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Save the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF)

Written by
Hye Won Kim

In September 2014, the Busan International Film Festival made a controversial decision to screen the documentary Diving Bell (2014) against Busan City government’s wishes. The Diving Bell discussed in detail the sinking of the Sewol ferry, an incident many believed the government should be held accountable for. The film festival’s decision to screen the documentary came with a slew of repercussions—the first of which included cutbacks in government funding. The mayor of Busan, Suh Byung-soo, has also stepped down from his role as the festival’s chairman and the Busan City government is pushing for the resignation of Lee Yong Kwan, co-executive director of the BIFF secretariat, at the end of his contract in March. (Lee is also being sued for allegedly misusing the city’s funds for the festival). Many believe that this is the government’s way of bullying the festival into censoring its films and a campaign called “Save BIFF” is currently making headlines in film magazines all over the country. Famous Korean filmmakers; the Cannes, Berlin, Venice and Rotterdam International Film Festivals; and other well-reputed figures in the international movie industry have spoken out with concerns stating that the freedom of expression and independence of a film festival must be protected.

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