For Shane and I, Busan continues to reveal itself as the city that keeps giving, and in early October, she gave us the Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF). For a week, the cinematic world came to our doorstep.
Here's just the facts, Ma’am:
Years in existence: 15
Total films shown this year: 306
Of those, number of world premieres: 153
Persons in Attendance: 182,046
Among those in Attendance: Oliver Stone, Willem Defoe, Carlos Saura,
Juliette Binoche, and many Asian superstars
Films we saw: A Woman by Director Giada Colagrande and Inside America
by Director Barbara Eder
Cost of our four tickets: 20,000 won, or $17.77
Our PIFF adventure began with an early morning haul to the Shinsegae ticketing office at 7:00 am for tickets we feared would sell out if we didn’t get there early enough. Willem Dafoe was going to make an appearance at his film, and being from Wisconsin and huge fans of Life Aquatic, we didn’t want to miss it. Two hours and a new friend we met in queue later, we had them.
Later that afternoon, our posse trekked to Shinsegae, the world’s largest department store which also houses a movie theatre, for the film A Woman. As we settled in, Willem and his wife, Giada, entered and settled in themselves.
The movie itself was....intriguing. Not our favorite, but artistic. The real excitement was after the lights came up, and the writer/director and lead actor hosted a question and answer session. Shane didn’t hesitate. He asked how Willem prepared for this role since it was so different than many of his other roles. Willem looked right at him, smiled, and gave a great answer about how he loves a challenge and he tried to become a part of the scenery, reacting to the other actors.
The following Sunday, we had tickets for Inside America, which had been touted as “a glimpse into America’s bleak soul, somewhere between plasma screens and food stamps”.
Wandering PIFF square in Nampo-dong on the south side of town, Shane and I grabbed a bite of street food: a potato covered fried corn dog (oh my arteries) and a Turkish kebab.
As we met up with our co-teacher friends, Shane and I were approached by a young Korean woman with a clipboard. She asked us if we would be willing to appear on the radio the next morning to talk about our PIFF experience as foreigners (would we?!). After it was all arranged, headed into the theatre, the smell of butter soaked popcorn inviting us inside.
Turns outs, America’s a pretty depressing and scary place, at least according to this film. Like no America I’ve experienced. Though none of us found it too resonant, it was engaging and entertaining. Filmed in only seven weeks, and with a minimal budget, the film focuses on a Texas border town with a huge rift in social stratification, leading to dependence on drugs and gangs.
PIFF was the first film festival either of us had attended. The volunteers were helpful, tickets easy to purchase, snacks cheap. We look forward to your next gift, Busan!