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[BIFF] Documentary-hunting at the Busan International Film Festival!

By InCinemas  /  12 Oct 2015 (Monday)


Documentaries make up only a small fraction of the 300 films on offer at the 20th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) this year. Perhaps it's just 10% of the many films, yet I find myself drawn to these glimpses of life around the globe. Here are my thoughts on the four documentary films I caught this year.

Ice and the Sky

This polished piece from France comes to BIFF with a towering reputation, having just had the honour of being the first documentary to close the Cannes Film Festival. The hype is fully deserved. Director Luc Jacquet masterfully melds amazingly comprehensive archival footage from the 50s and 60s with crisp HD shots from the present. The contrast in film quality serves to drive home how much technology has advanced since the first Antarctic expeditions half a century ago – and how little we have done to address global warming.

Still and All

When BIFF moved from its historic birthplace in Busan’s old quarter of Nampo-dong to the glitzy towers of Centum City and Haeundae, it marked a broader trend in the port city’s economic life. As the division between “old” and “new” Busan grows, what will be forgotten? This budget documentary seeks to immortalize the stories of the fortune-tellers under Yeongdo Bridge, some of whom have been there since the war. Poor sound quality does not detract from its direct cinema value.


My Land

You’d think that migrant workers who are about to be evicted would be tense and angry, but Chen is jovial and jokes around with the camera in his little shack even when the authorities cut off his electricity and water supply. Living in limbo for years as the world is literally uprooted around them, Chen’s family nevertheless manage to bring up an adorable little girl and even have a second baby! A delightful story about how much people can achieve with the little they have.

Hong Kong Trilogy: Preschooled Preoccupied Preposterous

What a wonderful way to end the festival! (for me, anyway) I watched this film because it promised to address the recent Umbrella protests, but it proved to be so much more than that. Director Christopher Doyle inserts eccentric fictional characters into the real space of Hong Kong society, creating a fantasy narrative that nevertheless brings to life personal truths. I am not sure which is more brilliant; the fake part of the film, or the real part?

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