The train down to Busan was an eventful one to say the least. An Ajoshi sitting, full suited, on his lonesome, probably traveling home for the weekend. A girlfriend/boyfriend combination, wearing their couple clothing selections, staring longingly into each other’s eyes. And the group of Ajummas who invaded our part of the carriage, playing with their smart phones as if it was the first time they had seen such a contraption and producing as many hard boiled eggs from their pockets, as fast as they could eat them. Still, the journey was far less eventful than the summer blockbuster Train To Busan which hit our big screens this summer and probably far less so than the big screen adventures that awaited at Busan’s annual film festival.
The 21st Busan International Film Festival started last Thursday October 6th. Some were heading down for the whole festival period (an impression ten days long) whilst others – like me – were getting a taste of the action through a two day sitting. Arriving on the Friday, like everyone else there for the weekend, my first instinct was to hit the cinema box office on Saturday morning. So after settling in to the Haeundae hotel (with the salty smell of the sea a welcome addition from Seoul’s polluted offerings), it was time to have a drink or two at one of the local watering holes and arrange our viewing schedules.
The festival is neatly arranged into two sites: the BIFF Hill Village and the BIFF Village area. An easier distinction is by location with the former in nearby Centum City, three stops away from the more popular Haeundae location for the BIFF Village area. With only five minutes between villages and at least an hour between viewings, there were no restrictions on what you chose to watch… or was there?
The program boasts an impressive 121 pages which is, at first overwhelming, but then becomes your festival friend. The directory of film is any movie buff’s dream with a selection of classics, Asian Cinema, New Currents, Korea Cinema Today – and Retrospective -, World Cinema and Flash Forward amongst the Documentary and competition entries from this year’s festival, all for the viewing.
The city was well prepared with pop-up box offices springing up around the venues and beyond and the programs available as hotels, department stores and information centers. People were in the mood for movies and with the opening weekend weather putting a dampener on things, that just made the movie theatre fuller.
Getting tickets for the opening Saturday was not a breeze. With changes in plan in tow, people visiting just for the weekend in tow, and the general curiosity of what the festival was about adding to the excitement, 10am at the CGV Centum City box office was not my movie of choice. After switching to the less frantic Lotte Cinema foyer and giving 45 minutes to the willing volunteer to arrange the seats for my film selections for the whole weekend, I walked away with tickets for some of my third and fourth choices. Having not taken advantage of the online ticketing system – and not expecting the opening weekend to be as popular as it was – I blame those rain clouds for my selections.
Getting between the Centum City venues was easy and walkable, even within the intermittent rain. With an hour or so between films, it was easy to get to the next viewing on time and even gave us enough time for a coffee or a snack in between to dissect what we had just viewed. Even heading to Heaundae’s Magabox with a three-stop metro journey in the middle gave enough time to head back to the hotel to freshen up.
The festival volunteers were on hand at all venues and were happy to help in any way they could and a festival shuttle bus which did a loop of all the venues also was on hand for those traveling between the two centers. Travel couldn’t be any easier.
As The 21st BIFF selection heads for yet another success, there’s still the rest of the week to go to get in on some of the action. Tickets are selling out fast, so get online and check what’s on offer. Or at least get an idea of what’s coming out on the big screen soon.
More info: The Busan International Film Festival
When: Runs until October 15, 2016
Busan Cinema Center (BIFF Hill, Cine Mountain, BIFF Theater, Dureraum Square), Lotte Cinema Centum City,
CGV Centum City,
Dongseo University Sohyang Theater Centum City
Bexco Asian Film Market
BIFF Village Area (Haeundae)
BIFF Village (Outdoor Stage)
Time: Check Film Schedule online
Cost: Prices vary – check with cinema. Between KRW 6,000- KRW 20,000.