Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival offline again after two years

Poster for the 26th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival which runs from Thursday to July 17 [BIFAN]

The 26th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (Bifan) is resuming its offline event for the first time after two years since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Same as last year’s, the slogan for the festival remains “Stay Strange” and will screen 268 films from 49 countries. The festival will be held near Bucheon City Hall.

This year’s edition kicks off with the opening film “Men” by Alex Garland, best known for films “Ex Machina” (2015) and “Annihilation” (2018). The narrative takes the protagonist Harper on a retreat to a picturesque English house and shows the horrifying occurrences in the village.

At a local press event to introduce the festival held last month at Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) in Jung District, central Seoul, festival director Shin Chul commented, “It’s been a while since we chose a film rated R to open the festival. The last 10 minutes of the film is controversial, but we thought it was a film that definitely should be introduced in our festival.”

The closing film is “New Normal” by Jung Bum-shik, who debuted with his feature film “Epitaph” (2007) and is known for his horror film “Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum” (2018). Featuring the star-studded cast of Choi Ji-woo, Lee Yoo-mi, Choi Min-ho, Pyo Ji-hoon, Jung Dong-won and Ha Da-in, the film centers around four days of multiple characters who are used to eating alone.

“In this lonely era, ['New Normal'] is a well-made film expanding off of the horrors that lonely people face,” Shin said.

The competitive section divides local and foreign films. For international “Bucheon Choice: Features,” 10 films such as “Alien Artist” by Seiyo Hoya, “La Pieta” by Eduardo Casanova, “Sissy” by Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes and “Vesper” by Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper will compete for prizes such as Best of Bucheon, Best Director Choice and Jury’s Choice.

The local competition for “Korean Fantastic: Features” includes 10 films such as “Cabriolet” by Cho Kwang-jin, “A Good Boy” by Son Kyoung-won, “Mind Universe” by Kim Jin-moo, “Next Door” by Yeom Ji-ho and “The Woman in the White Car” by Christine Ko which will compete for prizes such as Korean Fantastic Best Director, Fantastic Actors and Korean Fantastic Audience Award.

Bifan is resuming its annual exhibition that singles out one actor to honor their career and highlight their most iconic works, after a three-year hiatus. Under the title “The Actor, Seol Kyung-gu,” Seol’s seven iconic films such as “Peppermint Candy” (1999), “Oasis” (2002) by Lee Chang-dong, “Silmido” (2003) by Kang Woo-suk, “The Merciless” (2017) by Byun Sung-hyun and “The Book of Fish” (2021) by Lee Joon-ik will be screened during the festival.

Another highlight among the special exhibitions is “Boys, Be, Love,” which will screen six films of the boy love (BL) genre, with narratives that revolve around the close relationships between men. Watcha’s first original series “Semantic Error” was adapted into a full-length film and will premiere for the first time in Bifan.

The festival will continue its hybrid format of hosting both online and offline screenings, collaborating with local streaming service Wavve. 138 films will be made available on the platform during the festival period.

More outdoor events are planned for this year, such as “Halloween in July,” which offers a variety of programs for a midsummer party, where parades, dance nights, water gun fights and a series of mission games are planned.

Bifan is also resuming its extended reality (XR) exhibition “Beyond Reality” in Bucheon, which had been held at Incheon International Airport for the past two years. This year’s seventh edition of the exhibition invited 42 XR content to Bucheon Manhwa Museum and the Culture Hall of the Hyundai Department Jungdong Store.

“The 26th Bifan will not return to the past, but will be an evolving film festival with aims to showcase good films,” Shin said. “This year’s slogan continues to be ‘Stay Strange.’ I wanted to send a message to the young creators to say, ‘It’s okay to be strange, so just do it.’”