘Bucheon Choice: Features’ Jury that also includes famous Korean actress Uhm Junghua. Other BIFAN competitions include ‘Korean Fantastic: Features,’ ‘Bucheon Choice: Shorts + Korean Fantastic: Shorts’, the NETPAC Award and the European Film Festival Federation Asian Award.
The NETPAC Award at BIFAN honors the best Asian film from the ‘World Fantastic Blue’ section that features newer genres and varied stories of comedy, fantasy and drama. This year, the NETPAC Jury was chaired by NETPAC-USA Member George Chun Han Wang (Professor, University of Hawaii at Manoa), and included Yoona Kim (film critic, director of CineForum, Korea) and Clarence Tsui (film critic, director of Broadway Cinematheque, Hong Kong). Over a period of 5 days, members of the NETPAC jury reviewed 10 films from China (2), India (2), Indonesia (1), Japan (4) and Mongolia (1). At the deliberation meeting, the members identified Gully Boy, a 2019 Hindi-language musical drama from India, as this year's NETPAC Award winner. With an exceptional cast that includes Bollywood heavyweights Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt, Gully Boy chronicles a young rapper's daring transformation from the slums to stardom. A rags-to-riches urban fable masterfully directed by Zoya Akhtar, Gully Boy was recognized by the NETPAC jury "for its dynamic soundtrack, stunning visuals, powerful acting and inspirational story." The jury also acknowledged Erica 38, a 2019 Japanese true-crime docudrama, for the remarkable direction by Yuichi Hibi, and the gripping performance of Miyoko Asada in the titular role as an aging con artist.
George Chun Han Wang and Yoona Kim presented the NETPAC Award at BIFAN 23’s closing ceremony held on July 5th at the Bucheon City Hall. Gully Boy director Zoya Akhtar graciously accepted the award through a pre-recorded video speech.
The festival's top honor, the ‘Bucheon Choice: Features, Best of Bucheon’ Award went to The Room directed by French filmmaker Christian Volckman; the Best Director Choice Award went to American director Adam Egypt Mortimer for Daniel Isn't Real. The LG HiEntech Best Korean Fantastic Film Award went to Lee Sangdeok's Film Adventure, while Lee Donku was awarded the Korean Fantastic Best Director Award for Fanfare. The world premiere of Ko Myoungsung's The 12th Suspect served as the closing film that marked the grand finale of the 23rd edition of BIFAN.