This year, the Busan International Film Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary, drawing the largest attendance in its history despite massive budget overhauls. For a festival with a Korean identity, it was somewhat striking that the opening and closing films, Zubaan and Mountain Cry, came from India and China, respectively. Regardless, hoards of Korean cinephiles camped out in box-office lines that started at sunset, so as to get a chance to patronize a lineup that included new works from Jia Zhang-ke, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Claude Lelouch, Marco Bellocchio, Radu Jude, among others.
As much as the concurrent Asian Film Market (October 3—6) and the infamous late-night soju drinking parties added to its cultural and economic prestige, this is still a festival for audiences and cinephiles alike. From October 1 to 10, the atmosphere in Busan was imbued with the sublime energy of youthful ambition, which was evident if one took the moment to talk to any of the volunteers, many of whom dream of becoming filmmakers. The impressive array of 302 films from across the Asian continent, stretching from Iran to the Philippines and back, succeeded in creating what director Lee Yong-kwan called “the window to the world for Asian films.”