Despite its remote location in Bucheon, South Korea, the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival is slowly gaining prominence as one of the best film festivals in the world.
Now in its 15th year, PiFan as it’s called, aims to take viewers to a fantastical universe, starting with its logo, the ‘Ggae-Bi,’ a distorted Korean monster with horns that symbolize ‘fantasticism’ and ‘romanticism’.
Yet the festival, which took place this year from July 14-24, also emphasizes that ordinary people are the characters in this fanciful world.
“Not so long ago, filmmaking used to be limited to the privileged few,” PiFan poster designer Christian Lorenz Scheurer wrote on the festival’s website. “Today almost every smart phone contains a camera and editing programs are readily available, even on the smallest laptop. This new reality makes filmmakers out of all of us on this new universal stage.”
And all these filmmakers have certainly kept busy. Coming from 34 countries, this year’s lineup lists 221 films including Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, which opened the festival and made it to the legendary Cannes Film Festival in May.
These films are divided up into 11 categories including Free Screening, which features box office hits such as Academy Award-winner The King’s Speech. Several standard awards—Best Actor/Actress, Best Director, Best Short Film, etc—are given out, as well as some honors unique to PiFan, such as the European Fantastic Film Festival Federation Asian Award or “EFFFF Asian Award,” which is presented to the best Asian genre film of the year.
The EFFFF Asian Award might easily be given to Link, a film in the World Fantastic Cinema category directed by Woody Han, who works in both New York City and South Korea. Link chronicles protagonist Jay-hyun’s transformation from a dejected outsider whose whole family died tragically to an unsuspecting teacher obsessed with one of his students, who happens to be telepathic. Based on Han’s past success with pieces like short film The Black Stuff, which is shown to NYU film students as a showcase piece, Link could have box-office potential in America as well as Asia.
In addition to the movie overload of PiFan, Bucheon, South Korea, has just as many non-cinematic tourist attractions, ranging from the Puchon Botanical Gardens to the Korean Comic Museum. No. 1 on the list: eating delicious Korean food at Gohyangssotdanji Samgyopsal. No one makes better noodles or more obscure titles than the Koreans.