Bucheon is a satellite city of Seoul, linked to the capital by congested roads and an efficient subway network. It is part of a vast metropolitan area, home to roughly 20 million people, of which 1 million live in Bucheon itself.
It’s not just the city that’s huge; it’s the festival too. BiFan attracts more 400.000 visitors to over 235 films. That is well in the league of behemoths like Toronto and Berlin, and it makes BiFan the largest genre festival in the world.
A fact that is clearly visible in the city itself, where the main roads are lined with festival banners and where the bars-and-restaurants-area even has its own BiFan Street!
The festival takes place in July, a hot and humid month in the middle of the rainy season. We are lucky this year, as it remains dry for most of the days and we have the full benefit of Bucheon’s (and BiFan’s) famous night life. Eating and drinking go well into the early hours on most nights, with a few nights of karaoke thrown in too.
It is a nice idea that a European jury comes to judge an Asian competition and we had a list of eleven features from five countries to watch. The diversity was big and ranged from all out horror to fantasy to revenge thriller to high school courtroom drama.
Over a dinner with UFO steaks, Chris and I had to make a decision for the award. Not that easy, with several strong films to choose from. One of those was Bombay Velvet, the new film by Anurag Kashyap, whose Gangs of Wasseypur and Ugly have widely played the genre festival circuit. His latest is a beautifully crafted gangster melodrama, set in post colonial Bombay of the 1950’s and ‘60’s. As it is not really a fantastic film, we decide to give it a special mention. The award went to Eiichiro Hasumi’s Assassination Classroom, a wildly entertaining fantasy film, based on a popular manga. In the film, a motley crew of high school hopeless are trained to assassinate an alien who threatens to destroy the earth. Their teacher: the alien itself. The film is already a huge hit in Japan itself and a sequel is underway. It is a fitting winner: a youthful, dynamic, fast paced and entertaining film – at a festival and in a city that have these qualities too.
As BiFan prepares for its 20th edition, I can only say: thank you all at BiFan, from staff and programmers to Bifanians, for your wonderful hospitality and a truly memorable festival. It was a fantastic experience from start to finish and I cannot wait to be back!
Artistic Director – Imagine Film Festival