The Korea Herald


[From the scene] Eye-catching films at 28th BIFF

From documentary of late singer to internationally acclaimed films, streaming originals, Busan Film Fest offers wide-ranging cinematic experiences

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Oct. 10, 2023 - 16:08

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“Ballerina” (Netflix) “Ballerina” (Netflix)

This year’s Busan International Film Festival, which kicked off Oct. 4, invited a total of 269 movies -- about 90 fewer than last year due to a cut in government funding. But Asia's largest film festival continues to be a hit with the public, achieving a 90 percent seat occupancy rate as of Monday.

With just days to go before the 28th edition of Asia's largest film festival comes to an end Friday, following is a recap of the first half of the festival.


Among the three Special Premiere films of this year’s Korean Cinema Today, a section that introduces mainstream commercial films, are two new Netflix originals: “Ballerina” and “Believer 2.”

“Ballerina,” director Lee Chung-hyeon’s second work with his girlfriend and actor Jun Jong-seo who stars as protagonist Ok-joo, is an action-packed film that tells a story of merciless revenge by Ok-joo on behalf of her friend and ballerina Min-hee (Park Yu-rim). Kim Ji-hoon, known from Netflix hit series “Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area,” stars as Choi Pro, a lieutenant in the gang who is targeted by Ok-joo for having led Min-hee to take her own life. Rapper and composer Gray also took part as the film's music director.

While Jun flawlessly portrays action sequences with a gun, a knife and on a motorbike, the film’s sensuous mise-en-scene employing unexpected hues like pink and red is eye-catching -- a perfect fit for the hip-hop tempo in important scenes by Gray, who said he wanted to break the cliche of movies featuring ballerinas dancing to classical music.

“It’s Okay!” (BIFF) “It’s Okay!” (BIFF)

'It’s Okay!'

Korean Cinema Today's Panorama highlights seven movies, including director Kim Hye-young’s feature debut “It’s Okay!” The film revolves around In-young (Lee Re), a high schooler pursuing her study of traditional Korean dance despite her mother's death in a car accident. Jin Seo-yeon, who plays the director of In-young’s dance troupe, and Son Suk-ku, who stars as a pharmacist in In-young’s neighborhood, befriend In-young, showing how friendship can form regardless of age. Disney+ hit series “Moving” protagonist Lee Jung-ha also appears as In-young's closest friend.

Kim, who co-directed hit drama series “Be Melodramatic” in 2019, said she wanted to make a film she could show her nephew and niece.

“This film is about grown-ups who need love and attention,” she told the audience following Saturday's screening. “That’s why I tried to cast actors whose hidden, positive charm can be maximized on the screen,” she said, pointing to Jin, best known as a merciless action master in "Believer."

“Dear Jinri” (BIFF) “Dear Jinri” (BIFF)

'Dear Jinri'

Directed by Jung Yoon-seok, documentary “Dear Jinri” shows the then-25-year-old singer and actor Choi Jin-ri – better known as Sulli from idol group f(x) – and her diverse concerns and thoughts in the format of an interview.

The 101-minute-long film, unveiled for the first time at BIFF, conveys the late Choi’s wish for the public to see her as she is and to like her just as she is. She had long been a target of online vitriol for defying social norms -- from posting braless photos of herself to being candid about her romantic relationship. Suffering from severe depression, she took her own life in 2019 at the age of 25.

Jung told the audience in a talk session held after the screening on Sunday that the film is not just about Choi Jin-ri.

“Although she is the main and the only protagonist in the film, this film is dedicated to so many people who miss her, but also about the true value of the the world we live in,” he said, adding that the Korean origin of "Jin-ri" is "truth."

“I read all of the interview articles since her debut 14 years earlier by hiring a big data researcher," Jung said, adding that he approached the film differently after Sulli took her own life. The film project began in 2019.

“I talked a lot with a psychiatrist who participated in our film as a consultant, because no matter what, our film entails the feeling of sadness as it talks about an incident which still many feel sad about. I tried to focus on what kind of words by the actor should be delivered to the audience,” he said. The documentary is to be released via Netflix later this year.

“Green Night” (BIFF) “Green Night” (BIFF)

Green Night

“Green Night,” Chinese actor Fan Bingbing’s first leading role after a six-year hiatus, has been invited to BIFF’s Gala Presentation, a section that screens internationally renowned auteurs' latest works. Other films at this year's Gala Presentation are "Monster" by Hirokazu Koreeda and "The Beast" from Bertrand Bonello.

“Green Night,” director Han Shuai’s sophomore feature-length release, was invited to the Berlin International Film Festival’s Panorama section earlier this year.

The crime suspense film revolves around Jin Xia (Fan), who lives a routine life, meeting the free-spirited, green-haired girlfriend (Lee Joo-young) of a Chinese Korean drug dealer.

While the director said she wanted to portray two contrasting characters showing a totally new aspect of the actors, Fan said it was she who had strongly suggested casting Lee.

“I’ve known her from her previous movie ‘Baseball Girl,’ and I found her very interesting from the mood she creates in different kind of movies. I thought she was the type of actor who can create a flame in the movie. So I decided to bring her to the project no matter what,” Fan told the audience after a screening on Friday. “I even wrote a letter to her,” she said, laughing.

In the film, Fan shows a new side of herself in her role as an introverted woman facing domestic violence, something the audience may not have seen before in Fan’s 26-year career.

“When the director offered me this character, Jin Xia, I was surprised at first, but I knew that I would play and also had an urge to learn about this character,” she added.

The 28th Busan International Film Festival ends Friday.