2012 was a banner year for me having moved to South Korea in February and getting the opportunity to be able to go to several festivals and film events that I never would have been able to attend while I lived in New Jersey.
The first and best of these was PiFan a festival which has been going on for 15 years now in Bucheon city, near Seoul, and has garnered a lot of respect for being one of the premier hubs of genre cinema, be it Asian or otherwise. Aside from the eclectic collection of films that I had the pleasure to see, be it raunch, Pang Ho-cheung’s Vulgaria (Hong Kong, 2012), action, Soi Cheang’s Motorway (Hong Kong, 2012), or animation, Takayuki Hirao’s Gyo (Japan, 2012), what was wonderful about my entire PiFan experience was the opportunity to interact with a lot of the film critics and directors that I have admired for quite some time. And, though there were a lot of massive blockbuster films being showcased there, my pick for the best at the fest, as well as one of my favorite films of this year, would be Back Seung-kee’s Super Virgin (Japan, 2012), a DIY sci-fi love story that online casino sadly may never get screened anywhere outside of Korea due to its no-budget status.
Aside from PiFan, I was also able to spend a weekend at Busan for BIFF in October and finally caught Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay (Phillipines, 2011), a faux-documentary style picture by first time director Antoinette Jadaone about the Philippines greatest background actress, the aforementioned Lilia Cuntapay. Having heard so much about the film and must see status amongst cinephiles, it definitely did not disappoint. Although I was a bit apprehensive that the film may play up the comedy or inflate Lilia’s contribution to Philippine cinema, Jadaone strikes a good balance humanizing Lilia but also pointing out the ridiculousness of her entire situation.
Finally, the biggest discovery for me was the Seoul Art Cinematheque which is a non-profit repertory theatre in Insadong and during the months of September and October, they were screening Japanese director Seijun Suzuki’s entire filmography and I was lucky enough to catch a lot of films that I would never have gotten to see; movies like Carmen from Kawachi (1966) which still has not been released in the States. Alongside the Suzuki retrospective the Cinematheque were also screening a series of Japanese pictures the best of which I thought was Akihiko Shiota’s Harmful Insect (2001) one of the handful of films at the start of the naughts dealing with teenage alienation but I had no clue of its existence until it screened there.