BIFF controversy inching towards resolution? Probably not

A still from Diving Bell, the Sewol documentary that started it all…

With the news that the Busan Mayor Suh Byung-soo has stepped down from the position as figurehead of BIFF, perhaps the controversy over the festival is getting towards some form of resolution.

The wonder, as most have pointed out, is how the controversy managed to arise in the first place. Tony Rayns marvels at the stupidity of it all in his open letter to the people of Busan supporting the work of Busan International Film Festival Director Lee Yongkwan. Screen Daily recently had an article highlighting the support from other festivals around the world.

Coincidentally, at an evening seminar at SOAS last week, before the news broke of the Mayor’s resignation, journalist Nemo Kim also highlighted the ridiculousness of it all. She had been present at the 10am screening of Diving Bell at Busan’s Shinsegae Department Store – the screening that started it all. She told the SOAS audience that moviegoers had been harassed by people she took to be plain-clothes policemen (sad that this still happens in the 21st century), and that several blocks of seats were suspiciously empty – as if they had been block-booked by people who had no intention of turning up, but didn’t want anyone else to see the film either.

It’s a shame that such a hoo-hah has been sparked by a film which would otherwise probably not have generated much interest outside of Korea. It is a stroke of good fortune for the documentary makers that by causing all the trouble the authorities have kept the movie in the public eye.

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