5 Must-See Korean Features at Busan International Film Fest


The 19th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) kicked off last night with a star studded red carpet and the international premiere of the Taiwanese coming-of-age-drama Paradise in Service, directed by Doze Niu. BIFF is Asia’s largest and most prestigious film festival, and this year, it will be screening 312 films from 79 countries, including 98 world premieres, during its 11-day run.

That’s a lot of movies. While it’s impossible to say which feature films are truly the best among the festival’s wide selection, here are five films that caught our attention.

Revivre (Gala Presentation)


Director: Im Kwon-taek

Cast: Ahn Sung-ki, Kim Gyu-ri, Kim Ho-jung

Based on a short story by Kim Hoon, Revivre follows the story of a middle-age executive who fantasizes about his younger female colleague as he cares for his wife who has terminal cancer. When the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival this year, veteran director Im Kwon-taek said his 102nd film “contemplates the fundamental questions of life, death, and sexuality.”

Im is a celebrated director who received the Best Director Award at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival for his film Chihwaseon (2003). He was an honorary Golden Bear recipient at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2005.

The Liar (World Premiere)

The Liar still 2

Director:  Kim Dong-myung

Cast: Kim Kkobi, Jeon Shin-hwan

The Liar is about a young woman pretending to live a wealthy lifestyle, when in reality, she earns a meager salary as an assistant at a dermatology clinic. She tells realtors that she wishes to move into high-end apartments and boasts to her colleagues about getting ready to marry her rich boyfriend, who is actually a mere car dealer. According to BIFF, the film “exposes psychological illness caused by the negative impacts of capitalism.”

Kim Dong-myung directed her first feature, Batumba in Wonderland in 2008, and in 2011, she was invited to compete at the Vanouver International Film Festival for her film Fatigue.

Han River (Word Premiere)

han river

Director: Lee Moo-young

Cast: Bong Man-dae, Ki Tae-young, Kim Jung-suk, Kim Hee-jung

Making its world premiere at BIFF, Han River tells the story of a Catholic priest who joins the homeless community on the streets after failing to commit suicide. One of the homeless people the priest meets is a transgender man who is on bad terms with his daughter and is grappling with the decision to attend her wedding. Another homeless individual he encounters is a pregnant woman who later decides to become a nun.

Director Lee Moo-young is a well known director, screenwriter, and broadcast professional in the South Korean entertainment industry. He co-wrote several films with director Park Chan Wook, including Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Joint Security Area.

Timing (World Premiere)


Director: Min Kyung-jo

Cast: Park Ji-yoon, Um Sang-hyun, Shim Kyu-hyunk, Sung Wan-kyung

Based on the popular webtoon by KANG Full, also spelled as Kang Pool, this animated film unfolds the mystery behind a series of suicides at a Seoul high school. A teacher at the school, who can foresee disasters in his dreams, attempts to prevent the mass suicides from occurring with the help of three students, who wield supernatural abilities of manipulating time.

Many of Kang’s comics have been adapted for the screen including APT, BA:BO, Hello Schoolgirl, Pained, The Neighbor, and 26 Years. Meanwhile, director Min Kyung-jo has directed several animated TV series and features. Min’s feature Shimcheong was screened at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival, and his short film Audition was showcased at the 15th BIFF.

A Hard Day

a hard day still

Director: Kim Seonghun

Cast: Lee Sunkyun, Cho Jinwoong

Slick action thriller A Hard Day begins with a detective accidentally hitting a man with his car while on his way to his mother’s funeral. He stashes the body in his mother’s coffin, but soon receives a call from an anonymous stalker who claims to have witnessed the detective’s hit-and-run. Instead of asking for money, the stalker demands to know the body’s whereabouts, causing the detective to desperately cover his tracks.

Since its world premiere at Cannes, A Hard Day received an overall positive reception from critics around the world . Variety described the film to have an “elaborately plotted narrative with poise, control and near-faultless technical execution.” According to BIFF, the film is writer-director Kim Seong-hun’s second feature in eight years and “exhibits the result of long-planned, hard work.”

BIFF will close on Oct. 11 with the world premiere of the Hong Kong noir Gangster Pay Day directed by Lee Po Cheung.

Photos via BIFF