The 28th Busan International Film Festival and the 30th Festival International des Cinémas d'Asie de Vesoul - interview with Jean-Marc Thérouanne.

System Administrator Friday October 27, 2023

1- Is the Busan International Film Festival (South Korea) a fixture in your calendar ? Since which year ?

Jean-Marc Thérouanne, General Delegate, Artistic Director and co-founder of the Festival International des Cinémas d'Asie de Vesoul: It's obvious, Martine Thérouanne, Director of the Vsoul IFF Asian Cinemas (Festival International des Cinémas d'Asie de Vesoul), has been coming since 2010, and I since 2011, i.e. for 13 years.

In 2010, Martine Thérouanne was a member of the NETPAC jury at the 15th BIFF, and this year, for the 28th BIFF, she is the president of the Jiseok jury.

Martine Thérouanne and Song Kang-ho - opening ceremony - red carpet
Martine Thérouanne and Song Kang-ho - opening ceremony - red carpet


2- What does your presence there entail ? Do you have any particular expectations or goals ?

JMT : Because it's essential to be there when you run a festival like ours. The Vesoul IFF Asian Cinemas (Festival International des Cinémas d'Asie de Vesoul) is considered one of the four core festivals by the CNC, because of its specificity. In France, it is one of the twenty or so film festivals supported by the CNC on a national scale.

We're going to Busan to fine-tune our relationships with film producers from all over Asia, from the Urals to the Pacific Ocean, and from the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean. We're interested in all the cinematographies of the Asian continent. Asia isn't just the Far East, it's also the Middle East.

Busan is the Cannes of Asia, with an interesting film market that enables us to maintain contacts with Asian producers (Showbox, Fine Cut, M-Line, Lotte, iQIYI, Mandarin Vision, Nikkatsu, etc.) and Asian institutions (Film Development Council of the Philippines, Taipei Film Commission, Mongolian National Film Council, Vietnam Media Corp, KOFIC, Unijapan , HKTDC, ...), with representatives of Asian festivals (International Film Festival of Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City International Film Festival, Eurasia, TIFF, QCinema, ... ).

The Busan International Film Festival also provides an opportunity to meet French institutions (CNC, Institut Français, UniFrance, Alliance Française, etc.) and European producers developing Europe-Asia co-productions, such as European Film Promotion.

When we've seen each other and spoken, even briefly, afterwards, when we get back in touch to finalize projects, human relationships are... more human.

We also go to Busan to meet critics, actors and directors. Evenings dedicated to the cinema of one country or another encourage networking. This enables us to establish links and networks, to build up the various juries for future editions of FICA Vesoul (International, critics, Netpac, Marc Haaz, etc.).

Of course, we also go to see films from Asian countries in the various sections :

* Gala Presentation, Icons, Wide Angle Documentary Showcase, Open Cinéma, Midnight Passion, in these five sections Asian films are mixed with non-Asian ones;

* World Cinema and Flash Forward: in these two sections, Israeli and Turkish films are mixed with all the other non-Asian films;

* and especially for sections devoted solely to Asian cinema: Jiseok; A Window on Asian Cinema; New Currents; Korean Cinema Today: Special Premiere, Panorama, Vision; Wide Angle: Korean Short Film Competition, Asian Short Film Competition, Documentary Competition; On Screen; Special Program in Focus 1: Tribute at Chow Yun Fat - Focus 2: Tribute at Korean Diasporic Cinema - Focus 3: Renaissance of Indonesian Cinema; Special Screening: Tribute at Yun Jung-hee, actress, and Ryuichi Sakamoto, composer.

The Jiseok competitive section features world or international premieres by established Asian directors.

The New Currents competitive section features the world or international premieres of young Asian talent.

These two competitive sections are the most prestigious in the selection of each BIFF edition.

A Window on Asian Cinema offers a selection of the most outstanding Asian films produced in the past year.

Korean Cinema Today: Special Premiere, Panorama, Vision bring together recent Korean commercial, mainstream and independent films.

Wide Angle: Korean Short Film Competition, Asian Short Film Competition, Documentary Competition are sections presenting short films and documentaries in competition.

On Screen ; Special Program : in Focus 1 : Tribute at Chow Yun Fat - Focus 2 : Tribute at Korean Diasporic Cinema - Focus 3 : Renaissance of Indonesian Cinema ; Special Screening : Tribute at Yun Jung-hee, actress, and Ryuichi Sakamoto, composer, are sections paying homage to... offering a look at a national cinematography, or a theme.

This year, a tribute was paid, in his presence, to Hong Kong director and actor Chow Yun Fat, a tribute to the great French-speaking and Francophile Korean actress Yun Jung-hee (Poetry by Lee Chang-dong), who died recently, and a postmortem tribute to the immense Japanese film composer Ryuichi Sakamoto.

A retrospective on Indonesian cinema and a thematic focus on Korean filmmakers in the Diaspora were also part of the 28th BIFF.

The 28th edition of BIFF featured 204 films :

* 134 Asian films, broken down as follows 51 Korean films, 16 Japanese films, 14 Indonesian films, 12 Chinese and Hong Kong films, 9 Indian films, 3 Taiwanese films, 3 Bangladeshi films, 3 Thai films, 2 Filipino, 2 Sri Lankan, 2 Mongolian, 2 Iranian, 1 Kyrgyz, 1 Kazakh, 1 Turkish, 1 Israeli, 1 Malay, 1 Burmese, 1 Nepalese, 1 Bhutanese, 1 Vietnamese, 1 Jordanian, 1 Pakistani, 1 Georgian, 1 Singaporean.

* 70 films from the four other continents : 16 from France, 12 from the USA, 7 from Italy, 6 from England, 4 from Argentina, 3 from Poland, 3 from Germany, 3 from Canada, 2 from Belgium, 2 from Spain, 1 from Sweden, 1 from Romania, 1 from Finland, 1 from Bulgaria, 1 from Austria, 1 from Hungary, 1 from Macedonia, 1 from Denmark, 1 from Mexico, 1 from Brazil, 1 from Australia, 1 from Tunisia, 1 from Morocco.

As the film world evolves, co-productions are becoming increasingly numerous. Jérémie Kessler, Director of European and International Affairs at the Centre National du Cinéma et de l'image animée, underlined this phenomenon in his keynote speech at the Soirée française organized by the French Embassy in Korea and UniFrance. Through co-productions, France was present in 38 films, i.e. 17% of the films selected at Busan this year. This is the measure of France's influence through cinema. France is very attached to the plurality of cinema, so it helps filmmakers from all over the world to produce their films.

To be able to see the maximum number of important films and meet the maximum number of people in the incompressible ten days of the Busan Festival, it's essential to build up a large-format timetable that gives you an overall view of the must-see film screenings and the unmissable professional meetings.

Mastering time management is an essential part of any successful BIFF strategy.

Busan is a bit of a « Marathon Man » !

It's also imperative to manage the space between BIFF Mountain and the Double Cone, where the BIFF offices and meeting places are located, the movie theaters of the BIFF Cinema Center, the CGV and Lotte multiplexes, where screenings take place, BEXCO, where the film market is held, the lounges of hotels (Paradise, Sea Cloud, Westin Chosun, Park Hyatt, Signiel, .. ) or bar-restaurants (Peter's Pub, Gatsby Roof Top Bar, ...) where film evenings are held.

Physical stamina is put to the test in Busan.

3- How do you think the festival and its market differ from the other international festivals you're used to attending ?

JMT : The Busan Festival stands out for the quality of its profusion. It's the biggest Asian festival in the world.

As far as the Film Market is concerned, it's really a concentration of Asia. It's a chance to see the whole of Asia in a very small space. Everyone you need to contact is there. It's also an opportunity to distribute our communications material to make ourselves known and recognized, and to collect the maximum amount of film documentation we need to prepare future editions of FICA Vesoul.

4- Do you remember a decisive meeting or event during the festival in the past ? 

JMT : At the 16th BIFF in 2011, we learned that Kore-eda Hirokazu would be present in Busan. We were preparing for our 18th FICA and putting together the Kore-eda Hirokazu integral, a future Palme d'Or winner at Cannes. To make this tribute meaningful, we wanted to invite him to Vesoul and present him with an honorary Cyclo d'or at the opening ceremony. We wrote to his assistant to request a brief meeting in Busan, which we were granted during a party in the VIP lounge. We presented our project to Kore-eda Hirokazu, who was touched by our approach. He told us that there had never been a retrospective of his complete works. And so Kore-eda Hirokazu accepted our invitation to come to Vesoul.

It's an unforgettable memory.

Once you've met the people for real, it completely changes human relationships. One of our strongest memories in Busan was receiving the prestigious Korean Cinema Award on October 4, 2018, at the opening of the 23rd BIFF in front of 4,400 festival-goers and the international media, for our commitment to promoting and recognizing Korean cinema.

The invitation received by my wife Martine Thérouanne, director and co-founder of FICA, naming her president of the prestigious Kim Jiseok Jury of the 28th BIFF 2023. This recognition of your work by Busan and Korea is something that goes deep into your soul.

In 13 years in Busan, we have a wealth of memorable souvenirs. In ten days in Busan, we had a multitude of encounters, naturally very brief but very intense: Bong Jong-ho, Kore-eda Hirokazu, Wang Bing, Prasanna Vithanage, Mostafa Sarwar Farooki, Moshen Makhmalbaf, Tsai Ming-liang, Naomi Kawaze, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Brillante Mendoza, Im Sang-soo, Hong Sang-soo, Lee Chang-dong, Im Kwon-taek... but also Claude Lelouch, Juliette Binoche, Bertrand Bonello, Luc Besson, Isabelle Huppert, Ariane Ascaride, ... .. France has a strong presence in Busan. Koreans love French cinema.

We experience the dilation and intensity of time in its brevity.

5- What are you most looking forward to at the 28th BIFF ?

JMT : As I said earlier, to further expand the relational web of the Vesoul IFF Asian Cinemas (Festival International des Cinémas d'Asie de Vesoul), whose 30th edition will take place from February 6 to 13, 2024.


Interview conducted on October 14, 2023 on return from the 28th BIFF.


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