10 Documentaries you cannot miss at the 22nd Busan International Film Festival 2017

We present a list of ten documentaries you cannot miss at the 22nd Busan International Film Festival 2017 that will take place from October 12th – 21st in Busan, South Korea.

In the Claws of a Century Wanting by Jewel Maranan
Philippines, Germany, Qatar | 2017 – 123 min.
Section: Wide Angle

A documentary about people living around Manila, In the Claws of a Century Wanting explores the harsh lives led in the backstreets of the port, a world of busy working people, ships, cranes and stacks of huge containers. We follow the lives of five people exposed to the everyday violence that is poverty. There is Anne, who is raising her third child. A little boy named Akira, who learns from the letters written on sacks and searches for pieces of metal and coal. Eddie, who enjoys watching TV before his night shift as a longshoreman, as midwife, Paning, brings disturbing news. Finally, there’s Emelita who is preparing her husband’s funeral. The port promises a better future in the name of development, but people are about to lose their homes. Proper education isn’t provided for children and there’s no gas or electricity in the houses. The camera catches glimpses of the sky through the stifling frame of dark dilapidated houses, contrasting with the gorgeous port in the distance. This insider’s view lets us feel their daily struggle, rather than making their lives a mere spectacle. (CHO Hyeyoung – BIFF Catalogue)

October 14th, 2017 | Saturday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 4 – 20:00pm
October 19th, 2017 | Thursday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 5 – 16:30pm
October 20th, 2017 | Friday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 2 – 13:00pm


The Whispering Trees by Heo Chulnyung – Korea | 2017 – 107 min.
Section: Wide Angle

As an old lady looks into the distance where high-voltage power pylons are visible, green leaves sprout from a dead tree nearby, and she looks at her son’s back. Senior citizen Kim Mal-hae, who has protested the construction of pylons for ten years, married young to avoid becoming “a comfort woman” and lost her husband and parents-in-law in the Bodo League massacre. She has considered committing suicide with her two sons; despite living entirely for them, she couldn’t look after them the way she wanted to. Rather than exploring her past, this film quietly observes her present daily routine as she forages for vegetables or sits on a bench. Embracing her life in Miryang, The Whispering Trees explores how connected people and spaces really are. The sight of the towering pylons making their ugly presence felt, disconcerts and raises questions. Showing Mrs Kim sitting on her bench or among the protesters, like David versus Goliath, the film aims its questioning gaze at the invaders rather than at the people protecting the place. (LEE Seung-min – BIFF Catalogue)

October 16th, 2017 | Monday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 4 | 20:00 pm
October 18th, 2017 | Wednesday| Lotte Cinema Centum City 6 | 16:30 pm
October 19th, 2017 | Thursday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 7 | 12:30 pm


Sennan Asbestos Disaster by Hara Kazuo – Japan | 2017 – 215 min.
Section: Wide Angle

Japan’s documentary master, Hara Kazuo, has now documented the lives of the victims of asbestos poisoning in the Sennan area of Osaka over ten years. Some victims and their families were Koreans conscripted for the Japanese workforce during the colonial period; the lethal nature of asbestos is common knowledge but the government still failed to employ the necessary safety measures. Hara Kazuo filed a lawsuit against the government for damages, leading to eight years of legal dispute. The director enlightens viewers on the situation rationally by maintaining the view of an observer rather than inciting the audience to rage, or to experience emotional elevation in feeling sympathy for the people, yet the film also leaves behind a deep resonance. This event shows that we’re not the only ones; there are many instances of compensation not meted out while people are dying from negligence: the Sewol Ferry Disaster, the case of toxic humidifiers, etc. Hara Kazuo is known for Extreme Private Eros: Love Song1974 (1974) and The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987). (Minah JEONG – BIFF Catalogue)

October 13th, 2017 | Friday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 4 | 17:30 pm
October 18th, 2017 | Wednesday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 5| 11:00 am
October 20th, 2017 | Friday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 2 | 16:30 pm


Soseongri by Park Baeil – Korea | 2017 – 89 min.
Section: Wide Angle

Nowadays, the only ones remaining in Korean rural villages are senior citizens, farming and living in harmony with nature. Although the rhythm of their lives differs from that of city dwellers, they do no harm, and yet the government decides to build an anti-missile system near them instead of showing its appreciation for them. Nothing can be done to reverse the placement of the THAAD missile system in their village, or to placate the villagers’ grievances. To the senior citizens who have already experienced how human life can be destroyed on the battlefield, this situation is unacceptable; they still remember the Korean War. Those who have lived for a long time also know how life goes on and their stubborn fight becomes part of everyday life—an ironic battle for peace in a peaceful village. Soseongri is directed by Park Bae-il, a member of “Act through Media.” He has made a number of documentaries. This particular film runs with the cinematic slogan “Go, THAAD and Come, Peace!” (LEE Seung-min – BIFF Catalogue)

October 15th, 2017 | Sunday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 4 | 11:00 am
October 17th, 2017 | Tuesday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 5 | 10:30 am
October 18th, 2017 | Wednesday| Lotte Cinema Centum City 7 | 13:00 pm
October 20th, 2017 | Friday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 7 | 19:00 pm


I want to go home by Wesley Leon Aroozoo – Singapore, Japan | 2017 – 60 min.
Section: Wide Angle

Yasuo Takamatsu, lost his wife Yuko in the tsunami during the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. Unable to get over the sadness and sense of loss, he obtains a diving license and searches the sea every couple of weeks trying to locate his lost wife, who disappeared after sending him a text saying, “I want to go home”. Through Takamatsu’s story this documentary explores the ideas of loss and recovery in unexpected disasters, dwelling on that catastrophic moment and asking “Would she be alive if I’d picked her up from the bank where she was working? What should I have done?” He tries to accept her death and find the strength to recover from his bereavement. Many survivors have left the town to forget their painful memories, but he remains, searching for his wife’s body among the debris. In the process, he sometimes returns some of the everyday things he finds to their owners. In the end, this documentary becomes one about recovery and love. (CHO Hyeyoung – BIFF Catalogue)

October 14th, 2017 | Saturday | CGV Centum City 5 | 20:30 pm
October 16th, 2017 | Monday | CGV Centum City 3 | 11:00 am
October 20th, 2017 | Friday | CGV Centum City 1 | 10:00 am


Mountain by Jennifer Peedom – Australia | 2017 – 74 min.
Section: Wide Angle

A unique cinematic and musical collaboration between the Australian Chamber Orchestra and BAFTAnominated director Jennifer Peedom, Mountain is a dazzling exploration of our obsession with mountains. Only three centuries ago, climbing a mountain would have been considered close to lunacy. The idea scarcely existed that wild landscapes might hold any sort of attraction. Peaks were places of peril, not beauty. Why, then, are we now drawn to mountains by the millions? Mountain shows us the spellbinding force of high places—and their ongoing power to shape our lives and our dreams. Mountain is not just another ordinary documentary about nature. It is video art created by Jennifer Peedom to show people how beautiful nature can be, with amazing music from the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Mountain is definitely one of the most spectacular documentaries of the year. (BIFF Catalogue)

October 15, 2017 | Sunday | Busan Cinema Center Haneulyeon Theater | 14:00 pm
October 16, 2017 | Monday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 2 | 10:00 am
October 18, 2017 | Wednesday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 3 | 20:00 pm



Goodbye My Love North Korea by Kim Soyoung – Korea | 2017 – 89 min.
Section: Wide Angle

A story about 8 people who left North Korea during the Korean War to study at the Moscow Film School. Known as the Moscow 8, they opposed the idolization of Kim Il Sung, and defected to Moscow despite promising futures. The survivors tell the tale of their beliefs, comradery, and achievements during their exile. The lives of those diaspora with their multiple identities such as North Korean defectors, Russian Koreans, Soviets, and Kazakhstanis are portrayed through flowing spatial images. The film asks, “If where you are born is called hometown, what do you call where you are buried?” Director Kim Soyoung’s latest film Goodbye My Love North Korea is part of the Trans: Asia Screen project, as well as a trajectory of the expansions and connections of the Korean film industry. At the end of the film, the director confides: “I wanted to create a story about those who saw and created a different world through film.” She continues a course where filmmaking and film research walk deftly hand in hand. (LEE Seung-min – BIFF Catalogue)

October 14th, 2017 | Saturday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 6 | 13:30 pm
October 14th, 2017 | Saturday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 7 | 13:30 pm
October 15th, 2017 | Sunday | CGV Centum City 7 | 11:00 am
October 20th, 2017 | Friday | Lotte Cinema City 7 | 16:00 pm



The Work by Gethin Aldous, Jairus McLeary – US | 2017 – 87 min.
Section: Wide Angle

Set inside a single room in Folsom Prison, The Work follows three men from outside as they participate in a four-day group therapy retreat with level-four convicts. Over the four days, each man in the room takes his turn at delving deep into his past. The raw and revealing process that the incarcerated men undertake exceeds the expectations of the free-men, ripping them out of their comfort zones and forcing them to see themselves and the prisoners in unexpected ways. The Work offers a powerful and rare look past the cinder block walls, steel doors and the dehumanizing tropes in our culture to reveal a movement of change and redemption that transcends what we think of as rehabilitation. This shocking yet powerful documentary about healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation won the Documentary Feature Competition at this year’s SXSW. (BIFF Catalogue)

October 13th, 2017 | Friday | Lottte Cinema Centum City 5 | 17:00 pm
October 14th, 2017 | Saturday | Lottte Cinema Centum City 4 | 16:30 pm
October 17th, 2017 | Tuesday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 3 | 14:00 pm



A Little Wisdom by Kang Yuqi – Nepal, Canada, China | 2017 – 92 min.
Section: Wide Angle

Known as the birthplace of Buddha, Lumbini, Nepal, is a famous pilgrimage site with more than 40 Buddhist temples. In the temples, hundreds of children, mostly orphans, receive care and education as trainees. The film documents their lives through the eyes of a five-year-old young monk, Hopakuli, who was brought to the temple with his brother Chorten. The camera depicts the boys, without interfering in their lives, capturing the harmony of their modest lives in the temple. The world of Hopakuli centers on a fight and reconciliation with his brother, a simple wish to eat delicious foods, and his relationship with other trainees and teachers. The older ones, Chorten and Vija, however, feel the gap between the stoic religious environment and the outside world. They depart for a temple for older boys, leaving Hopakuli behind. The boys’ lives aren’t stable as they have to choose whether to become monks or leave the temple when they become adults. While the film portrays the temple and the boys beautifully with the camera and music, it also reveals the harsh side of reality. (CHO Hyeyoung – BIFF Catalogue)

October 14th, 2017 | Saturday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 2 | 16:00 pm (With Director Q&A)
October 16th, 2017 | Monday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 2 | 13:00 pm (With Director Q&A)
October 19th, 2017 | Thursday | CGV Centum City 1 | 13:00 pm



A Cambodian Spring by Chris Kelly – Cambodia, UK, Ireland, Canada | 2017 – 121 min.
Section: Wide Angle

In 1993, Cambodia had its first democratic election. At the same time, the winds of development propelled by a free market economy swept the country. This documentary depicts the struggles and resistance of those forced to leave their home due to urban development. Pov and Vanny, ordinary moms, turn into civic activists to defend their rights to the land. Sovath, a monk, triggers a “Cambodian Spring” by telling the world about the resistance movement via social media despite opposition from the religious body. This documentary is unique because it doesn’t explain political corruption, injustice, and the desire for modernization through interviews. It rather focuses on the feelings and relationships among ordinary people, whose lives were dramatically changed while leading the resistance. Pov and Vanny’s friendship breaks during shooting while the camera candidly and delicately depicts their falling out. As a result, the audience sympathizes with the protagonists while denouncing the hypocrisy of politicians under the banner of progress and democratization. (CHO Hyeyoung – BIFF Catalogue)

October 15th, 2017 | Sunday | CGV Centum City 3 | 10:30 Am
October 18th, 2017 | Wednesday | CGV Centum City 1 | 13:00 pm
October 20th, 2017 | Friday | Busan Cinema Center Cinematheque | 10:30 am


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