Artificial Intelligence Takes Spotlight at Bucheon Fantasy Film Festival With Conference, Dedicated AI Competition

Leading Korean actor Son Ye-jin received a huge roar of applause as she greeted fans and rounded off the Thursday red-carpet ceremony at the opening of Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BiFan). The star of “A Moment to Remember” and “April Snow,” Son is the subject of the festival’s retrospective section.

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But even as the festival takes a well-deserved, if conventional, look back at Son’s 23-year career, the event’s larger focus this year is the direction that artificial intelligence (AI) is taking the film industry.

“The main issue of this year’s BIFAN is BIFAN+ AI. Generative AI can be used as an innovative and revolutionary tool to meet the world with one’s talent through minimal expenses. I believe that with the help of generative AI an era of equal competition will come, in which imagination, not the size of budget, is the most important factor,” said festival director Shin Chul. “BiFan aims to take the lead in creating a breeding ground where our creators can take their visions to the world without being held back by budget limitations.”

The 15-titles in its AI competition are partially drawn from specialty AI festivals and include four films from home country South Korea: Hansl Von Kwon’s “One More Pumpkin,” which won the Grand Prize and Audience Award at the Dubai AI Film Festival, Park Sungwon’s “Under the Sign of the Moon,” Bae Junwon’s “Snowfall,” and Cha Sehwan’s “Final Scene.” All four showcase the image and sound perfection that modern AI technology can implement today, and stand out through brilliant imagination, fresh screenplays, and character realization,” the festival said. The KRW15 million ($11,000) prizes will be chosen by a (human) jury consisting of Ferdi Alici, Kim Tae-yong, Sten-Khristian Saluveer and Shin.

Running over three days, the accompanying AI International Conference will include keynote speeches from: Professor Lee Jinjoon, a pioneer, KAIST’s first full-time art faculty member in new media art, and inaugural director of the KAIST Art Museum; Saluveer, head of Cannes NEXT at the Cannes Film Festival; artist and curator Alici; and Dave Clarke, the director of Curious Refuge.

The opening night proceedings – including speeches from local officials and bouquets for VIP guests – were conventional enough, though organizers said that their video ID was directed by AI.
Anna Baryshnikov, lead actor in Rose Glass’ “Love Lies Bleeding,” which debuted in Berlin and is now set as BiFan’s opening night title was on hand to make the introductions. Having praised the screenplay she described the finished film as “very, very strange.” That raised a chuckle from audience members familiar with BiFan’s longstanding “stay strange” motto.

Several major talents were spotted on the red carpet. They included: Hong Kong director Johnny To; Bob Layton, comic-book and screenwriter on “Iron Man,” “Hercules” and co-founder of Valiant Comics; father of Japanese horror Nakata Hideo, in Korea with his latest film “Stolen Identity: The Last Hacker”’ leading Japanese star Yagira Yuya, in town with “A Conviction of Marriage,” and Chinese director Chen Daming, director of BiFan-selected “Unspoken.”

Industry names included: Hollywood producer and academic Chris Lee; Roger Garcia (this year’s dean of BiFan’s educational program); Ellen Kim and Park Kwang-su, respectively, the Busan festival’s new market chief and festival chairman; Han Sang-jun, the recently appointed chairman of the Korean Film Council; industry consultant Fred Tsui; Sabrina Barracetti and Thomas Bertacche of Udine’s Far East Film Festival and Unifrance’s Tokyo-based Emmanuel Pisarra.

The festival will close with a screening of Hong Kong box office record-breaker “Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In.”

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