From Old to New Currents

in 9th Busan International Film Festival

by Hubert Niogret

Showing 272 films from 63 countries, in 17 cinemas including the Outdoor Theatre of 5000 seats for the mainstream international features, the 9th Pusan International Film Festival, now one the most important film festivals in Asia, aims to bring to Korea a number of western films but chiefly to emphasise Asian Cinema through different sections from Iran to Japan.

From these sections: “Window on Asian Cinema”; “New Currents”; “Korean Panorama” showing after Berlin and Venice, great films from Im Kwon-taek – Low Life, a deep feature about dictatorships – and the younger director Kim Ki-duk’s Samaritan Girl and 3 Iron proposing new relations between violence, sex, society and innocence; “Korean Retrospective” on the Hong-Kong-Korea co-productions; “Wide Angle” provides the opportunity to see the beautiful documentary from China of Tian Zhuangzhuang, Delamu, looking at people rejected from the main China but building in their own ways the History of China; “New possibilities of Indonesia Cinema” about Garin Nugroho and friends; “Asian Future (Animation)”, “New Currents” is the one benefiting from the most care from organisers and consequently getting the widest audience.

In the “New Currents” section, 11 films from 8 countries (China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Hong-Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia) of very different types of production budgets (from the very poor amateurish black-and-white digital video to the flamboyant professional 35mm, anamorphic) were shown with the criterion of being first or second-time film directors. Only the film Soap Opera by Wu Er-shan (China) awarded with the FIPRESCI prize showed some intention of not positioning itself in mainstream cinema (“the old currents”) and succeeded in mixing dramatic narration with social content, humour with atrocities, and in the first part of his three stories proposing interesting ways of working in colour using digital tools. All the other films were repeating past cinematic expressions (sometimes with very professional cleverness as the Taiwanese, Holiday Dreaming by Hsu Fuchun), or failed both in narration and form, sometimes because of the excessive weight of unjustified sophisticated ways of expression, even if some tackle social violence, individual repression of inner feelings, depression in vision and living, which mirrors their own society, or some take radical and opposite ways in making cinema in reference to the dominant expressions of their own country.

Hubert Niogret