Busan film festival deputy director died of a heart attack in Cannes, aged 57.
Tributes have been pouring in for Kim Ji-seok, deputy director and executive programmer of Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), who died of a heart attack at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday night.
Among the festival chiefs, filmmakers and industry executives offering condolences were Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux who described Kim as “a true professional and a great programmer.”
“He was curious about everything and watched everything. We are heart-broken over his passing and would like to offer our condolences to his family. Our community has lost one of its most precious members,” Fremaux said.
One of BIFF’s founding members, Kim focused on programming Asian cinema and helped discover many of today’s leading Asian filmmakers. Roger Garcia, executive director of the Asian Film Awards Academy, said: “He lit up the careers of many filmmakers, and illuminated many areas of cinema and films for audiences and the film community around the world.”
Tokyo International Film Festival also paid tribute: “We are extremely shocked by suddenly losing Mr Kim Jiseok, who was one of the greatest leaders of Asian cinema and Asian film festivals. We owe him tremendously and will never forget his generosity, his smile and his love for cinema.”
Many Asian filmmakers expressed their shock on social media on Friday morning when the festival woke up to news of Kim’s death. “I can’t believe it. He was my benefactor, my brother. I had a lot of help from Mr Kim. My tears won’t stop,” said Japan’s Isao Yukisada.
Bangladeshi filmmaker Mostofa S. Farooki said: “What terrible news! He was a friend, a brother, a mentor, a true lighthouse for Asian cinema! A man so buzzing with plans and dreams can’t leave like this!”
The Korean Film Council (KOFIC) has set up a memorial in its booth in the International Village and will hold a tribute for Kim at its reception in Cannes on Monday night. In a statement, KOFIC said “we sincerely mourn the loss of Busan deputy director Kim Jiseok, who played an enormous role in the promotion of Korean and Asian films across the world.”
BIFF has been through three years of political controversy, stemming from the screening of documentary The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol at the festival in 2014, but seemed to be turning a corner with the recent regime change in Seoul. Kim took over the role of deputy director last year when former BIFF director Lee Yong-kwan and deputy director Jay Jeon were facing criminal charges.
TRIBUTES FOR KIM JI-SEOK
Thierry Fremaux, director, Cannes Film Festival.
“He was a true professional and a great programmer. He was curious about everything and watched everything. He was one of the driving forces behind Busan and one of its most important faces. Along with Christian Jeune, we loved him a lot and are heart-broken over his passing. The Cannes festival would like to pay tribute and offer its condolences to his family. Our community has lost one of its most precious members.”
Roger Garcia, executive director, Asian Film Awards Academy, Hong Kong International Film Festival Society (HKIFFS)
“It was a privilege to have known and to have worked with Mr Kim. He brought his intelligence, extensive knowledge of cinema and exceptional taste to the Asian Film Awards. He lit up the careers of many filmmakers, and illuminated many areas of cinema and films for audiences and the film community around the world. Today that light may be diminished but not extinguished as all of his colleagues, including ourselves, will continue to keep alive the flame and passion for cinema which he inspired. We offer our deepest sympathies to his family and colleagues at the Busan International Film Festival.”
Busan International Film Festival
“In undying efforts, contribution and devotion in discovery of Asian films, Kim led Busan International Film Festival to be the centre of Asian cinema and one of the world-class film festivals.”
Mostofa S. Farooki, filmmaker (Bangladesh)
“What terrible, terrible news! I can’t believe this! He was a friend, a brother, a mentor, a true lighthouse for Asian cinema! With him, I lost a piece of me! A man buzzing with plans and dreams can’t leave like this! No! We will miss you so badly, dear Jiseok Kim.”
Isao Yukisada, filmmaker (Japan)
“I can’t believe it. He was my benefactor, my brother. I had a lot of help from Mr Kim. My tears won’t stop,” said Japan’s Isao Yukisada.
Yoshi Yatabe, programming director, Tokyo International Film Festival
“We are extremely shocked by suddenly losing Mr. Kim Jiseok, who was one of the greatest leaders of Asian cinema and Asian film festivals. He made filmmakers from all over the world pay attention to East Asia and therefore contributed to the development of the area, including of course Tokyo. We owe him tremendously, and we will never forget his generosity, his smile and his love for cinema.”
Korean Film Council
“The Korean Film Council sincerely mourns the loss of Busan International Film Festival programme director/deputy director Kim Jiseok, who played an enormous role in the promotion of Korean and Asian films across the world.”
Edmond Yeo, filmmaker (Malaysia)
“Horrible news to wake up to. Rest in peace, Mr Kim. He was an important supporter of Malaysian independent cinema, introducing a generation of our filmmakers to international audiences via Busan Film Fest and in constant search for new talent. Truly a hero of cinema.”
Raymond Phathanavirangoon, producer & festival programmer
“Utterly shocking news… It cannot be stressed more how important Kim Ji-seok has been for Asian cinema. There will now be a pall of sadness for the rest of Cannes. Hope you can return home to your family safely Mr. Kim.”
Abu Shahed Emon, filmmaker (Bangladesh)
“What terrible news to wake up with! Loss of a great mentor, big brother and a true friend of the Asian filmmakers. Busan has become a home for many of us because of your bold leadership, warm hospitality and great discoveries. Rest in peace Jiseok Kim! Can’t believe this would happen so fast. You will be deeply missed.”
Tiina Lokk-Tramberg, director, Tallin Black Nights Film Festival
“Our deepest condolences go out to the family, friends and Busan IFF colleagues of Kim Ji-seok, a pioneer and visionary who relentlessly sought new discoveries and connected cultures across Asia and the world through films. The film festivals in Tallinn and Busan have been in close friendship since their inauguration and Mr. Kim’s work has continued to inspire us over the years over and over again. It is a tragic passing that reminds us that the commitment to cinema and freedom of artistic expression often comes with hard costs in personal lives. In dedication to Mr. Kim’s memory we hope that the commitment of festival leaders and organisers across the world will not go unnoticed and unappreciated before its too late.”
Christian Jeune, director of the film department, Cannes Film Festival
“On a personal level, I would like to say that I am very sad to lose a good friend. I will miss our conversations about movies and festival programming, I will miss him whenever I think of Korea, and to go back to Busan knowing he won’t be there is heartbreaking.”