Jeonju International Film Festival 2024 kicks off to huge fanfare

Actors Gong Seung-yeon, left, and Lee Hee-jun pose for cameras on the red carpet before the opening ceremony of the 25th Jeonju International Film Festival at Sori Arts Center in Jeonju on Wednesday. [YONHAP]

JEONJU, North Jeolla – Jeonju may be famous for its hanok (traditional Korean house) villages, but the city also serves as the home of one of Korea’s major events for movie buffs: the Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF).

This year celebrates the 25th edition of JIFF, and the opening ceremony kicked off Wednesday evening on a grand scale, leaving Jeonju’s own citizens stunned at the event's extravagance.

The opening ceremony was held at Sori Arts Center in Deokjin District, followed by a screening of the opening film, “All the Long Nights,” by Japanese director Sho Miyake.

The Jeonju International Film Festival kicked off its 25th edition at Sori Arts Center in Jeonju on Wednesday. [YONHAP]

“I’ve just always pictured it to be very local, despite being called an international film festival,” Ko Yoo-jin, a visitor in her 50s who lives in Jeonju, told the Korea JoongAng Daily. It’s her first time at JIFF, and she marveled at how the venue was filled with movie buffs.

Others, like 20-year-old Lee Ji-min, a film major at Jeonju University, was unable to get tickets for the opening ceremony, as they sold out as soon as they went on sale. Yet, she lingered at the venue, hoping to get a glimpse of her favorite actor, Byeon Woo-seok.

As she wants to expand her career path toward film production, Lee said she planned to continue to visit JIFF during its 10-day run.

“At least I got tickets for the closing ceremony,” she said, which will screen the closing film, “Matt and Mara,” by Canadian director Kazik Radwanski.

Celebrities greet their fans as they enter Sori Arts Center for the opening ceremony of the 25th Jeonju International Film Festival on Wednesday. [SHIN MIN-HEE]

Lee wasn’t the only one unable to get tickets for the opening ceremony. Several onlookers outside the venue said they failed to get tickets and were only there to see the red carpet event.

A star-studded lineup of actors including Byeon, Jin Goo, Lee You-mi, Gong Seung-yeon and Lee Hee-jun attended the opening ceremony, with visitors screaming their lungs out as each celebrity stepped on the red carpet one by one. The roars from the crowd may have even been louder than fans at a K-pop idol concert.

Gong and Lee Hee-jun hosted the ceremony, packed with some 2,000 audience members. They introduced this year's JIFF slogan, “Beyond the Frame,” which alludes to crossing boundaries, especially in independent and experimental cinema.

“It’s a big challenge whenever we try to think outside the box,” said festival chairman Woo Beom-ki, who is also the mayor of Jeonju. “But it also leads to experiencing a new world. With the opening of the film festival, I hereby invite you all to a world that nobody has ever seen.” Woo welcomed guests in a sky blue satin hanbok (traditional Korean dress).

From left: Co-director Min Sung-wook, chairman Woo Beom-ki and co-director Jung Jun-ho pose for cameras on the red carpet before the opening ceremony of the 25th Jeonju International Film Festival at Sori Arts Center in Jeonju on Wednesday. [YONHAP]

For 10 days, JIFF is to be jam-packed with screenings of 232 films from 43 nations. 102 of the films are Korean. The entry process was tough, with 747 international films and 1,513 Korean films vying for screen time at JIFF.

Director Hur Jin-ho will present five specially chosen films as programmer of the year. After the screenings of “The March of Fools” (1975), “One Fine Spring Day” (2001), “April Snow” (2005), “Paris, Texas” (1984) and “Tokyo Story” (1953), the cast and crew of each film will hold an hour-long public talk.

“It’s a fresh feeling to be able to choose my own recommendations after always seeing other programmers recommend my films [as a director] over the years,” Hur said.

A still from “One Fine Spring Day” (2001) by Hur Jin-ho [JIFF]
A still from ″When We Bloom Again″ by Shin Kyoung-soo [JIFF]

Some notable screenings to look out for are Pixar films, including the “Toy Story” franchise, “Wall-E” (2008) and “Elemental” (2023), to celebrate the upcoming release of “Inside Out 2.” The film will premiere in June.

Malaysian filmmaker Tsai Ming-Liang is highlighted in this year’s JIFF with 10 of his previous works. Six films and documentaries will also commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Sewol Ferry Disaster, which resulted in over 300 deaths.

The Cinetour is available for those who wish to enjoy cinema in an outdoor setting, and includes talk programs featuring actors signed to Varo Entertainment, like the aforementioned Jin, Lee You-mi, Gong, Byeon and more.

A still from ″Abiding Nowhere″ by Tsai Ming-Liang [JIFF]

JIFF ends May 10. Screenings during JIFF are held at numerous venues, including Jeonju Square, CGV Jeonjugosa, Megabox Jeonju Gaeksa, Jeonju Cine Complex and the Jeonbuk National University Cultural Center. For the screening schedule and ticketing information, visit the JIFF website, which is also available in English.