Lights, camera, BIFF! The Busan International Film Festival took us by surprise

One of our favorite finds in Busan, South Korea, came almost by accident.  I say almost, because it is a big deal in Busan, but we had no clue it was going on when we were in town, despite the fact that we always check and see if there are any festivals going on before we visit a city.

Often, we even go so far as picking cities because a festival is going on.

So when we found out that BIFF, the 22nd annual Busan International Film Festival was going on from October 12th to the 21st, we were very excited!  We do love ourselves a good movie, after all.  I have a soft spot for old gangster movies, circa Goodfellas, Scarface and The Godfather, while Carine is a sucker for comedies and dramas, like the Matrix, Fight Club and The Incredibles (of course neither of which are comedies or dramas…).

Being from Montreal, we have our own film festival, but it pales in comparison to other International Film Festivals.  The closest comparison in our eyes would be the bigger Toronto Film Festival.

Well, we were in luck, because BIFF has films from all over the world, for all types of movie-goers.  This year, it boasted over 300 films from 75 different countries, 99 of which were world premieres.  On the judging panel, is the award winning writer and filmmaker, Oliver Stone.

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BIFF red carpet / © Asia One

We loved the vibe of Busan from the get-go.  We stayed in the vibrant tourist-friendly Haeundae beach area of Busan. Normally home to affordable food stalls, karaoke joints out the wazoo, and a vibrant nightlife, for 10 days in October, it is also the home of the BIFF headquarters.  It sees plenty of celebrity appearances, such as Jennifer Lawrence, who was in attendance to represent the movie Mother!.  We may (or may not) have spent our days during the festival hoping to run into her.

The venues for the showings were a few different movie theatres, and you had to go on the spot to get your tickets.  They also have night-time beach movie viewings that are free to the public.

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Pose for the camera! / © 高 远

Though we don’t normally go catch a movie while we are traveling, we made an exception for BIFF, ok we made 2 exceptions!

The first film we saw was called Mi Mundial, a Uruguayan movie about a kid wanting to make it big playing futbol (or soccer for us North Americans).  It was a touching story based on a popular book by Daniel Baldi.

It is the story of Tito, a young boy prodigy who is pushed harder and harder as he grows up to pursue his families only chance at getting out of the hardships they endure.  Titos’s family is poor, and they see from an early age that Tito is head and shoulders above the rest of the boys his age in football.

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Without spoiling the plot of the movie, Tito endures some hardships himself, and questions his passion for the sport that captivates billions of people around the world.

Being from Canada, this movie easily could have been made about a little Sydney Crosby.  It is a look into the pressure that comes with young boys or girls who give up their entire childhood in pursuit of achieving their dreams of becoming the best at their sport.

Far from a North American blockbuster movie, it hit close to the heart for both of us, and was one of the better movies we had seen in a long while.  Carine may have shed a tear or two… not that that is anything new!

At the conclusion of the movie, the credits rolled to a classic Spanish song by the name of Los Caminos de la Vida, which perfectly summed up the film.  Once the screen went to black, the movies director and producers, Carlos Andrés Morelli and Lucia Gaviglio Salkind took questions from the gallery for a good 45 minutes.

The next film we saw was called Equilibrio by Italian filmmaker Vincenzo Marra.  The story of father Giuseppe, a priest from Rome.  Tempted by a woman he is friends with, he moves from Rome to Campania, north west of Naples.  His congregation is troubled by toxic waste, with many illnesses befalling them.

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Father Giuseppe tries to get to the bottom of why all of this toxic waste is allowed to be dumped right in their backyard, only to find that the local mafia is responsible.  The local organized crime family is allowed to run rampant due to a seeming absence of police or governmental presence in the area.

This movie was a little slow-paced, but between the acting, and the realism the entire film embodies, it was nonetheless a good watch.  The portrayal of the mafia was not glorified the way it usually is in American films.

It was refreshing to see works that were put together by people we actually met, as opposed to big media companies, like most movies we watch are.  It gives the films a truer feel.  The lack of a big budget often leads to more emphasis being put on the writing and storytelling, which is a big plus in our books.

While it may not have been the Cannes Film Festival, BIFF was a unique experience for us on our trip and will be remembered fondly!


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