26th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival – Awards 2022

We present the winners of the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN) which took place online and in cinemas from July 7 – 17, 2022 in Bucheon, South Korea.

Bucheon Choice: Features

Best of Bucheon

You Won’t Be Alone by Goran Stolevski – Australia | 2021

Nevena is a feral 16 year-old girl living in a rural Macedonian village who is doomed to become a witch by an ancient spirit. Having taken a human form of her slayed victim, she slowly adjusts to human life but will that be enough to overcome her fate? You Won’t Be Alone is a non-traditional, darkly beautiful witch-tale featuring the riveting performance by Sara Klimoska as Nevana. In his feature directorial debut, Goran Stolevski unveils his unique creative direction aided by Matthew Chuang’s spell cinematography, to present one of the most inventive folk horror films in recent times. (Jongsuk Thomas NAM)

Jury’s Comment: The balanced composition of various basic elements like directing, writing and acting make You Won’t Be Alone a wonderfully well-crafted movie. It is an phenomenal attempt to interpret the fundamentals of humanity through the means of genre cinema by using alienated and isolated human creatures borrowed from folk tales, added up with mystery. This masterpiece stands out through excellent directing and a clever approach evoking empathy from the abyss of human psychology.


Best Director Choice

Speak No Evil by Christian Tafdrup – Denmark, The Netherlands | 2022

Political correctness, a gentle attitude, appropriate manners and kindness. Such social expressions are a common language used everywhere in the world. The same applies to Bjørn and Louise and their daughter, Agnes, who go on family trip to Tuscany. When a Dutch family, Patrick, Karin and their son, Abel, invite them to their house after the holiday, they worry that declining the invitation might be rude. Soon after Bjørn’s family arrive at Patrick’s country home, they feel uncomfortable with every move from Patrick’s family, which creates tension between the two families, resulting in mistrust of and hostility. Speak No Evil, by Christian Tafdrup, wins a complete victory in the mind game with the viewer, reaching a pinnacle of tension and anxiety, unlike other films with a similar set-up. The ending seems a massive joke, as if it is breaking the present value system of the middle class, who have a lot to lose and so are the most anxious. (Jin PARK)

Jury’s Comment: The director’s ability to consistently pursue his worldview without any compromises from the beginning to the end of the film is outstanding. His flawless directing with an thorough understanding of the worldview he wants to convey deserves respect.


Best Director Choice Jury’s Special Mention

Huesera by Michelle Garza Cervera – Mexico, Peru | 2022

Young pregnant Valeria looks different from ordinary young pregnant women. Her routine seems to be a far cry from motherhood, and gradually breaks down, as her pregnancy progresses. Her dream life, her mind and body, and her desires seem to grow distant from her. As she starts to suffer from nightmares and illusions, she finds herself gradually falling into darkness. Michelle Garza Cervera’s debut feature flm, Huesera, shows a new perspective that juxtaposes a person’s desires, anxiety and motherhood. Valeria’s extreme fear of pregnancy reveals the other oppressive aspects of motherhood, a traditional value. Huesera is an outstanding cinematic work with bold directing that captures the dark abyss hidden behind routine with cameras, elaborate sound design, a mystery plot, and a narrative of desire in the peculiar world of Mexican folk horror. (Jin PARK)

Jury’s Comment: The jury grants a special mention to Michelle Garza Cervera, director of Huesera. This young promise of direction has been able to capture through the lens of terror the personal traumas of motherhood and female identity against social conventionalism. (Mònica Garcia)


Jury’s Choice

Vesper by Kristina Buozyte, Bruno Samper – Lithuania, France, Belgium | 2022

A hard-nosed teenage girl Vesper and her ailing father carry on with dangerous lives after the collapse of Earth’s ecosystem, when she finds a mysterious woman from a crashing site. Soon, Vesper realizes the woman may be holding a key to the safe haven that she’s been seeking after. Vesper is a follow up to Buozyte & Samper’s cult classic Vanishing Waves (2012) from a decade ago. A cerebral sci-fi thriller that questions the existence of an alternate universe, this talented duo creates an immersive vision of the future, unfolding their daring and inventive survival tale that is bound to satisfy all sci-fi lovers. (Jongsuk Thomas NAM)

Jury’s Comment: A visually stunning post-apocalyptic masterpiece. Mesmerizing performance of Raffiella Chapman as a coming-of-age protagonist, Vesper, belongs to the league of legendary heroines such as Nausicaa of Miyazaki anime and Anya Taylor-Joy of Queen’s Gambit. (Harada Masato)


Audience Award

Sissy by Hannah Barlow, Kane Senes – Australia | 2022

Teen besties Cecilia and Emma reunite by chance after a decade. Following a wonderful get-together, Cecilia is invited to Emma’s bachelorette party at a remote cabin, only to find out her childhood bully with a taste for revenge is there as well. Sissy is an excellent female-driven horror satire, a biting commentary on life in the social media culture and bullying, as well as the friendship and the toxicity that may accompany along the way. Aisha Dee gives a compelling performance as the tormented Cecilia, while co-director/writer Hannah Barlow plays Emma, a childhood bestie and the center of all troubles. (Jongsuk Thomas NAM)


Bucheon Choice: Shorts

Best Short Film

Lucienne in a World Without Solitude by Geordy Couturiau – France | 2021

In a world without solitude, where everyone shares life with their double, Lucienne says farewell to Paul, but the other Lucienne doesn’t want to be separated from the other Paul. What do we do when we want to choose one stronger but unrealistic desire over another? Lucienne in a World Without Solitude shows complex psychology with cinematic imagination and emotion. (LEE Dongyun)

Jury’s Comment: This was a technically impressive film with a unique idea. It makes you think about life from other people’s point of view. People are different: what makes it okay for YOU to change others? (Simojukka Ruippo)

Jury’s Choice for Short Film

Moshari by Nuhash Humayun – Bangladesh | 2021

A very simple setting where a mosquito net is the only way to protect yourself from vampires pushes the sense of horror to the limit. Conflict and tension between two sisters who lost their mom add extra fear. The fight against vampires in a narrow hallway and the epic twists that betray your expectations are perfect elements of a horror movie. The clever directing is a bonus. (LEE Dongyun)

Jury’s Comment: I also remember when I was a child, lying in a mosquito net with my sister on a summer night, listening to scary stories on the radio and falling asleep. With the simple setting of ‘If you leave the mosquito net, you die’, director Nuhash faithfully complete the classic vampire movie as a creature horror action movie. It was especially impressive that the film made good use of the limited space and contained the uneasy conflict of the sisters who lost their mother in a reversal of the ending. (Jina Kim)

Audience Award for Short Film

Brutalia, Days of Labour by Manolis Mavris – Greece, Belgium | 2021

Today’s society may lack understanding regarding female labor. That’s why Director Manolis Mavris compares it to the labor of honeybees to reveal how the system structuralizes female labor. Metaphorical imagination makes reality quite unfamiliar, successfully and clearly indicating the problems. Excellent directing that does not elude cinematic pleasure. (LEE Dongyun)

Korean Fantastic: Features

Korean Fantastic Film

Body Parts by Choe Wonkyung, Jeon Byeongdeok, Lee Gwangjin, G’sam, Kim Jangmi, Wally Seo
Korea | 2022

A perfume is found in the dressing table of a dead person. A boy is bullied because he can see ghosts. A girl is hosting an online livestream show of her friend being possessed by a spirit after her family member died. This film consists of five stories with diverse genres from ghost story to exorcism and mystery. The five episodes of different genres and various subject matter are completed as one full story with an extra one that opens and closes the film. The five episodes are the believers’ stories, which rookie reporter, Si-kyung, who is on an undercover mission, witnesses while attending a prayer service of a religious group. This clever structure not only connects all the stories as one, but also gives unity to the individual narratives, rather than them being separated and standing alone. What will be she offering at the end of the ritual that he secretly attended? (MO Eun-young)

Korean Fantastic Best Director

The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra by Park Syeyoung – Korea | 2022

“Do not throw away a mattress recklessly: you never know what might be born from it.” The urban ghost story director Park Syeyoung unfolds here is grotesque, horrible, beautiful and giddy. Mold starts growing on a dumped mattress and a mysterious creature is born from the mold. The creature wanders around Seoul, taking people’s vertebrae. Having displayed his peculiar view of the world and his sense as a visualist through his short films, Cahsbag (2019) and Luxury Staycation (2021), Park Syeyoung strengthens his signature features through The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra, allowing viewers to fall into his bizarre beauty. The stronger the mold’s vitality becomes, the stranger the film’s energy gets, and the horror of this captivates the viewer so they can’t look away. (JIN Myunghyun)

Fantastic Actors (2 winners)

Seo Hyunwoo for Thunderbird (dir. Lee Jaewon) – Korea | 2021

The casino, Kangwon Land is where greed for money is openly displayed. Sure enough, brothers Taegyun and Taemin are out of pocket and suffering. Taegyun has to make up for the money he lost in a hurry, and Taemin’s life is at stake if he doesn’t pay back the money right away, all because they left their Thunderbird car at a pawnshop, and forgot to take out 50 million won that was in the car. To retrieve the money, the brothers break into the pawnshop and with some violence, but the debt continues to grow. The outcome is obvious. The fate of the people around Kangwon Land to make a fortune is like a tiger moth; blinded by greed, they make things worse without realizing the flames of greed will burn them to death! Although they’re hit by ‘Thunder’ to come to their senses, the blue ‘Bird,’ which seemed so close, has disappeared like a mirage. There is no future for Taekyun and Taemin, who might lose their lives, let alone the money. (HUH Namwoong)

Jung Ryeowon for The Woman in the White Car (dir. Christine Ko) – Korea | 2022

A woman arrives at Seolwon hospital by car with her sister stabbed and unconscious. From the shocking accident, she can’t even speak properly. Police officer Hyun-ju (Lee Jung-eun) arrives at the hospital and recalls herself while watching Do-kyung (Jung Ryeo-won), who refuses to be treated to take care of her sister. Hyun-ju, who does the given tasks indifferently like a machine, investigates the case actively out of compassion for Do-kyung. However, the case becomes a mystery when it is revealed that the woman in the hospital is not Do-kyung’s real sister, and the actual sister was a nurse who worked at the hospital in the past, and the person who will be Do-kyung’s brother-in-law was also on the scene. The Woman in the White Car is a thriller full of twists and turns showing the psychology of the women understanding each other while entangled with the case, as well as satisfying the basic expectations of the genre. (IM Soo-yeon)

Fantastic Actor Jury’s Special Mention

Oh Dongmin for Next Door (dir. Yeom Ji-ho) – Korea | 2021

Chan-woo has spent the last 5 years studying to join the police force. The walls of his stuffy studio are too thin to keep the noise out and let him focus on his studies. He is dragged to a gathering where he poses as a police officer before drinking himself unconscious. On the morning of the deadline to register for the police force entrance exam, he wakes up next to a dead boy covered in blood. He storms out in shock and realizes he had been at his noisy neighbor’s house next door. Resembling a closed circle novel, it is interesting to see the protagonist frantically trying to figure out what to do within the limited space of his studio, but what is more interesting is how the film unravels in an unpredictable manner to an unexpected twist. The film also offers a stark portrait of Korea’s state entrance exam culture. (Martin LEE)

Korean Fantastic Audience Award

The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra by Park Syeyoung – Korea | 2022

Nonghyup Award

The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra by Park Syeyoung – Korea | 2022
Next Door by Yeom Ji-ho – Korea | 2021

Watcha’s Pick (2 winners)

Thunderbird by Lee Jaewon – Korea | 2021
The Woman in the White Car by Christine Ko – Korea | 2022

Korean Fantastic: Shorts

Best Korean Short Film

Persona by Moon Sujin – Korea | 2022

When the protagonist come in from outside, she removes her pretty skin. Her original face behind her leather skin looks extremely dull. The gap between the real protagonist and her persona is explored in this ugly and grotesque narrative, where conflict leads a catastrophe. It is Moon Sujin’s graduation piece and was screened at the 75th Cannes Film Festival. (PARK Got)

Audience Award for Korean Short Film

The Stranger by Song Wonchan – Korea | 2022

 In cargo handling areas where a lot of foreign employees work, the managers are always Korean. The class imbalance between Koreans and foreign workers causes inevitable conflicts. This horror film, with its ominous atmosphere and the strong presence of the foreign girl reminiscent of Kumari in Nepal, frightens the viewer and certainly identifies it as a genre film. (PARK Got)

Watcha’s Pick (5 winners)

Bardo by Jung Jihyun – Korea | 2022

Haeseon’s mother, who had worked as a diver, is reported to have died, so Haeseon visits their hometown. But her mom’s workmate tells her that she isn’t really dead and will be reincarnated after 49 days. Haeseon discovers the long history of her family as spiritual medium of a shrine cave to protect divers, then heads to the sea with a new-born baby. The film portrays the weird and mysterious world of shamanism and Haeseon’s choice against her fate through beautiful photography and a dense structure. (KIM Young-woo)

Down the Mountain by Kim Joon – Korea | 2022

Myung-sook looks after her father who has dementia, and the mountain is her only comfort. She faces a hidden nightmare when she meets a mysterious woman on the anniversary of her daughter’s death, which makes her house and the mountain suddenly uncomfortable. Down the Mountain explores scars and guilt buried in the name of family. (MO Eun-young)

James English Academy by Kim Kwonhoan – Korea | 2022

It’s sad to watch the main character trying so hard in an English test, with young students engaging in secret feuds and dirty tricks, almost as if they were politicians. This film is a satire on Korean society, which is obsessed with test scores. Comic situations and humorous acting add more fun to this comedy. (KIM Nakyung)

Red Mask KF94 by Kim Minha – Korea | 2022

You must have heard a story of ‘Red Mask,’ who asks a person if she looks pretty and rips their mouth like hers. This film is an interesting reinterpretation of this old story set in the COVID pandemic era, swinging smoothly between horror and comedy. (KIM Nakyung)

The Stranger by Song Wonchan – Korea | 2022

Méliès International Festivals Federation (MIFF) Award for Best Asian Film

The Midnight Maiden War by Ninomiya Ken – Japan | 2022

Leaving his hometown for Tokyo to attend University, everything around the protagonist feels strange. Without his friends or a girlfriend, he only gets phone calls from mom telling him to try to win a scholarship. At his part time job, he and his colleagues are treated like animals, and he seems to have no plans to resist this. Returning home tired, he looks up at Tokyo Tower in vain. One day, in a fit of anger and tells a professor how horrifyingly tedious her lecture is. This incident makes him quite famous among some rebellious students on the campus. He is approached by a senior guy who has plenty of money and power, which made him the leader of a group called ‘Hide and Seek’. While he finds they are planning to destroy Tokyo, he becomes attracted to a senior girl, who has beautiful eyes and tells to him that she is pleased to have found him because she sees that he has not given anything up yet. Can they meet a breakthrough? What matters now to the youth is GIVING UP. (Creta D. KIM)

Jury’s Comment: The sense of angstpermeates the images, sounds and narrative of The Midnight Maiden War, and point towards inevitable acts of destruction. In using the language of genre films, the director addresses societal issues of division, alienation, futility, and toxic hierarchies among people of all ages. What kind of values do we promote in our modern society, what does it take for us to fundamentally make a change for the better? Is the beauty of destruction the final answer? (Rocio Moreno, Anders E Larsson)



Office Royale by Seki Kazuaki – Japan | 2021

The OL (Office Lady) triad at Mitsfuji, consisting of ‘Mad Dog Shiori’s Satake faction, ‘Demon Shuri’s Andoh, and ‘Etsuko the Beast’s Kanda, were finally consolidated into Andoh, only to have its leader replaced by the new recruit, Ran. Naoko, an ordinary OL, befriends Ran, but when Naoko gets kidnapped by Tomsun’s Akagi faction, the story takes a drastic turn. Office Royale combines the OL world and the Yakuza action genre with a touch of comedy. No-one gets seriously hurt nor dies as the uniform-clad OL’s fight for power develops from gossiping and scheming to fist fights and group battles. Naoko played by Nagano Mei catches us off guard with her fragile features when she finally steps into the ring. (KIM Sukyun)

Jury’s Comment: For a well-made first feature film with exciting and entertaining storytelling that embodies the young, vibrant spirit of BIFAN. (Ida Anita Del Mundo, Kwak Myungdong, Jinna Lee)


Odd Family Award

Pororo Movie: Dragon Castle Adventure by Kang Seunghun, Yun Jeawan – Korea | 2022

Pororo and friends are back! This time, they present exciting adventures and friendship in Hammer Town deep in the forest, featuring dragons, wizards, and the colorful Dragon Castle. Arthur, the Great Dragon King, cursed for forgetting the importance of friendship, loses the Dragon Heart, and turns into the Little Dragon. Pororo and his friends meet Arthur and are sent to the Dragon Castle by Ged the Wizard, who wants to steal the Dragon Heart and become the new Dragon King. Being with Pororo and his friends, who fight Ged to save friends in danger, Arthur realizes the importance of friends and the need for sincerity and sacrifice to protect them. This film is familiar yet fresh and fun, with brilliant performances from Pororo and his friends as well as some new characters, such as the Little Dragon, the Dragon Army, and the Robot Dragon. (MO Eun-young)

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