BIFF: Busan International Film Festival

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October 3rd 2015
Published: November 7th 2015
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Busan International Film Festival is held every year, normally in early October. This year,the 20th film festival ran from the 1st to 10th October. This was the third time I have been to the film festival. The first time I just turned up and bought tickets on the day, last year I was slightly more organised, and this year, I think I cracked it. The film catalogue is released on online in mid-September. so you can see what films take your fancy. This is a huge selection, there are films from all over the world, with a special focus on Asian film. There is also a great timetable that shows what film will be shown on each day at each cinema. I find this invaluable when it come to planning. The cinemas are Busan Cinema Centre, CGV Centum City, Lotte Cinema Centum City, Megabox Haeundae, Megabox Busan Theater, and Sohyang Theater. The guide has a day by day guide of what films are playing at each theatre. The films are listed for each screen within the theatres, so you can plan what you would like to see. It also gives the running times of the films, so that you can check that they don't overlap, or you have enough time to get from one screening to another.

The tickets go on sale the week before the festival starts. The tickets for the opening and closing films go on sale first. I can't remember what day as I didn't pay much attention to those as I knew I wouldn't be going to them. The regular tickets go on sale on the Thursday at 10 am. You have to create a user id and password, along with your email address, but it's only for the website. I never needed to use them again. Korea is a bit backwards when it comes to online shopping and are slaves to internet explorer. So you need to use that web browser to buy tickets. The website is easy to navigate, on the buy tickets page all you need to do is enter the 3 digit film code, then select number of seats, and finally position of the seats. Tickets do sell out quickly. One of the films I wanted to see had already sold our in one screening, but luckily they had two screenings on at the same time. One screening had a guest visit and the other didn't. If you attend the screening that doesn't have the guest visit you can go to the other screen after the film has finished.

Sometimes, like last year, there is a three day weekend in October as both the 3rd and 9th are public holidays, which coincides with BIFF, however this year the festival would finish during the latter three day holiday. Since I was trying to save money, I opted to go on a group tour with a tour company that caters for foreigners. This included return bus travel (our own coach) and two nights in a hotel. This worked out cheaper than purchasing KTX tickets, but not as quick or as comfortable. We travelled overnight on the Friday and arrived at Haeundae around 5 am. This is one of the reasons I was happy that I had booked my cinema tickets as the others had to get up early to go and queue at the main BIFF box office over in Centum City, whereas I could stay in bed. If you are going to the box office to get tickets, you need to get there early, I think it opens at 8:30 or 9 am, but it is better to get there earlier, especially on the Saturday, as the queues are horrific and lots of films will be sold out very quickly. It's a good idea to have two or three choices jotted down for one time slot. Normally, the Sunday is a lot quieter and it is quicker and easier to get tickets.

Normally there are four screening times for films. The first one is 10 to 11 am, the second 1 to 2 pm, the third 4 to 5 pm, and the final one 7 to 8:30 pm. I had purchased tickets to see four movies that day and two on Sunday. I had also had a moment of genius when I chose my films, as I had picked on that had started at 11 am instead of 10 am, which is normally the time of the first screenings of the day. Also since we were staying in Haeundae, I had opted for films that were being shown at the Megabox there. In previous years I had flitted about between here and Centum City, but it would be nice to enjoy my down time between movies. It is easy to get between Haeundae and Centum City, it is only a couple of stops on the subway, there is a free shuttle bus, too, and of course taxis. However, the traffic had been bad on the Sunday, so maybe it is easier to take the subway, no traffic jams.

So I spent a day and a half watching movies. I watched movies from Korea, China, Germany/Serbia, Iran, and the US. The films were all very different and all very enjoyable in their own ways. My favourite was 'The Battle of Gwangju' about the independence movement in the early 1980s in Korea. At first, I didn't think I was going to like the film, due to how the opening scenes were filmed, but the style did change as the film progressed. It was a very powerful film and it did move me to tears, as did Twinsters another movie I watched. Twinsters is the true story of two Korean adoptees, who find each other on the internet and find out that they are twins, that were separated at birth.

I was able to enjoy my downtime between movies more, as I was in one place and only had a five minute walk to the cinema from our accommodation. I had a nice walk along the beach. Haeundae is a really nice beach, there were quite a few people about but it wasn't crowded. The weather is still quite warm and it is nice to walk around during the day. There is also a BIFF Village set up on the beach. There is a stage, where interviews are held. I think they are all in Korean though. There are a few different shops/stalls to have a look around. There are plenty places to eat and about a million coffee shops. The Haeundae area is also really happening at night, there are lots of bars to go drinking in, maybe mix with the film stars, directors, and production crews. Also the beach is nice to chill on with a few beers.

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