Jongsuk Thomas NAM and J. KIM, programmers for Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival
Jun 24, 2019
- Writerby KIM Su-bin
“We want to create a film festival akin to a festival”
The Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN) is inheriting the popularity of Korean genre films recently confirmed by PARASITE. The 23rd Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival is kicking off on June 27. This year, the BIFAN Industry Gathering (B.I.G), the business component of BIFAN’s program, is welcoming genre film professionals and film organizations from the wider world, from Asia and regions as far afield as South America, to maximize the potential of international co-productions. The VR exhibition is also making a leap forward in terms of scale and content. We met with expert adviser Jongsuk Thomas NAM, who supervises B.I.G., as well as VR programmer J. KIM to talk about the film festival.
What is the focus in this year’s B.I.G. and VR programs?
NAM In ‘Spotlight’, in which we highlight genre film projects and directors from a country of our choosing, the choice this year fell on Taiwan. Five projects will be presented owing to the enthusiastic reception they found in Taiwan. It doesn’t stop there, though, as we are also organizing an event designed for all our guests from Taiwan, be they presenting a short film, a feature title or VR content. From this year on, Japan’s Visual Industry Promotion Organization (VIPO) is also joining our project market as an international partner. This year, we decided to select one project to support, but the scale will grow starting next year with the pitching of 3-4 titles and the holding of a reception. Besides that, we plan on having active exchanges with organizations from other countries, including the examination of the potential of co-production with the South American region.
KIM A lot of full-fledged titles have started to appear in the VR section this year. We have both the quantity and quality of titles. In contrast, Korean VR productions seem to have made rather slow progress. There could be many reasons to that, but I have the impression that the creative infrastructure hasn’t been fundamentally well established. Since film festivals are for the most part where VR titles are introduced and the discourse on VR formed, we are inviting eight influential programmers from all over the world to hear about the perspective from which they prepare a film festival and look at their content. What made possible the fast growth in the VR field over the past year is also the absence of walls between countries and companies as well as the multiplication of forms of co-production made in mutual collaboration. I think it is important that we too swim with the tide by having access to that network. That’s why we have also organized a co-production showcase. We have also prepared a special exhibition of the products from Atlas V, which has been pretty successful in the domain of co-productions. We have made an arrangement with the Kaohsiung Film Festival in Taiwan and the Sandbox Immersive Festival in Qingdao, China to establish a synergy between film festivals, and we have a parallel exhibition of titles suggested by each festival. Similarly, the titles recommended by BIFAN are going to be screened at the other festivals. We plan to continue to expand the route that allows for content made in Korea to be exported abroad. On the exhibition side, we plan to show works taking the form of performances so as to clearly illustrate that not everything simply requires to wear a HMD (Head-Mounted Device) to be enjoyed.
You have been chosen along with Sitges and Toronto for Fantastic 7, a program for the revitalization of the fantastic genre established this year by the Cannes Film Festival.
NAM The Cannes Film Festival used to not deal with the fantastic genre, but they started showing a keen interest in it 3 or 4 years ago. They launched the Frontier market, and it’s not centered on North America but instead encompasses South America, Asia and Europe. This time, they set up Fantastic 7 and I’m feeling grateful for the inclusion of our film festival. Superpower Girl (2017), which was one of last year’s NAFF It Projects, was shown this year at the Cannes Marché du Film and garnered positive reaction. Now the film is in the financing stage, but we are getting offers from several locations.
Many film festivals are taking notice of VR, what with Cannes Film Festival introducing this year an Extended Reality (XR) section. What characteristics would you say set BIFAN apart from other film festivals?
KIM BIFAN has already been increasing the scope of its VR exhibition for four years in a row. I sure feel like BIFAN is being recognized even on the world stage as a major film festival for the exhibition of virtual reality in Korea. I wonder if our ultimate purpose isn’t to take on the role of an XR content hub for Korea and Asia through those partnerships. A hub would be a structure that would give us the base needed for content to be brought together, and also for the works we show to get a commercial life. We have the expectation that it will become a space where a lot of artists and producers can come together. BIFAN doesn’t fall behind other international film festivals even in terms of scale. I wonder if BIFAN couldn’t become a gateway about Asian artists.
What kind of film festival would you like this year’s BIFAN to be?
KIM Thinking in terms of XR, the works shown at our film festival are often difficult to watch again if you don’t come to see it. The titles that fit the conditions allowing for an online distribution really are a small minority. For the large majority, you have to come to watch them. I think this is a chance to put back the “festival” in “film festival”. I hope that these several events combined with the works shown will make this film festival one that brings back the festivity.
NAM If we take a general look at the professional program, it is divided into an education program, a project market and a film festival. In the future, we would like to create a cycle in which the films produced with the help of the education program and the project market are screened at the film festival. The number of completed works is growing. My personal ambition for the next year is to have a whole distinct section named “B.I.G. Presents” where we would screen the titles brought to completion through our film festival. To get there, the level of participation of the audience need to be higher, and that’s why I hope many people will visit us.