Busan Film Festival Opens with Freedom of Speech Plea

Manila Bulletin, October 13, 2017 | Go to article overview

Busan Film Festival Opens with Freedom of Speech Plea


BUSAN, South Korea (AFP) - An impassioned plea for freedom of speech launched Asia's biggest film festival on Thursday, after a lengthy, damaging row over artistic freedom that had threatened the future of the annual event.

Internationally acclaimed South Korean director Shin Su-Won, whose thriller "Glass Garden" opened the 10-day Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), said restrictions on expression -- and on artists -- "should never happen".

"Freedom of speech should not be trampled upon for any reason whatsoever," said Shin, winner of the Canal+ Prize at Cannes Critics' Week in 2012 for her short film "Circle Line".

BIFF has been embroiled in controversy since 2014, when festival chiefs refused to remove a controversial documentary about the Sewol ferry disaster from the programme, despite political pressure.

The film -- "Diving Bell: The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol" -- was critical of the way the administration of then-president Park Geun-Hye -- now on trial for corruption following her impeachment -- had handled the tragedy.

After it was shown, state funding for the 2015 BIFF was nearly halved and BIFF director Lee Yong-Kwan, who was instrumental in getting the documentary screened, became the target of a series of probes by authorities.

Lee was forced to step down in the face of embezzlement charges and was convicted of accounting fraud in October last year. Critics said the case was politically motivated.

It later emerged that the distributor of "Diving Bell" was among thousands of artists secretly blacklisted by Park's conservative government for voicing "left-wing" thoughts -- meaning criticism of the authorities.

Speaking before the world premiere of her film opened the festival, Shin said she believed the blacklist was "irrational and unreasonable behaviour. …

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