|From left, BIFF programmer Nam Dong-chul, BIFF Chairman Lee Yong-kwan and BIFF Executive Director Jay Jeon speak during an online press conference, Monday. / Courtesy of BIFF|
By Kwak Yeon-soo
The 25th edition of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) will be held two weeks later than initially planned. Due to COVID-19, the festival will be scaled back and the number of films to be screened in the main competition will inevitably be reduced.
Organizers said Monday the festival will run Oct. 21-30, and they added that they would push for the show to go on despite the virus.
Due to infection worries, there will be no opening and closing ceremonies, red carpet, receptions or parties. On-stage greetings and other guest meetings will either be canceled or held online.
The judging of all films and Q&A sessions will also take place online. The Asian Contents & Film Market, Asian Project Market, Forum BIFF and Asian Film Awards will be held entirely online. According to the organizing committee, the Asian Contents & Film Market will involve 110 film screenings.
The film selection for the BIFF has been reduced to 192, far fewer than the more than 300 features and shorts screened last year.
"Due to COVID-19, we have cut 80 percent of our screens, but will try our best to hold a physical festival for the precious 192 films from 68 countries that filmmakers sent us," BIFF's executive director Jay Jeon said in an online press conference, Monday. "All invited films will screen only one time in five theaters at the Busan Cinema Center under strict social distancing guidelines."
The festival will open with "Septet: The Story of Hong Kong," an omnibus film by seven renowned filmmakers from Hong Kong: Sammo Hung, Ann Hui, Patrick Tam, Yuen Wo Ping, Johnnie To, Ringo Lam and Hark Tsui. The film portrays Hong Kong's history from the 1950s to the present day. It was one of the official selections of this year's Cannes Film Festival.
BIFF will close with animated Japanese film "Josee, the Tiger and the Fish," directed by Tamaru Kotaro. The film is the animated version of Isshin Inudo's 2003 film of the same title.
The organizing committee warned that the festival could be canceled completely if social distancing measures remain at Level 2 or higher.
"If COVID-19 gets worse, I think we will have to cancel the festival," BIFF Chairman Lee Yong-kwan said. "We are not prepared to move the event online, and since our invited films are centered on world premieres, it would be difficult to adjust the films to be screened online."
Meanwhile, Venice International Film Festival wrapped up on Sept. 12, making it the first major film festival to take place since the COVID-19 outbreak.