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Photo credit: Max-Antoine Guérin

Form Marie-Elaine Riou, Festival Direction.

As dawn is timidly breaking over Kyiv, I board my Ukraine Airlines flight to Busan, South Korea, after a very intense week at KISFF. I’m on my way to catch up with the other Canadian members of Focus Canada. The Korean team at the Busan International Short Film Festival has been providing them with tremendous help to get everything ready for the 34th edition of the festival.

A few hours later, the members of the jury are whisked to the Festival’s opening ceremony. Three exceptional women, Gina Dellabarca, Julie Rousson, and Kho Heeyoung are on the jury panel with me for the Korean competition. After the official speeches, three short films, including the Australian film CURVE, written and directed by Tim Egan, are presented to give us a foretaste of the programme. This first evening ends with an electrifying performance by singer Samian, accompanied by DJ Horg and Esmeralda. The Korean public as well as all the guests of the festival are carried away by the passionate lyrics of the Algonquin artist.

As the days go by, the programme becomes more intense, and the bonds grow stronger. The guests, the filmmakers, and the Festival team are just like one big family. Dozens of guests from abroad join the Korean public, which crams every single domestic screening at the impressive Busan Cinema Center. French and English can be heard in the corridors of the centre just before Focus Canada begins for a public ready to discover films by Canadian filmmakers. It was indeed a pleasure to watch again films such as MOBILIZE by Caroline Monnet et VIADUC by Patrice Laliberté, winner of the award best direction – Québec in REGARD 2016, on the big screen.

The end of the day is approaching. What better way to enjoy time with my new family than over a glass of somaek, according to Korean custom!

The festival-goers were equally eager to attend the BISFF Talks to which I had been invited for a chat with Gina Dellabarca, the director of Show me Shorts in New Zealand, the next guest country of the festival. We talk about the differences and similarities that seem to exist between Canadian and New Zealand cinema, in particular, the importance given to landscapes and space, as well as the frequent use of young non-actors. The existence of a thriving First Nations cinema is also mentioned. It was a most interesting discussion with the founder of the Show me Shorts, whom we had had the opportunity to host in Saguenay in 2015 for the presentation of a Carte Blanche award. After the debate that followed the discussion, we take advantage of the free time we have to go explore the streets of Busan. We walk along the city beach near the hotel, stroll along the railroad that stretches as far as the eye can see, and gaze at the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

And finally, here we are at the awards ceremony rehearsal…then at the awards ceremony itself, a very formal affair conducted as only the Koreans know how to, but truly emotionally charged. My stay ends in one of the most beautiful places of the city: the roof terrace of the Viajante Navi Hotel which offers a view over the sea. I enjoy my last somaek in excellent company and already start dreaming about my next trip to Korea!


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