The world’s latest crop of genre films got its annual boost in the recently-concluded15th Puchon International Fantasy Film Festival. Also called PiFan, the festival, which makes its home in the bustling cultural center of Bucheon, was held from July 14-24, 2011. The NETPAC juryawarded its Best Film to Hospitalite, directed by Fukuda Koji.The Japanese film was cited“for its subtle use of comedy in portraying the domestic and social impact of foreigners in a small community amidst a rapidly-globalizing world.” Twelve films comprised the NETPAC program of mostly Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese titles culled from PiFan’s core section, Vision Express. Its line-up included other works from Belgium, France, Norway, Russia and Australia that promotes a new vision in world cinema. The NETPAC jury was composed of Ed Lejano (Philippines), Lee Yeon Ho (South Korea), and Imaoka Shinji (Japan). Its eclectic array of 220 films from 40 countries spanning a range of genres make Pifan one of the region’s leading event of its kind, and the world’s top three in the fantasy festival circuit. The Best of Puchon Award went to a French film, Rubber, Best Director to Na Hong-jin for the gripping action-thriller, The Yellow Sea, and the Jury Prize to a heist movie from Mongolia, Operation Tatar. Rubber, directed by Quentin Dupieux, revolves around a malevolent car tire on a killing spree may be seen as a conceptual horror played as grindhouse parody.Korean director, Na Hon-jin, delivers an action-packed crime thriller that lives up to the promise ofTheChaser, his 2008 debut feature. The rarely seen cinema of Mongolia got represented byBat-UlziiBaatar’srip-roarious caper. The top performances were awarded to Juno Mak, as Best Actor for Revenge: A Love Story from Hong Kong, and Best Actress to MiannaBuring for the British film, Kill List. Therevenge flick, Bloody Fight in Iron-Rock Valley (director: Ji Ha Jean) picked up the Europe Fantastic Film Federation Asia Award as well as the Fujifilm Eterna Award in a Korean spin-off of the spaghetti western. True to its long-standing theme of “love, fantasy and adventure”, the festival opened with Bollywood the Greatest Love Story Ever Told the Indian, a documentary on India’s popular cinematic form that previously screened in Cannes. The closing film was a Korean thriller,Blind, headlined by popular beauty, Kim Ha Neul, playing the visually-impaired title character. The land of morning calm’s summer rains somewhat dampened PiFan’s first few days. Local audiences, however, went undeterred, with most films playing to full-house venues as the weather in Bucheon, which is situated within Seoul’s sprawling metropolis, cleared up midway into the festival. As Festival Director Kim Young Bin summed it up, “The effort to broaden the audience of fantastic films has been an ongoing issue and it is also one ofthe 15th PiFan’s main objectives.”The vision has been well served on this edition and next year’s festivalcan only augur well for Asia’s premiere fantasy event.
by Ed Lejano