Film Festivals and Regional Cosmopolitanism in East Asia

The case of the Busan International Film Festival 1

Authored by: Soojeong Ahn

Routledge Handbook of East Asian Popular Culture

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415749428
eBook ISBN: 9781315643106
Adobe ISBN: 9781317285014


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When visiting Busan, South Korea for the first time, the panorama of skyscrapers and colorful casinos might immediately remind one of the cityscapes of Hong Kong or Shanghai. Since the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) was established in 1996, the southern industrial port city has been transformed into an entertainment and cultural center: multiplexes, an aquarium, mega-sized shopping malls, and soaring high-rise apartments constructed in Haeundae, the district where the BIFF headquarters are located. Amidst this futuristic cityscape, the Busan Cinema Center, the purpose-built headquarters of the BIFF, is perhaps the most spectacular. “Designed by the Austrian architecture firm Coop Himmelb(l)au,” the building “cuts an imposing figure on the city’s skyline, not least due to its 85-meter cantilever roof, said to be the world’s largest, which lights up at night in a multicolored LED wash” (Foundas 2013). Clearly, the BIFF demonstrates that, perhaps uniquely, a film festival can play a central role in building a city’s reputation as a cinematic metropolis.

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