12 Documentaries you cannot miss at the 23rd Busan International Film Festival


These are twelve documentaries you cannot miss at the 2018 Busan International Film Festival, taking place from October 4th – 13th, in the beautiful city of Busan (Korea).

A War of Memories

A War of Memories by Bora Lee-kil – South Korea | 2018 – 88 min.
Section: Documentary Competition – World Premiere
** 2016 AND YoungSan Fund **

South Korea participated in the Vietnam War as an ally of the United States achieved the so-called “Vietnam Special” economic growth, which was the pride of the veterans. Behind it, however, there were the massacres of civilians conducted by Korean troops in many villages in Vietnam, but the South Korean government is avoiding comment. Director Lee-Kil Bora’s film, A War of Memories records Nguyen Thi Thanh, the only survivor of Phong Nhi Phong Nhat massacre, where civilians were killed during the Vietnam War. Having lost all of her family at the age of eight and survived by herself, she is an open witness to the massacre of Vietnamese civilians and demands an official apology from the Korean government. Until her testimony, Korean civic groups supported her and offered apologies on behalf of the government, but she is adamant. She says the perpetrator is responsible for the fault. Isn’t it so natural for her to attend Wednesday Rally when she visited Korea at the beginning of the film, asking what attitude we should show before the tragedy of this big war? (Huh Kyoung)

October 5th | Friday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 3 | 19:00
October 7th | Sunday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 5 | 17:00
October 10th | Wednesday | CGV Centum City 2 | 16:30


Absence by Ekta Mittal – India | 2018 – 80 min.
Section: Documentary Showcase | World Premiere
** 2018 AND BNK Busan Bank Fund **

The film is about many young people in rural India who left to cities to earn money but lost contact and their families who are waiting for them. As it is shown in the original title of the film, Birha, the film delivers the Indian genre poem, which captures painful partings, in a filmic language. Young people in the movie are gone missing, and so is a clear narrative. The movie portrays people’s absence rather than telling their stories. It expresses with poetic sentiment different hearts: of those who are waiting, of those who are leaving, of those who must let go, of those who are not seen but present in the movie. The second half of the film is shown from the perspective of dead and missing, like in Borges’s novels. The film filled with ghost’s view captures air, things, wind and light, and even the subtlest movement. It is delicate and dreamy. (Lee Seung-min)

October 7th | Sunday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 3 | 16:00
October 10th | Wednesday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 5 | 20:00


ARMY by Kelvin Kyungkun Park – South Korea | 2018 – 89 min.
Section: Documentary Competition – World Premiere

Korea is the only divided country in the world. Almost all men with South Korean nationality are required to serve in the military according to the military service law in Korea. The same applies to Woochul, the main character of this documentary, The Army. Woochul’s friend who has already been in the army makes fun of him when he goes to the training camp, saying, “The country owns you for two years now!” The film records the two years from Woochul’s joining to leaving the army. Woochul, who has never been in a group life, tries to adapt himself at first, but he seems to be struggling and finally refuses to shoot for a while. The director just watches Woochul in silence. The collectivism young Koreans learn in the army turns into the order to maintain the society as a whole. However, the film, Army, asks keeping the order by diluting the splendid individuals is how small but scary through a cynical but humorous depiction. (Huh Kyoung)

October 5th | Friday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 10 | 19:00
October 8th | Monday | CGV Centum City 2 | 19:00
October 10th | Wednesday | Busan Cinema Center Cinematheque | 14:00




BNK48: Girls Don’t Cry by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit
Thailand | 2018 – 108 min.
Section: Documentary Showcase | International Premiere

All Asia is abuzz by participation-type idol-auditions. The situation in South Korea is the same, with all of them airing in a heat wave following Produce 101 series and recently ended Produce 48. The film, BNK48: Girls Don’t Cry stars the members of the BNK 48, Thai sister group of AKB 48 which is prototype of the idol audition group in Japan. Girls who audition with vague ambitions or a fairly specific vision for idols are soon driven to unlimited competition and are at odds with ‘Me’ as people want and ‘Me’ as is. While starring idol group members as main characters, this film, which features sincere interviews of characters rather than their flamboyant performances or fresh music, suggests audience to think about the light and darkness in the Asian idol industry. Unlike the title, Girls Don’t Cry, seeing the girls crying too much makes our heart sore. (Huh Kyoung)

October 5th | Friday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 4 | 20:00
October 9th | Tuesday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 6 | 10:00



Crossing Beyond

Crossing Beyond by Yi Seung-jun – South Korea | 2018 – 102 min.
Section: Documentary Showcase | World Premiere

The film follows the 5 athletes who competed in Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. A female ice hockey player who was adopted to the United States, a skeleton player from Ghana, an Afghanistan skier, a British snowboarder and a ski jumper who overcame a knee injury. They all step into the world of sports by going beyond their personal and human limitations. The film emphasizes their steps and trails through the images of their continuous walks. At the same time the walks are connected to the division of the hosting country, Korea. Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games has overcome the conflict that could have led to another war, leading to participation of both South and North Koreas. Beyond the convention of celebrating only the winners, the film put significance in the whole path by looking at their stories behind the participation. Just like the title, the film depicts us beyond the border.

October 5th | Friday | GCV Centum City 3 | 13:30
October 9th | Tuesday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 7 | 13:00
October 10th | Wednesday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 6 | 16:30

Dear My Genius

Dear My Genius by Koo Yunjoo – South Korea | 2018 – 81 min.
Section: Documentary Showcase | World Premiere
** 2017 AND BIFF Mecenat Fund **

The director used to be a science prodigy when young. However, as an English major in the university, she is currently a job seeker after abandoning her dream of becoming a scientist. One day, her youngest sister, Yoon-young, who becomes an elementary school student, throws a word. “I want to be a genius like you, sister”. Since then, Yoon-young starts a tight schedule to become a gifted child and to live a successful life, and the mother devotes herself to the support just like she did to the director and the second child, sometimes comforting Yoon-young warmly and sometimes pushing her into the hectic daily routines. Watching them, the director′s mind is mixed. Her childhood experience taught her that success may not exist beyond the genius, or success may not be directly linked to a happy life. What can the director do for her little sister, Yoon-young? The film raises the critical questions about the South Korean society, which is forgetting the concept of a happy life due to the education system and obsession with successes that incites constant competition. (Huh Kyoung)

October 6th | Sunday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 4 | 20:00
October 9th | Tuesday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 2 | 17:00

Land from God

Land from God (Lugta Ke Tamama) by Kevin Piamonte
Philippines | 2017 – 62 min.
Section: Documentary Showcase | World Premiere

Boracay Island, Philippines, is known as the most beautiful island in the world. Although it is a tourist destination loved by people all over the world, the Ati, the indigenes who have lived on the island for a long time are being driven out of their living places. The nuns like Victoria Ostan and Lourdes Tamboons and the teachers at Ati school believe that education is the power and mainstream society should accept the Ati. However, the Ati tolerate discrimination from the islands with limited living radius in the world′s smallest indigenous residential area. The Ati’s struggle is about determination and faith. They endure hardship, believing that it is the land from God, even if political threats cost them their homes and deprive them of their hope for a better life. Land from God shows the people whose life is alienated under the cloak of spectacular tourist development but fighting together to protect their life.

October 7th | Sunday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 2 | 16:30
October 11th | Thursday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 5 | 11:00



Light a candle

Light a candle, write a history – Candlelight Revolution by Nungcool
South Korea | 2018 – 90 min.
Section: Documentary Showcase | World Premiere

In February 2013, Park Geun-hye became the 18th President of Korea. Her career as First Lady during the Yushin regime aroused public concern about her view of history and democracy. The sequence of incidents took place in her presidency such as the Se-wol ferry disaster in 2014, the standardization of the history textbooks and the agreement of the ‘comfort women’ issue between Japanese government in 2015, and the death of Paik Nam-ki, a protestant farmer in 2016, etc. The citizens confirmed their concerns were not groundless. In October 2016, the unprecedented crackdown on state affairs was revealed. The angry citizens took to the streets shouting for Park’s resignation, and over five months of shouting finally achieved the regime change. Light A Candle, Write A History – Candlelight Revolution is the first film record of the peaceful civic power, the candlelight protests the world paid attention to. The film introduces the voices of various people at the scene of the candlelight protests. And to the current government created as a result of the protests, the film is sternly demanding not to forget their voices. (Huh Kyoung)

October 8th | Monday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 6 | 19:00
October 10th | Wednesday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 6 | 16:00
October 11st | Thursday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 10 | 14:00

Opening Closing Forgetting

Opening Closing Forgetting by James T. Hong – Taiwan | 2018 – 80 min.
Section: Documentary Competition – World Premiere

Unit 731 of the Japanese Army, stationed in Harbin during the Sino-Japanese War, secretly carried out its duties related to the biological warfare. From Jilin to Zhejiang and Jiangxi, they injected deadly bacteria into the bodies of civilians. In this film, Opening Closing Forgetting, the director accompanies a fact-finding survey of survivors in Zhejiang area, recording their testimony. Survivors who were shot bacterial injection at a young age of 10 have lived in silence for decades, suffering from the aftereffects. Now the survivors pass away one by one, and their memories are fading. On the other hand, the film also attempts interviews with some of the 731 unit soldiers who are alive. They, much older than the victims but still healthily alive, are turning a blind eye to their responsibilities by making secret pledges and avoiding their testimony or saying they were not involved. What should we do in front of the victim′s increasingly worsening wounds, the mouth of the huddled assailant, and the memory of all those who are gradually forgetting? Regrets deepen. (Huh Kyoung)

October 6th | Saturday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 5 | 11:00
October 8th | Monday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 6 | 10:00
October 11th | Thursday | CGV Centum City 2 | 19:00

Swimming through the darkness

Swimming through the darkness by Supriyo Sen – India | 2018 – 76 min.
Section: Documentary Competition – World Premiere

Kanai Chakraborty, a blind swimmer who successfully completed the world′s longest swimming competition in the Ganges River wants to demonstrate the power of disabled people by challenging sports. Even when he visits his school for the blind, he insists that they should fight against the prejudice of society with their own strength in front of his juniors. But his family does not agree with him. They want him to help the poor family by begging for money. Poverty is a more difficult obstacle than the physical disability for him, who wants to continue to challenge swimming, loving the freedom he feels for a moment while swimming in the water. It is released after a long time by Supriyo Sen, an independent filmmaker representing India. The director captures the dynamic journey of a middle-aged man who has to walk a risky line between reality and dreams. (Huh Kyoung)

October 7th | Sunday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 7 | 13:00
October 9th | Tuesday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 6 | 16:00
October 11th | Thursday | CGV Centum City 3 | 14:00

The Strangers

The Strangers by Myoung So-hee – South Korea | 2018 – 80 min.
Section: Documentary Competition – World Premiere

In this film beginning with the line, “I have a nightmare whenever fall comes,” the director visits her hometown Chuncheon after four years. Her nightmare, which seemed to end when she left Chuncheon, has been repeated every year during her stay in Seoul. In Chuncheon, where she arrives exhausted, her mother still lives very hard and consistently. In an old town where the director herself spent her childhood, her mother still lives in. The Strangersfeatures a landscape of an old neighborhood about to disappear, along with the family history of the director, her mother, and her grandmother. Scenes following the director′s narration are sometimes consistent but usually conflict disproportionately. Why did the mother live so hard and have a feud with her own mother? Why are the memories of the neighborhood and friends so fragmented and lonely? And how do the old memories meet and part with ‘Me’ and my family now and in this space? Leaving so many questions behind, just follow the flow of personal reasons, and you can find something that beats your heart. (Huh Kyoung)

October 5th | Friday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 10 | 13:00
October 8th | Monday | CGV Centum City 2 | 16:00
October 10th Wednesday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 6 | 19:00

Turning 18

Turning 18 Ho Chao-ti – Taiwan | 2018 – 87 min.
Section: Documentary Showcase | Asian Premiere
** 2016 AND BNK Busan Bank Fund **

The two girls meet in a vocational training program. Growing up in a poor indigenous family, Chen had to take care of her seven brothers and sisters instead of her mother. Although she misses her mother while being separated from his family, Chen constantly tries to escape her parents′ fate. Pei, living at her boyfriend’s home, has always sought to find hope in love. Pei wants to marry her boyfriend, but he doesn′t seem interested in marriage. However, Pei, who got pregnant, asks herself if she really wants to have a baby. Approaching the age of 18, the two girls become increasingly engulfed by the darkness beneath the surface of their lives. The movie, Turning 18, is about two girls who dream of having a happy family. The story is about giving up, but also about love and courage. Although the background of this film is a remote village in Taiwan, the question the movie asks is global. How can an unloved life find its power? Finding the answer to this question would not be limited to young adults only.

October 7th | Sunday | CGV Centum City 7 | 17:00
October 8th | Monday | CGV Centum City 7 | 17:00

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.