‘Sorcery’ Heads Winners List at BiFan Fantasy Festival

The great Choi Min-sik was on hand to take early headlines at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BiFan).

Described somewhat blandly as “a highly reliable performer” by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC), Choi is not only the star of Korea’s top grossing film of all time “The Admiral: Roaring Currents,” he continues to be available for work of all different levels. He appears in no less than ten titles that played at the festival this week.

The festival also does reliable — in its own way – as it plays up to its “stay strange” mantra, cooperates with other festivals of a similar fantasy leaning and sidesteps the political infighting that currently bedevil Korea’s best-known festivals.

The selection runs from a documentary about Korean reunification to Anurag Kashyap’s “Kennedy,” a crime drama in which former adult movie star Sunny Leone gets to show that she has evolved into a versatile and confident actor.

BiFan explored multiple variants of ‘genre film’ and deliberately cross-references. The Mad Max section focused on genre film’s leading names, including Quentin Dupieux with “Smoking Causes Coughing”) and Alex de la Iglesia (with “Four’s a Crowd”). It reserved its Adrenaline Drive section for on the nose horror and action films including “Evil Dead Rise,” “Infinity Pool” and “Terrifier 2.” There was also a one-off section containing films from 1973 that marked the city of Bucheon’s own 50th anniversary.

As in many previous editions, the Bifan Industry Gathering (B.I.G.) and its Network of Asin Fantasy Film (NAFF) project market were the secret sauce that made BiFan industry-relevant, as well as meaningful for the Bucheon public.

The panoply of film school, project incubator, VR showcase and meeting point for East-West project-development conversations have hatched “In My Mother’s Skin” which played in Sundance this year and Amanda Nell Eu’s “Tiger Stripes,” the Malaysian cross-genre drama that debuted in Cannes this year.

The festival’s industry section wound down with project market prizes awarded on Tuesday. That was followed Friday by awards in the main festival, but the festival runs through the weekend, giving the local public a further chance to catch up.

The jury provided guidance. “We enjoyed taking this fantastic journey around the world through 10 inventive films, each offering a creative perspective that reminded us to ‘stay strange.’ The visions of the filmmakers and the skills of the casts and crews combined to make our decisions difficult. These films are thrilling, funny, scary, moving and provocative, sometimes all at the same time,” said the jury.

The team singled out Chilean picture “Sorcery” for the festival’s top prize and called it “hushed Chilean thriller [that] blends drama and mysticism to astutely depict a collision of colonial attitudes, local politics and indigenous magic.”

Bucheon Choice: Features
 Best of Bucheon (KRW20 million)
“Sorcery” dir. Christopher Murray
Best Director Choice (KRW 5 million)
“Superposition” dir. Karoline Lyngbye
Jury’s Choice (KRW 5 million)
“The Artifice Girl” dir. Franklin Ritch
Audience Award
“The Artifice Girl” dir. Franklin Ritch
Korean Fantastic: Features
Best Korean Fantastic Film (KRW 20 million)
“Iron Mask” dir. Kim Sung Hwan
Korean Fantastic Best Director (KRW 5 million)
“Risk Society” dir. Kim Byung Jun
Korean Fantastic Actors
Jung E-seo for “Her Hobby”
Jang Seongbeom for “Abroad”
Korean Fantastic Audience Award
“Abroad” dir. Giovanni Fumu 
Nonghyup Award – Distribution Award (KRW 10 million)
“Her Hobby” dir. Ha Myung-mi
Watcha’s Pick for Korean Fantastic (KRW 3 million)
“Iron Mask” dir. Kim Sung Hwan
Special Mention
“Unknown Narrative: Skyrocket Junipers Under the Crescent” dir. Yang Gun-young
Méliès International Festivals Federation (MIFF) Award for Best Asian Film
“Best Regards to All” dir. Shimotsu Yuta.

Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BiFan) 2023 Award Winners

“Hungry Ghost Diner” dir. Cho We Jun

Odd Family Award
“Battery Mommy” dir. Jeon Seungbae
“Burger Song Challenge” dir. Kim Min-ha.

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