Our Unbiased Opinion: Adventures at the Busan International Film Festival

31 Oct

Today, we are proud to present a report on the Busan International Film Festival from our far east correspondent, Blake Palmer.  As some of you know, Blake also has his own blog about his adventures in Korea, and this article also appeared there.  If you have not had the chance to check out this record of his exploits on the far side of the world, you can find it here:  http://typusorbisterrarum.com/.  We will also be presenting reviews on some of the films Blake saw in the near future.

The late night express bus finally hit Busan around 2am. Bleary eyed and disoriented, our confederacy of eager, young miscreants stumbled headlong off the shuttle and into the waiting city lights. We had only managed about 3 hours of fitful rest on the 4 hour bus ride, but the mortal dangers of sleep deprivation were miles from our minds.

Fueled by the same kind of anamalistic enthusiam reserved for children descending upon piles of unripped wrapping paper, we stormed into the city center, claiming our rightful place in the ticket line with a spirit of finality that fell just short of planting a star spangled flag into foreign soil.

We had brought the necessary supplies to last us through the night, but sleep was a solace for weaker mortals than we. Armed with a freshly foisted program guide, we set about the business of exploring the surrounding territory, and finalizing our early morning plan of attack. Battle plans fully-fledged and the lay of the land scouted and scoped, the last of us laid our heads down around 5am.

We woke early with a renewed sense of righteous self-assurance as we gazed down a winding line of wayward stragglers doomed to resign themselves to the celluloid scraps we left behind. Our diligence had proved fruitful, and soon we were each clutching a fistful of prime tickets. After celebrating over sorely needed cups of coffee, we scattered to the coastal winds of Busan, and set upon the most glorious hodgepodge of language soup and cinematic nerdery that any of our fresh-faced, young wayfarers had yet experienced.

It being a truly international festival, watching the deeply frazzled organizers deal with the impossibly manifold language barriers was perhaps the most interesting part of the whole affair. There were films in Polish, French, Spanish, Italian, Farsi, English and Korean; and those are just the ones that we managed to see. Q&A’s with directors involved a whole squadron of translators, and always seemed to teeter just on the edge of being a magnificent tower-of-babelesque train wreck before being gently pulled back from the edge at the last possible moment.

The city’s streets were littered with uniformed assistants poised to spring eagerly to the rescue of any poor soul they caught looking more wild-eyed and bewildered than common decency allowed. Maps were everywhere, parts of the city had gone so far as to roll out literal red carpets for the teeming masses of film geeks and foreigners.

It was an absolute and beautiful chaos, and it was from this frenzied vantage point that, if you stepped outside of yourself for just a moment, you could see the common thread that tied the whole scattered mess together. Amidst the the frantic rush of attendees running like madmen to make their next film time, the obviously-exhausted-but-still-somehow-smiling volunteers, and the guady splendor that bedecked the city as if it were preparing for a belated Roman triumph, there was an underlying simplicity, a common denominator that underlined the disheveled affair with a perfect and unified sense.

In a world where we have created endless taxonomies with which to divide ourselves, a messy clash of cultures had assembled together for the love of a common medium. We were here because we loved movies. Through the power of projected light patterns, we allowed ourselves to be opened up to unfamiliar cultures, experiences, and characters. Complex issues that would have drawn anything from criticism to gunfire in many other settings were discussed openly and sincerely through film.

Over an incredibly long/short day and a half, we found ourselves feeling the heavy depression of Italian prisoners, the feral strength of a neglected young girl, the soul-crushing sadness of a man imprisoned for his words, and hosts of other frames through which we empathized with experiences that were far removed from our own. It was an exalting and enlightening ride that left us feeling… tired.

Several hours and several films later, our bedraggled crew finally withdrew from the fray. We walked, dazed but happy, through the streets of Busan one last time before separating to catch our respective bus rides back. Our time had been brief but well spent, because, soap boxes and hyperbole aside, there’s nothing better than time spent doing something you love with people who will love it right along with you.

– Blake


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