Tharp On: BIFF 2013 Opening Night Party

Don’€™t you just love October? Not only are the days bright and gorgeous and decidedly less-sweaty, but it’s that time of year once again, where the who’€™s who of the international film scene descend from the heavens and deign to walk with us mortals here in our gritty ol’ port town.

For ten days the city is transformed into a cinephiles paradise, with directors and actors,  events, press conferences, literally hundreds of screenings, and boozy parties pulsing into the wee hours of the morning. Sleepy Busan is suddenly put on the world map, and even flirts with being glamorous. BIFF is just a hell of a time, and I look forward to it every year.

Last night the festival opened with adoring fans camping outside of the Busan Cinema Center in order to catch a glimpse of impossibly pretty actors and emaciated starlets wobbling down the red carpet in lethal heels. Mayor Hur Nam-shik ushered in the 18th fest with fireworks punctuating his speech, followed by a screening of the Indian movie, Vara: A Blessing,€ the first non-Korean work picked as an opener. I gave the whole thing a skip, electing instead to save my energy for the big opening party at the Grand Hotel.

This was my fourth year at this particular soiree, and this time I rolled in with a Haps posse made up of Jen Sotham, Seth Fellenz, Ben Cowles, and my old buddy Angry Steve Feldman, who worked on the subtitles for the film Hello!? Orchestra, one of this year’s official selections. We quickly made our way up the stairs and hit the buffet something fierce, before drowning our anxieties with copious amounts of vino and Jameson’€™s (which flowed mightily, I must say).

Kim Ki-duk was dressed in relatively shabby looking Buddhist garb and tied his hair up in a do that only could be described as Samurai-esque. The diminutive director worked the room, soft-spoken and gracious with his many admirers.

The opening party always brings out some high-caliber players, and this year was no exception, with notorious Korean director Kim Ki-duk being the biggest photo op of the night. Kim was dressed in relatively shabby looking Buddhist garb and tied his hair up in a do that only could be described as Samurai-esque. The diminutive director worked the room, soft-spoken and gracious with his many admirers. I joined the reception line and in the end, got a photo with the man. From his mellow, unassuming demeanor, you’d never guess that he just completed a film about a mother who slices off  her own son’s pecker with a kitchen knife. Moeibus,’ which is featured at this year’€™s fest, has reportedly caused viewers to run out of screenings, vomiting. This guy is like the Lars Von Triers of Korea. Keep up the good work, Mr. Kim.

The festivities were a bit stuffy at first, but booze is the great stick-up-the-ass remover, and after enough glasses of the stuff, everyone began to open up and the serious schmoozing began. It was my objective to meet some real live filmmakers so I can have a bit of personal connection to the films I go see, and it didn’t take long to sniff a couple out.

I chatted with several folks, including Aussie Aaron Wilson, whose film Canopy will be shown; Girish Malik, the director of the Indian film Jal (meaning water, he repeatedly emphasized); a French Canadian team (an actor and writer director) who are premiering their movie, â€Clyde Cynic€ and Yannis Sakaridis, who is currently making the film festival rounds with Wild Duck,€ which bears no relation to the Ibsen play of the same name.

Sakaridis was a funny and interesting character, working with a group called the €œAthens Filmmakers Co-operative. His English was fluent–the result of 18 years spent in London–and he didn’t take much prodding to speak passionately about his film. Dressed in jeans and a cabbie hat, he looked more like a street corner socialist than an esteemed director, but that was probably the point. We talked about Greece and the current rise of fascism there, and it was clear that he wanted to take on the establishment.

Wild Duck premiered at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival, and is now popping up on screens at fests all over the world. It only shows the opening weekend, with a screening on Sunday at 11 am. When after talking about the content of the film, I asked Sakaridis if he was excited to be in Busan and travelling the globe in support of this project.

Oh, very much,€ he said, with a wide smile. It’s just incredible.


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