BUCHEON CITY—The saying “You can’t be in two places at once” no longer holds water given one’s overwhelming presence, literally, in this era of cybertechnology. On the visceral level, one can virtually recreate manifold characters by way of cloning (computer image generation) in multiple time zones.
This I learned when we arrived at Incheon International Airport in Seoul and were whisked away by cab to Hotel Floce in Bucheon City, where the annual Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival was being held.
Also called BiFan, the festival is Asia’s biggest fantastic film event, according to one brochure. It is assisted by the South Korean government.
When I reached my hotel room, I dropped my luggage on the floor and started work on my laptop. I would beat a deadline on a report on the 18th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, which is scheduled to open on Aug. 5 at the Main Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila.
Meanwhile, the 26th BiFan kicked off on July 7 at the huge Bucheon City Hall, with illustrious Korean film celebrities in attendance. I missed the opening ceremony, but local and foreign guests told me about the glitz and glam of the occasion, which focused on the rarity of genre filmmaking.
BiFan is a springboard of the hottest world films ranging from horror, thriller, sci-fi and fantasy to legends, among other themes.
After concluding my report on Cinemalaya, I began on the BiFan story, especially the BIG (BiFan Industry Gathering) on July 9 at Koryo Hotel, a five-star hospitality service center. BIG is a film market component of BiFan in which industry projects are cooked up not only by Korean filmmakers, producers, investors, marketers and media, but by their international counterparts as well.
BIG’s main umbrella is the Network for Asian Fantastic Films (NAFF), which is being managed by Korean film businessman and artist Jongsuk Thomas Nam.
Among NAFF’s programs are Project Market with business meetings; Blood Window, a specialization on genre film showing which featured this year “Upiro,” a film by Oscar Martin and Elena Munoz; Work in Progress; Fantastic 7; and Spotlight, which annually focuses on a particular Asian film-producing country and its yields.
It Project is a platform that launches new discoveries in international genre projects selected and vetted by professionals and industry experts. Two of the recipients of awards close to home are Mikhail Red with “Eerie” (2017) and Kenneth Dagatan with “In My Mother’s Skin” (2020).
Another program, Fantastic Film School, offers courses in genre filmmaking to Asian students during the BiFan. It was because of this program that I went to BiFan in 2011 as the first Filipino film student enrolled freely in its curriculum.
I have been involved in BiFan work since 2016, when Jongsuk Thomas assigned me to write for the “Made in Asia” booklet on Philippine cinema market trends.
Exhibit and contest
While the 2022 Cinemalaya will exhibit 11 full-length and short Filipino films in the competition section and other screen genres, both local and international, the 2022 BiFan has hundreds of entries in contention in various categories from all over the world, and closes on July 17.
Cinemalaya has different components, such as Cinemalaya College, Script Laboratory and Pitching. According to Chris Millado, the festival director, one of the new sections and projects to be implemented next year is the Documentary Filmmaking Contest.
It will open with award-winning director Martika Ramirez Escobar’s dark comedy “Leonor Will Never Die.”