Now entering into its 18th year, the Busan International Film Festival – beginning today, Thursday, October 3, and running through Saturday, October 12 – has established itself as Asia’s premier film event. Supporting the work of Korean filmmakers while also offering an expansive view of the rest of Asia, the event draws many US and European programmers seeking new work from the region. Local audiences are well-served with an international lineup that highlights titles that have made a splash at some of the other major festivals around the world, from Cannes to Venice to Toronto. Just under 300 films are in this year’s lineup, with only 10% of those being documentaries, including Gianfranco Rosi’s surprise Venice winner, SACRO GRA, an intimate exploration of Rome’s large ring road and those living alongside it. The following is a sampling of the most intriguing new nonfiction on offer in the festival’s Wide Angle section.
Eleven titles vie in Busan’s Documentary Competition, part of the Wide Angle section, including: Aya Hanabusa’s TALE OF A BUTCHER SHOP (pictured), a profile of a Japanese family butcher business, from slaughter to sales; Baby Ruth Villarama’s JAZZ IN LOVE, a portrait of a crosscultural gay marriage between a young Filipino and a middle-aged German; Tiong Guan Saw’s PAST PRESENT, following director Tsai Ming-liang’s revisitation of his past and how it informs his filmmaking; Lyam Kim’s DREAM HOUSE BY THE BORDER, an exploration of the impact of Korea’s split between North and South as reflected in people’s homes; and Sung-bong Cho’s GUREOMBI – THE WIND IS BLOWING, chronicling the resistance of Jeju Islanders to a planned military base.
The Wide Angle section also hosts the fest’s other main collection of nonfiction, Documentary Showcase. Of the seventeen titles here, some of the new or lesser-known include: Hong-Ki Lee’s SPLENDID BUT SAD DAYS (pictured), a portrait of the harsh life of a foulmouthed seventy-year-old fisherwoman; Xiaolu Guo’s LATE AT NIGHT – VOICES OF ORDINARY MADNESS, a look at disenfranchised and marginal residents of London’s East End as they face gentrification; Tonislav Hristov’s SOUL FOOD STORIES, an exploration of Bulgaria through a food-focused microcosm; Lu Zhang’s SCENERY, profiling the experiences of immigrant workers in Korea; and Hojae Lee’s LAZY HITCHHIKERS’ TOUR DE EUROPE, following shiftless Korean college dropouts as they travel abroad for a year.