(ATTN: UPDATES with quote from honorary ambassador at bottom)
By Shim Sun-ah
SEOUL, Sept. 20 (Yonhap) — One of the largest animated film festivals in Asia is back in Bucheon in the western suburbs of Seoul for its 19th year.
The Bucheon International Animation Festival (BIAF) unveiled this year’s lineup at the Korea Press Center in central Seoul on Wednesday.
Under the theme “Ani+Fun,” 149 animated films from 37 countries are set to play from Oct. 20 to 24, along with a number of workshops and forums and a jobs fair for aspiring animators. This includes 111 titles from 32 countries chosen for main international competition categories.
The festival will open with the Asian premiere of “The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales” by French director Benjamin Renner, who co-directed “Ernest & Celestine” (2012). Based on Renner’s own graphic novel “The Big Bad Fox,” the animated feature film is a compilation of three country tales set on a seemingly normal farm. It received favorable reviews from the audience and critics when it had its world premiere at June’s Annecy Animation Festival in France.
Seven films will be screened in the international competition section for feature films.
They include “In This Corner of the World” by Sunao Katabuchi, which beat Makoto Shinkai’s “Your Name” to win the Japanese Academy Award for Best Animation this year, and “Revengeance” by American indie animation icon Bill Plympton.
Katabuchi and Plympton will visit South Korea to attend BIAF this year.
The others are “Ethel & Ernest” by British director Roger Mainwood; “Fireworks, Should We See it from the Side or the Bottom?” by Japan’s Akiyuki Shinbo; “The Man Who Knew 75 Languages,” a Norway-Poland-Lithuania coproduction that was invited to this year’s Annecy Animation Festival; “The Real October” by German director Katrin Rothe; and “Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution” by Japanese director Tomoki Kyoda.
In the short film competition section, 37 titles, including “The Death, Dad & Son” by France’s Cannes-winning director Vincent Paronnaud and “You Will Be Fine,” a Venice-awarded film by Celine Devaux, will compete for the prize.
There also are events that offer a rare chance for aspiring animators to meet iconic figures in the world animation scene.
Two Disney directors — Burny Mattinson and Eric Goldberg — will visit the festival for master classes focused on Disney animation. A master class with Japanese character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto of the long-running manga series “Neon Genesis Evangelion” is also scheduled.
In July, BIAF applied to become South Korea’s first-ever Oscar-qualifying international film festival. If the festival obtains this status, a film awarded the grand prize in the short film category at the festival will be considered as a preliminary candidate for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences short film award the next year. The list of new Oscar-qualifying film festivals will be announced in November.
“Raul Garcia, chief animator of ‘Aladdin’ and jury member of the 2016 BIAF, recommended that the Academy add BIAF to the list when he returned to the United States after the event,” Seo Che-hwan, executive director of the festival, said during a news conference to announce the lineup. “So we began the application process after receiving a formal letter from the Academy.”
“If our bid is successful, it would smooth the way for many local films to compete at the Oscars,” he added. “We hope the 20th edition will be the first event to be held with Oscar-qualifying status.”
Park Cho-rong, leader of the K-pop girl group Apink, was named the honorary ambassador for the festival’s 19th edition at the end of the news conference.
“Thank you for appointing me as the honorary ambassador for the 19th festival. I’ve been a fan of animation since my childhood. I recently came to have more affection for the genre after Apink sang a song for an animated film. In addition to animations, there are many other things to see and enjoy such as forums, a job fair and other related events. So, I ask for your interest and participation.”