The Medium

Source: Showbox

‘The Medium’

Korea-Thailand horror The Medium, produced by Na Hong-jin and directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun, has won the top prize at South Korea’s Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (Bifan, July 8-18).

Asia’s largest genre film festival awarded its Best of Bucheon prize to the shaman horror feature, which received its world premiere at Bifan.

See full list of winners below

The Bucheon Choice: Features jury included directors Tony Kaye (American History X) and Jo Sung-hee (Space Sweepers), actress Moon Jeong Hee (Cart), and film festival programmers Meenakshi Shedde and Jarod Neece.

In a joint statement, the jury said of The Medium: “It dominates and plays a variation on all the formulae of exorcism and mockumentary. It’s painful to watch the unhappiness of women crushed by unfair sins and curses, and the varied and colourful hellscape that blows violently in the second half goes beyond cinematic horror.”

South Korean sales company Finecut handles the feature and recently announced a raft of distribution deals for Asia and Europe.

The festival’s best director award went to Lee Haven Jones’s UK horror The Feast, which the jury said is “an absolutely assured debut feature, in Welsh. About a spirit at a dinner feast, who intervenes when nature is savaged by industrial greed, its craftsmanship is superb, and its characters are drawn with haiku-like precision.”

The second hybrid edition of Bifan since the outbreak of the pandemic wrapped its physical screenings yesterday (July 15) but will continue to offer virtual screenings on local platform wavve.

Pandemic adjustments

With a recent rise in Covid-19 cases to above 1,000 per day, South Korea implemented its strictest social distancing measures from July 12 in Seoul and the capital’s surrounding areas for at least two weeks. The festival, held in a satellite city west of Seoul, had planned ahead and was able to adapt quickly.

“We had forecast the possibility so only had to cancel one or two post-screening Q&As that would have gone on after 10pm,” said Bifan festival director Shin Chul, speaking to Screen. “We knew it would be virtually impossible for confirmed cases not to pass through at all, so we prepared accordingly.”

Bifan had Covid-19 self-testing kit stations at Bucheon City Hall and at the CGV theatres.

“We had 7,000 kits on hand and – unlike others I’ve seen – they give results in two to three minutes,” he said. “We’ve used 5,800 so far. The staff tests themselves every morning before work.

“South Korea has incredibly good contact tracing capabilities,” Shin continued. “We had one audience member who came to the cinema and then a couple days later found out one of their parents was infected. And we had one member of an outside lighting team that was confirmed with Covid-19. Thankfully, everyone that had close contact with them tested negative so there was no spread from the festival itself. Although, of course we will have to wait and see a few more days [because of incubation periods].”

The festival opted for heightened safety precautions and yesterday’s awards ceremony was held without any audience in attendance and broadcast live on YouTube. Top prize winner The Medium would have been screened as the closing film but this was cancelled due to the absence of an audience.

“We couldn’t help but have fewer admissions with the social distancing so we had approximately 30,000 admissions,” said Shin. “On the other hand, the online screenings on wavve went well. People seem to watch more since we are at Level 4 measures. They are still compiling numbers but as of the day before yesterday, wavve had 9,664 views for 62 features and 94 shorts.”

The festival director added that word-of-mouth had been bringing in many visitors to the festival’s XR exhibition at Incheon International Airport.

The most interesting innovation from Shin’s perspective was the opening ceremony stage show, which was co-directed by Memento Mori directors Kim Tae-yong and Min Kyu-dong as a tribute to recently deceased Whispering Corridors producer Lee Choon-yun.

“Circumstances have been changing tremendously for film festivals even without the pandemic,” he said. “So we have been trying new and interesting things like the opening ceremony, as well as the Gather.Town and b.square platforms for networking which we wouldn’t have if not for the pandemic, but which we have found could be good methods even in normal times.

“I feel like it’s been like a lot of simulation training, and that we shouldn’t regret the things we couldn’t do, although we did miss having overseas guests in attendance. It’s been a good opportunity to create solid systems.”

Bifan 2021 winners

Bucheon Choice: Features

Best of Bucheon
The Medium, dir. Banjong Pisanthanakun (Kor-Thai)

Best Director Choice
The Feast, dir. Lee Haven Jones (UK)

Jury’s Choice
Treat Or Trick, dir. Hsu Fuhsiang (Tai)

Audience Award
NIMBY - Not In My Backyard, dir. Teemu Nikki (Fin)

Korean Fantastic: Features

Korean Fantastic Film
Actionhero, dir. Lee Jinho

Korean Fantastic Best Director
Good Deal, dir. Cho Kyoungho

Fantastic Actors
Lee Sukhyeong, Actionhero
Kim Hyunmok, Show Me The Ghost

Fantastic Actor Jury’s Special Mentions
Park Xiyeon, Dieter Fighter
Han Seungyeon, Show Me The Ghost

Korean Fantastic Audience Award
Good Deal, dir. Cho Kyoungho

Nonghyup Award
Show Me The Ghost, dir. Kim Eunkyoung

CGV Award
Actionhero, dir. Lee Jinho

Watcha New Talent Award
Actionhero, dir. Lee Jinho
Good Deal, dir. Cho Kyoungho

Méliès International Festivals Federation (MIFF) Award for Best Asian Film
At The End Of Evin, dirs. Mohammad Torabbeigi, Mehdi Torabbeigi (Iran)

Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes, dir. Yamaguchi Junta (Jap)