30 Films you cannot miss at the 23rd Busan International Film Festival (Part 1)


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

27 Steps of May

27 Steps of May by Ravi Bharwani – Indonesia | 2018 – 112 min.
Section: A Window on Asian Cinema | World Premiere

May is hardly ever able to come out of her room or out of her world, even when there’s a fire next door. Little things can drive May into memories fraught with violence, and then she hurts herself, overwhelmed by the pressure of unusual situations. But via a magician′s performance that allows her to leave, she can accept the changing landscape. An unpredictable reality is a world of fear, but an unpredictable performance of magic is a source of wonder. However, one cannot expect changes in reality to come magically. May has to witness, endure and accept the painful experiences by herself. Although drawn towards magic, she has scars and memories of violence that can’t be overcome magically. Meanwhile, May′s father watches her helplessly, venting his anger through fighting. Like May, her father is caught up in violence. And as much as May changes, so does her father. As May progresses, her father′s fighting also slows down. This also reveals the meaning and process of controlling violence. (Chai HeeSuk)

October 8th | Monday | Busan Cinema Center Cinema 2 | 19:00
October 9th | Tuesday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 6 | 10:00
October 12th | Friday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 3 | 16:00

A Family Tour

A Family Tour by Ying Liang
Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia | 2018 – 107 min.
Section: A Window of Asian Cinema | Asian Premiere

Because of films criticizing the Chinese government, director Yang can’t make films in China anymore and has been living in Hong Kong for five years like as a political refugee. With her Hong Kong husband and her four-year-old son, she appears to be living as a stable Hong Kong resident, giving lectures and planning a new film. When the movie starts, however, the family leaves for Taiwan secretly, like the characters in a spy movie. Yang’s mother, left alone in China, arrives in Taiwan as a member of a Chinese tour group. After her daughter left, the mother suffered from periodic inspections by the Chinese police and gives her daughter all the tapes she recorded. Unlike the simple title, A Family Tour, we first need to reflect the modern history of China, Ying Liang’s film journey, and his fight against oppression and to protect the freedom of artists. In that way, we can fully understand the internal affairs of this family, who have to choose Taiwan, not China or Hong Kong, for a brief family reunion. (Sung Jihae)

October 9th | Tuesday | CGV Centum City 6 | 19:30
October 11th | Thursday | GCV Centum City 7 | 20:00
October 12th | Wednesday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 9 | 20:00



Alpha by Brillante Mendoza – Philippines | 2018 – 94 min.
Section: A Window on Asian Cinema | Asia Premiere

Filipino director Brillante Mendoza is making his name known worldwide and bringing about a new golden age of film in the Philippines. His new crime thriller, as if a reflection of President Duterte’s recent declaration of war on drugs, pictures the bloody struggle between the police and organized crime syndicates. Police detective Espino leads a covert operation to capture the drug lord Abel. Working for him as an informant is Elijah, one of the gang members. It’s not clear whether Espino and Elijah trust each other – they are cooperating now, but betrayal is always possible, and the dynamic cross editing of their activities raises the dramatic tension. As the father of independent film, the director perfectly captures the crime scenes and follows the movements of the characters in fluid shots. This, plus the realistic, expressive lines bring fresh life to the film. It is all the more entertaining for the scenes depicting various crime methods, and the delicate relationship between the characters that can turn at any moment. (Jeong Minah)

October 6th | Saturday | CGV Centum City Starium | 16:00
October 10th | Wednesday | Busan Cinema Center Cinema 1 | 17:00
October 12th | Friday | Busan Cinema Center Cinema 2 | 10:00



Asako I &II by Hamaguchi Ryusuke – Japan | 2018 – 119 min.
Section: A Window on Asian Cinema | Korea Premiere

Asako’s life feels empty and banal after her first love Baku suddenly disappeared 2 years ago. She’s attracted to Ryohei who looks like Baku but has a totally different personality. Her heart stirs again, but she doesn’t know whether it’s Ryohei she likes or the image of Baku he resembles. That is until Baku returns. In her attempt to part with her memories, she goes after Baku.Perhaps we all exist at each moment, but do not exist in any moment. The memory of first love is a dream-like moment and then a moment of suffering and pain. Self-honesty when facing up to the illusion of first love is as painful as childbirth and letting go isn’t nice and pretty. Nevertheless, the morning with Baku that Asako awaited is her way of cooking up the courage to duly face her present love, overcome growing pains, and step forward towards a new beginning. This film is about waiting and watching how she bids farewell to a first love that may be too foolish to be considered innocent. (Jung Jin-a)

October 6th | Saturday | CGV Centum City 3 | 13:30
October 9th | Tuesday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 7 | 19:00
October 12th | Friday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 7 | 16:00



Bori by Kim Jinyu – South Korea | 2018 – 110 min.
Section: Korean Cinema Today | World Premiere

Bo-ri, an 11-year-old girl in a seaside village, is the only family member who can hear. As an elementary school student, Bo-ri becomes more and more accustomed to talking with her friends while finding it hard to communicate with her family in sign language. “Why am I the only person born different from my family?” The more she thinks about it, the more she feels alienated. Wishing to be deaf, Bori sees an old woman diver on the TV deafened by a long-term diving. Bo-ri jumps into the sea and loses consciousness. Waking up in the hospital, she pretends she can′t hear. Bori is a heartwarming movie. Not only does Bo-ri have no ill will, but all of her family members actively express their affection for each other. It is a movie starring deaf people, but it shows the bright side of life without using disability as a tragic element. Bo-ri’s intentions are pure, but we cannot support her self-inflicted disability. The movie makes us eager to see things in a positive light where the innocence of childhood and family love meet. (Nam Dong-chul)

October 5th | Friday | CGV Centum City 7 | 20:00
October 9th | Tuesday | Busan Cinema Center Cinema 2 | 16:30
October 10th | Wednesday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 10 | 19:00
October 11th | Thursday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 3 | 14:00

Bulbul Can Sing

Bulbul Can Sing by Rima Das – India | 2018 – 95 min.
Section: A Window on Asian Cinema – Asian Premiere

The film beautifully portrays miraculous moments in Bulbul’s oppressed life, a teenage girl living in India’s Assam region. The film depicts the power of pioneering a harsh life, close friendships and miraculous moments that look like fireworks in a surprising way. Bulbul’s desires to sing, love her peers, and fall in love are blocked by social demands and prejudices, and Sumu becomes ridiculed for violating gender boundaries. However, Bulbul and her friends enjoy the fullness of life, wandering in the fields and the rivers. Directed, filmed, and edited by Rima Das, the film captures the complexities of life and the places where life is laid in a unique style. The beautiful mise-en-scène, utilizing lamplight in the dark, and the motif of ghosts and water appearing frequently in movies, present death entangled with life, a world of uncertainty and the moment of miracle coexisting. Like the faces of characters appearing mysteriously in the dark, the characters played by non-professional actors maintain a simultaneously realistic and dreamlike attitude. Therefore, Bulbul, and we, can still sing. (Hong Soin)

October 5th | Friday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 4 | 11:00
October 7th | Sunday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 5 | 14:00
October 10th | Wednesday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 1 | 17:00


Burning by Lee Chang-dong – South Korea | 2018 – 148 min.
Section: Korean Cinema Today

Based on Murakami Haruki’s short story Barn Burning, Burning is about the enigmatic relationship between three people. Jongsu meets childhood friend Haemi, who seems to be lively but somewhat hollow, and falls for her. But Haemi asks him to take care of her cat while she takes off for Africa. When she returns, she is with the young, rich, but mysterious Ben. The tight tension among the three classifies this film as a mystery thriller, but it is still an extension of Lee Chang-dong’s world. Rather than directly burrowing into the inner life of the guilty, the camera sensitively captures the butterfly effect of everything surrounding guilt. The storyline is minimal, but filled with unbelievably dense scenes full of symbolic elements making up a tight-knit net of metaphors. The harmony of music and sound is exceptional. The film is a rare and valuable attempt by the director to disband this era’s mood of loss, anger, and chaos in filmic form and project it into an image. (Song Kyong Won)

October 6th | Saturday | CGV Centum City Starium | 19:00
October 9th | Tuesday | CGV Centum City 1 | 19:00
October 10th | Wednesday | CGV Centum City 7 | 19:00


Citizen Jake

Citizen Jake by Mike De Leon – Philippines | 2018 – 137 min.
Section: A Window on Asian Cinema | International Premiere

This is the first film by director Mike De Leon, who has been working since the 1970s and has released numerous controversial works, in 18 years. As Francis Joseph A. Cruz mentioned, apart from the fact that “The most obvious thing is that it is a Mike de Leon film, “ it is quite different from De Leon’s previous works, which are “completely incomplete” and “clearly political.” The film takes the form of statements about the strange incidents a journalist, Jake (played by real journalist Atom Araullo), experiences in the Philippines several months before the local elections. Alternating between Baguio, the resort area where traces of dictator Marcos are left physically, and Manila, where his legacy is intangible political remains, “Citizen Blogger” Jake conflicts with his father, a corrupt politician. Jake’s Messiah Complex leads the film in a melancholy and desperate direction. Jake is wandering the hell of the political detestation era, where only the fall of politics and individual defeat are left. Though its name is the Philippines, it could indicate any other place at the same time. (Park Jinhee)

October 5th | Friday | CGV Centum City 2 | 12:00
October 8th | Monday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 4 | 10:00
October 12th | Friday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 6 | 10:00


Come on Irene

Come on Irene (Itoshi No Airiin) by Yoshida Keisuke – Japan | 2018 – 136 min.
Section: A Window on Asian Cinema | International Premiere

42-year-old loser Iwao needs to get laid, like, yesterday. He makes a move on a colleague at the pachinko parlor but goes home simply embarrassed. When he returns, his father has passed away, and he has a wife, bought in the Philippines for 300 yen. His mother Tsuru greets the newlyweds with a hunting rifle. Irene wants financial support for her impoverished family, and Iwao seems decent enough. She gets married but is terrified about the wedding night and escapes from Iwao every time he demands ‘getting it’. Her mother-in-law Tsuru despises her, and wants to replace her with a “nice, polite Japanese girl.” At least the Filipino girls in the village are nice to her and give her good advice based on their bar hostess experiences. In the meantime, recently widowed Tsuru schemes to sell Irene to yakuza gangs—which leads to an unfortunate turn of events. Not your typical Japanese film, but despite its explicit dialogue and unreal situations, this is a highly entertaining one, with an unexpected ending that elicits an ironic mixture of catharsis and melancholy. (Karen Park)

October 5th | Friday | CGV Centum City Starium | 18:00
October 7th | Sunday | Busan Cinema Center Cinematheque | 20:00
October 12th | Friday | CGV Centum City 7 | 20:00



Complicity by Chikaura Kei – Japan, China | 2018 – 116 min.
Section: A Window on Asian Cinema | Asian Premiere

Chen Liang leaves his hometown for Japan to improve his life, despite the disapproval of his sickly mother and elderly grandmother. Life for an illegal Chinese immigrant with a fake ID is not easy, and one day he receives a call about a job offer intended for someone else. Without hesitation he takes the job and starts working at a traditional Japanese restaurant under a soba master. He even finds a beautiful girlfriend, but is terrified that his identity could be exposed at any moment. Chen Liang’s alienation, mistrust and guilt lead to a snowballing of unfortunate events. The balance and quality accomplished in this Japanese-Chinese co-production belies the fact that this is the debut feature by director Chikaura Kei. The supreme ensemble cast of Lu Yulai and Fuji Tatsuya stands out, and their acting is well supported by the skillful directing, especially in the latter part, when the situation becomes urgent and the tension rises. (Karen Park)

October 5th | Friday | CGV Centum City 6 | 16:30
October 6th | Saturday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 4 | 18:00
October 11th | Thursday | MEGABOX Jangsan Haeundae 6 | 10:00


Grass by Hong Sangsoo – South Korea | 2017 – 66 min.
Section: Korean Cinema Today | Korea Premiere

A young couple is discussing suicide of a friend in a cafe with classical music in the background. The girl blames the man for the death of friend and he denies it. A woman in the corner is writing stories she overhears in the cafe. A middle-aged man from another table asks a woman to let him share her place. The film intertwines a few stories of different characters. In this film, director Hong Sangsoo ponders on the notion of death from various points of view. Characters are hurt, in pain or disappointed as a result of death around them. New meaning is bestowed upon their actions in the phantomic shadow of death. Kim Min-hee, a narrator with an observer’s point of view, reminds us of the death and simultaneously of the value of living. The film is short, yet it echoes deep and long flowing with dramatic music scores such as Franz Schubert’s Impromptu, Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin and Tannhäuser and Jacques Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld. (Nam Dong-chul)

October 5th | Friday | CGV Centum City 4 | 20:30
October 6th | Saturday | CGV Centum City 7 | 14:00
October 11th | Thursday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 3 | 17:30


House of Hummingbird

House of Hummingbird by Kim Bora – South Korea | 2018 – 139 min
Section: New Currents | World Premiere
** 2018 ACF Post-Production Fund **

House of Hummingbird is about 14-year-old Eunhee. In 1994, when Seongsu Bridge collapsed, Eunhee lives with her parents and older siblings in Daechidong. Her family doesn’t seem to be particularly caring, and Eunhee and her best friend Jisook go on shoplifting sprees and frequent a famous karaoke bar that all juvenile delinquents go to. She dates a boy from a neighboring school, as well as a girl from her school, floating about on a quest for love. Then finally, an adult that actually understands comes into her life – her teacher, Kim Youngji. A hummingbird is a tiny bird that flies long distances in search of honey. The director likens Eunhee to a hummingbird. Just as a hummingbird beats its wings endlessly in search of honey, Eunhee is endlessly searching for love. There are many Eunhees in the world. We all want to be loved by our family, friends, classmates and teachers. Yet the world is at times violent and cold, ignoring inconsequential little girls. House of Hummingbird reminds us of our youth, bitter failures, and broken hearts. (Nam Dong-chul)

October 6th | Saturday | Busan Cinema Center Cinema | 20:00
October 9th | Tuesday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 3 | 10:00
October 10th | Thursday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 10 | 15:30
October 12th | Friday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 3 | 19:00

House of My Fathers

House of My Fathers by Sivakumaran Suba – Sri Lanka | 2018 – 95 min.
Section: New Currets | World Premiere

The Sri Lankan civil war triggered by the massacre of Tamils has engraved a devastating memory of bloody conflict between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. During the civil war, two villages—one Tamil and the other Sinhalese—experience a mysterious incident that stops people from conceiving children. Then a message from the gods says the villages must send one Sinhalese man and one Tamil woman to the Forest of the Dead and find out the secret of recovering life. But there is a condition: only one can return from the trip. As the chosen Asoka and Ahalya depart, they encounter the moment of truth while reminiscing on personal and community histories. This is the debut film of director Suba Sivakumaran, a cinematic reconstruction of a politically sensitive theme and a part of tragic history. The film is a poetic rendering of trauma caused by long-lasting political conflict, that conveys a strong message through fantasy and metaphor. (Kim Young-Woo)

October 8th | Monday | Busan Cinema Center Cinema 1 | 17:00
October 10th | Wednesday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 5 | 10:30
October 12th | Friday | CGV Centum City 7 | 17:00


Killing by Tsukamoto Shinya – Japan | 2018 – 80 min.
Section: Gala Presentation – Asian Premiere

Multi-talented director Tsukamoto Shinya returns with a classic yet modern samurai film. It is mid-19th century, and Mokunoshin is a young man maintaining his swordsmanship skills by sparring with a farmer’s son. The farmer’s daughter Yu silently disapproves of the training, as she is attracted to Mokunoshin and fears that he will be swept away into the civil war. The peaceful farm life is changed forever when sword master Sawamura visits to search for potential warriors, followed by a gang of ruthless outlaws that settle down on the outskirts of the village. More than a century ago when the act of killing was considered normal, the internal dilemma of a samurai hesitant to kill delivers a humanistic irony to those living in this age of violence. The gruesome sword fight scenes, set to an urgent tempo as if to reflect the protagonist’s tension, are not intended to look beautiful but to feel desperate. Should we celebrate the birth of a samurai, or should we weep at his inevitable fall from grace? (Karen Park)

October 6th | Saturday | Busan Cinema Center Haneulyeon Theater | 17:00
October 9th | Tuesday | Busan Cinema Center Haneulyeon Theater | 17:00
October 12th | Friday | Busan Cinema Center Haneulyeon Theater | 17:00


Lakbayan (Journey) by Brillante Mendoza, Lav Diaz, Kidlat Tahimik
Philippines | 2018 – 118 min.
Section: A Window on Asian Cinema | World Premiere

Lakbayan received attention from the beginning of its production, probably because the names of the three directors, best representing Philippine cinema, came together and worked together for the first time. Following masters Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Mike De Leon and Chito S. Roño, now Brillante Mendoza, Lav Diaz and Kitlat Tahimik are representing the diversity of the Philippine cinema with their own and unique cinematic world, styles, and different work patterns. Lav Diaz, who won the Golden Lion Award at Venice in 2016, presents his own style in an episode titled Hugaw, in black and white. Brillante Mendoza, the first Filipino film director to win the Best Director Award at Cannes and also opening up the workshop for supporting young filmmakers in his studio, follows the journalist capturing the protesters in Desfocado. Finally, Kidlat Tahimik, who is called the father of the Philippine alternative cinema, tells the story of the Philippines’ god, Kabunyan, with his son in Lakaran Ni Kabunyan. Lakbayanwill makes its world premiere at Busan. (Kim Young-Woo)

October 5th | Friday | Busan Cinema Center Cinematheque | 17:00
October 9th | Tuesday | Lotte Cinema Centum City 9 | 20:00


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