Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
This year’s Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) is different from previous years. As it was once uncertain whether the festival would be held due to the spread of COVID-19, it has drastically reduced the size of theaters and events and is quietly welcoming the audience. However, even under challenging circumstances, the festival is receiving enthusiastic responses, selling out nearly 90% of all tickets. Let’s take a look at what has changed from last year, and what Minari, the best topic of the year, was like.
Screening-Centered Film Festival
For safety reasons, prevention of epidemics has been at the top of the priority this year, and the festival centers around screening films. Only six theaters from the Busan Cinema Center will be screening the films, and all outdoor events and opening/closing ceremonies have been canceled. In addition, only 25% of each theater is sold, and you can only buy the tickets online.
Entering the Busan Cinema Center is also carefully monitored. Admission is only possible through QR code certification and heat check at the designated gate, and Cinemountain, where many theaters are concentrated, is only accessible with mobile tickets of the day. Everyone has to go through two or three quarantine inspections from the Busan Cinema Center entrance to the actual theater.
GV (Guest Visit) Replaces the Fever of the Film Festival
This year’s BIFF will screen 192 films from 68 countries. Compared to the previous year, the number has dropped by about 100 films, and even then, every movie will only be screened once. Since the number of seats was significantly reduced due to social distancing, opportunities for the films and audience to meet have narrowed.
However, 140 out of 192 films will hold GVs, replacing the subsided atmosphere. Overseas guests will have time to communicate remotely via video, while Korean films’ directors and actors will spend time with the audience in person. The GVs are held through an open chat room where guests select and answer questions posted by the audience in real-time.
‘Minari’ Becomes the Hottest Topic of the Festival
This year’s lineup is so impeccable that some within the organizing committee says it’s the “all-time lineup.” 23 out of 56 films invited to the Cannes Film Festival, which was held in a “different form” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as films that drew attention at major film festivals such as the Berlin Film Festival and Venice Film Festival were unveiled in Busan.
Among all the films, Minari is by far the most anticipated. Telling the story of a Korean-American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream, Minari won U.S. Dramatic Competition Grand Jury Prize and U.S. Dramatic Competition Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film has already been mentioned here and there as a “post Parasite” for next year’s Academy Awards.
Minari calmly depicts the lives of immigrants who dream of the American Dream and shows the next level from the films on similar subjects. It excludes the typical elements of conflicts such as racism or discrimination against migrants and solely focuses on the characters’ story. Steven Yeun and Han Ye Ri show solid acting as a couple who pull their weights for the family, while Youn Yuh Jung, who plays the grandmother role, appears from the middle of the film and instantly enlivens the story.
Minari premiered on the afternoon of October 23 and received rave reviews.
Press Conference for ‘Minari’
On October 23, the Minari team held an official press conference. Youn Yuh Jung, Han Ye Ri attended the event, while Lee Isaac Chung and Steven Yeun participated remotely from Los Angeles.
Lee Isaac Chung, who directed the film that reflected autobiographical stories, introduced the title Minari as the crop that his grandmother planted and the best crop that his family cultivated. He also added that his grandmother’s love for the family became a nourishment for the film.
Steven Yeun also talked about how he felt a lot of empathy after reading the script. He also showed his pride in the work, saying that not only does the film tell the story of the immigrants but also sincerely portrays various topics such as communication between generations.
In the film, Steven Yeun speaks perfect “Konglish (Korean English)” and Korean, but the actor shared the difficulties he faced while filming these scenes, saying that he was actually terrified of acting in Korean and had to ask for help from Youn Yuh Jung.
Han Ye Ri has no experience as an immigrant, but melted what she had seen through her mother, aunt and grandmother into Monica. She also added that she had many worries at first because of her poor English, but decided to jump into the project with her trust in the director.
Regarding the positive response in the U.S. that brighten Minari‘s chance of winning the Oscars, director Lee said that many seem to sympathize with the family story that takes place in a small rural village by projecting their own lives and added that this is also thanks to the local audience’s acceptance of Korean content since the success of Parasite.
Finally, they expressed their regret in not being able to see the movie with the audience and wrapped up the event as they showed their hopes for Minari to meet more movie fans.