“We Owe It All to You”
24th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival Final Report
The 24th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (Chairman: JUNG Ji-young / BIFAN Supporters’ Org. Chairman: KO Yoon-hwa / Festival Director: SHIN Chul) kicked things off on July 9 and drew the curtains on the festivities on the 16th. Last year, the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival and the city of Bucheon revealed their aspirations to lead the next 100 years of Korean cinema. Accordingly, the mission for this year was to “amplify genre talent and introduce it to the world.” To carry out its role as an amplifier for genre films and overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19, the festival put an emphasis on the following keywords: safety, hybrid, and support. We sought the “new normal” that would usher in the post-coronavirus era, and the festival wrapped up successfully. We owe it all to the city of Bucheon, the Bucheon City Council, Gyeonggi Content Agency, Gyeonggi Province, Korean Film Council, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, our supporters’ association, sponsors, audience members, and the citizens. Thank you. The final report for the 24th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival can be found below.
# Offline, online, and mobile platforms
The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the foundation of the 100-year-old domestic film industry. Theatre-based international film festivals have also experienced a great deal of difficulties. In the midst of many film festivals being canceled or postponed, holding festivals online is carrying considerable weight. To make up for the unavoidable reduction in theater venue options, the 24th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN) introduced a hybrid concept and focused efforts on diversifying points of contact with the audience. Besides offline platforms (theaters), BIFAN linked up with online and mobile platforms, and it pushed ahead with plans to protect and enhance film diversity, as well as the expansion of film enjoyment.
A total of 194 films from 42 countries were invited to be screened (88 features, 85 shorts, 21 VR cinema works). Due to the festival’s duration being shortened from 11 days to 8 days, and the COVID-19 outbreak, about 100 fewer films were invited to be screened than in previous years. The characteristics of this year’s films can be summed up with the following phrases: prominence of the sci-fi and dystopian disaster genres, variations and bold experimentations in terms of theme and style, and the rapid progress of new female directors.
Excluding the 21 VR cinema films, all 173 films were screened at a theater (CGV Sopoong, 8 viewing rooms). Out of the 173 films, 68 films (37 features, 31 shorts) were made available on Watcha (online platform), and 6 Chinese feature films were screened via Smart Cinema Korea (mobile platform).
To ensure that social distancing could take place at the 8 viewing rooms of CGV Sopoong, the theater limited ticket sales to 30-35% of capacity. There were 10,836 available seats in all. With a seat occupancy rate of 91.8%, 9,952 people watched films at the theater. Out of the 221 screenings that took place, 153 screenings (69.2%) sold out (online ticket reservations sold out for 201 screenings, 91.0%). Watcha recorded 8,558 views, and Smart Cinema Korea recorded 2,200. 20,710 individuals watched the films through online and offline platforms. Including the numbers for the VR cinema, 36,271 people have screened this year’s films.
# XR ‘Beyond Reality’ online sets sail
In 2016, BIFAN became the first international film festival in Korea to open a VR/XR program. This year, BIFAN’s VR/XR program, Beyond Reality, broke new ground. In consideration of the circumstances of COVID-19, the program provided an opportunity for individuals to experience the contents online without a headset. Out of the 41 works from 20 countries that were invited to BIFAN, 21 of the 360VR contents were made available to be viewed on SK Telecom’s Jump VR platform. Conversations with the directors of the invited works also took place online through this platform. The XR exhibition center was set up outside the first floor of CGV Sopoong and drew rave reviews from participants. As of 2 p.m. on July 17, 15,561 people have viewed the contents, and 397 individuals have taken part in the conversations with the directors. With the 21 360VR contents being made available on the Jump VR platform until August 31, we expect the audience numbers to continue to rise. Also, an exhibition featuring the 20 interactive contents requiring headsets will be held later on in the year surrounding COVID-19.
Beyond Reality has also translated recent information and subtitled videos that were posted to the program’s website (beyondreality.space) for individuals with interest in new media. The posted content includes information on major festivals around the world that hold XR exhibitions, the most sought-after artists and curators, and keynote lectures from industry professionals. A performance of one of last year’s audience favorites was also prepared in collaboration with choreographer LEE Yanghee. The performance provided a special opportunity for audience members to experience the various boundaries of reality and virtual reality, through the interaction between the body and digital images. A dance film of the performance is expected to be unveiled soon.
# ‘Untact’ lectures, performances, conferences, and parties
Many programs of the 24th BIFAN were held as ‘untact’ (non-face-to-face) events. To help prevent the further spread of COVID-19, NAFF project market meetings, Fantastic Film School lectures and master classes, performances, conferences, and parties were held in ways in which people could be brought together socially, despite not being able to meet physically.
The NAFF (Network of Asian Fantastic Films) Project Market was held completely online. 93 companies from 24 countries took part in it, and out of the 1,010 meetings that were requested, 600 were carried out, an increase of 70 meetings compared to last year’s total. The Fantastic Film School was held both online and offline and attended by 30 mentees from 20 countries. The nine mentors, including this year’s dean, director Joko ANWAR, gave 11 special online lectures to the 30 participants. Among the 30 participants, the Korean mentees and the expats living in Korea met and conversed with Director YIM Pilsung, whose credits include Antarctic Journal and Scarlet Innocence. The online master classes featuring master Hollywood director William FRIEDKIN of The Exorcist and conceptual artist Christian SCHEURER were an enormous success.
Live performances, such as The Sound of Movies and Rookies on the City Pop, were put on without an audience for safety reasons. The performances were pre-recorded and then released to the public via Naver V LIVE. The Sound of Movies program, which featured performances by Primary (2,439 views/54,036 likes), BEK Hyunjin (2,456 views/39,049 likes), and Sunwoojunga (3,271 views/65,811 likes), recorded 8,166 views. The Rookies on the City Pop program, which was divided into two parts (part 1: 4,100 views/105,374 likes, part 2: 2,559 views/70,475 likes), recorded 6,659 views. The two programs racked up an impressive 14,825 views overall.
The Copyright Conference was also held as an ‘untact’ event. Attorney KIM Hyojeong, director of Inha University Law School, HONG Seung-gi and SUNG Won-yeong of the Korea Copyright Protection Agency, gave presentations and engaged in discussions about the copyright issues related to turning horror stories from around the world into films. Attorney JEONG Min-yeong was on hand to moderate the conference. The presentations and video of the conference will soon be posted on the BIFAN website and YouTube.
The “Contact with Untact” closing party was one highlighting event that symbolized this year’s BIFAN. Following the screening of the closing film on July 16, about 70 filmmakers and industry professionals from Korea and overseas met via Zoom and were able to share words of encouragement and support with one another, despite the differences in locations and time zones. They also expressed their disappointment at being unable to attend BIFAN due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then comforted each other by promising to meet next year. The party ended long after midnight (Korean time) and became yet another event that will be recorded in BIFAN’s history books.
# 1113 guests, 54 GVs, and over 400 ‘survival kits’
The COVID-19 pandemic has blocked the international exchange between filmmakers and film professionals. It was impossible to invite guests from Europe, North and South America, and various countries around Asia this year, due to the circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak in the guests’ respective countries, and the fact that foreign visitors to Korea are required to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine upon arrival. Korean director LEE Gwanju, who is currently studying abroad in France, was BIFAN’s sole overseas guest this year, and he could only attend after undergoing self-quarantine.
The directors of the invited films, as well as other overseas guests, sent 60 video messages. BIFAN sent out 245 of our over 400 “survival kits,” which were shipped out via international mail to guests that would have been invited to attend BIFAN this year. The kits contained 9 items–a cotton mask with the Cell of Fantasy, mask case, greeting card, handkerchief, eco bag, program book, a book from the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, hardtacks, and a badge–and became a huge hit as a symbol of this year’s festival. 1,112 domestic guests attended the festival, including film industry personnel and entrepreneurs, directors, and actors. Actors KANG Mal-geum, KANG Shin-il, KIM Yeong-min, KIM Hye-soo, AHN Sung-ki, UHM Jung-hwa, JANG Young-nam, JEON Do-yeon, and JUNG Woo-sung also sent video messages to congratulate BIFAN on the opening of the festival and to voice their support for the ongoing fight against COVID-19.
A total of 54 GVs (Q&A sessions with guests) were conducted this year, which included 33 general GVs, 9 video GVs, 8 mega talks, 2 stage greetings, and 2 master classes. Starting with actors KIM Seo-hyung and KIM Hyeon-soo from this year’s opening film, Whispering Corridors 6: The Humming, actors KIM Bo-ra, PARK Ha-sun, SHIN So-yul, SHIN Eun-soo, AHN Hee-yeon, OH Ji-ho, Uee, LEE David, LEE Dong-hwi, LEE Yeon-hee, LEE Yoo-young, CHOI Si-won, and HA Joon, as well as directors KIM Eui-seok, KIM Tai-sik, ROH Deok, MIN Kyu-dong, AHN Gooc-jin, OH Ki-hwan, •LEE Yoon-jung, JANG Cheol-soo, and HAN Ka-ram took part in GVs this year. To avoid the sharing of microphones, audience members sent in questions through Kakao Open Chat, which were then asked by the moderators and answered by the directors and actors.
# Over 700 million won in cash awards and support
Last year, as Korean cinema was celebrating its 100th anniversary, BIFAN and Bucheon City revealed their aspirations to lead the next 100 years of Korean cinema. In midst of the film industry and film festivals experiencing unprecedented challenges brought on by COVID-19, the 24th BIFAN carried out its mission to “amplify genre talent and introduce it to the world.” As a part of this mission, the scale of support programs/awards expanded to over 700 million won this year. The cash prize amounts for the competitive sections and BIFAN’s industry program (B.I.G) also increased.
Sponsored by Techcross Environmental Services, Korean OTT company Watcha, and others, KRW 38 million was awarded to shorts and features films in the Bucheon Choice section, and KRW 85 million was awarded to shorts and features in the Korean Fantastic section. KRW 110 million in cash was awarded to winners of 7 NAFF award categories, which included the Bucheon Award. Thanks to the collaborations with the Seoul Business Agency (SBA) and others, KRW 350 million in marketing and post-production supports were given this year. Also, in collaboration with Bucheon City, which is a part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, 25 selected works were awarded KRW 165 million in prizes, as a part of the “Production Support Contest - UNESCO Creative City Bucheon’s Storytelling Contest”–a contest to support the production of short films about horror stories (Presented by: Bucheon City; Hosted by: Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival; Supported by: Korean Film Council, Gyeonggi Province, Gyeonggi Content Agency, Korean National Commission for UNESCO). In addition, KRW 20 million won was awarded to support the production of a short film as a part of a project done in collaboration with Unity, a real-time rendering platform.
# ‘Safety first’, multi-stepped preventive measures
Putting safety first, above all. The 24th BIFAN was committed to helping to curb the spread of COVID-19 while the film festival was in session. To efficiently check and prevent infection, all films were screened in one theater venue (CGV Sopoong), and multiple preventative measures were put in place at the 8 viewing rooms of the venue.
First, thermal imaging cameras were installed at two entrances on the 7th floor of the building where the theater is located, and the visitors’ temperatures were checked. Then, visitors were required to “check in” via the QR code-based entry log system and put on a safety bracelet (entry was prohibited beyond this point to those not wearing a bracelet). A high-tech walk-through disinfection gate checked temperatures for a second time, and smart air showers helped with the removal of fine dust particles. To ensure that social distancing could take place within the theater, ticket sales were limited to 30-35% of the theater’s capacity. Lastly, at the end of each screening, employees from a professional disinfection service company sanitized the rooms (4 times a day per viewing room).
The guests’ cars were also regularly disinfected. Guests were provided with hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, masks, and latex gloves. Festival staff members who came in close contact with visitors were required to wear latex gloves and acrylic face shields. To avoid the sharing of microphones during GVs, audience members were asked to send in their questions via Kakao Open Chat. For the guests’ standing microphones, microphone covers were used and replaced before each use. As of July 30, which is 14 days after the end of the festival, there have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases linked to the film festival. We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude for the support of Bucheon City, Bucheon City Health Center, Soonchunhyang University Bucheon Hospital, DMZ International Documentary Film Festival; our sponsors, Purium and Love & Peace; and the disinfection service company and staff members who aided in the sanitation process.
The Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival is the largest genre film festival in Korea. It is also a film festival that is officially recognized by the Marché du Film as one of “Fantastic 7” film festivals, along with Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia, South by Southwest, Toronto International Film Festival, International Film Festivals & Awards - Macao, Cairo International Film Festival, and the Guadalajara International Film Festival. Bucheon City is a part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Bucheon City and the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival have taken on the role of leading and supporting the development of domestic and international genre films. We see it as our mission to contribute to the development of the film industry, the diversification of films, and the enjoyment of films. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been tremendous changes in film distribution, and the film world and film festivals are faced with unprecedented challenges. The solution to overcoming these challenges lies in the growth of new creative talents. The Scary Tales Archive, which greeted the world for the first time this year, will become a global project that reflects the spirit and will of Bucheon City, Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, Korean Film Council, Gyeonggi Province, Gyeonggi Content Agency, and the Korean National Commission for UNESCO. The Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival will make this happen along with Bucheon City and the Bucheon City Council. We will see you again next year at our 25th edition, as a festival that has grown and taken yet another step forward. Thank you.