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Jeonju IFF opening ceremony returns to normal with full crowd cheering, red carpet

April 29, 2022 - 14:28 By Song Seung-hyun
Actors Jang Hyun-sung and Yoo In-na host the opening ceremony of the 23rd Jeonju International Film Festival on Thursday. (Yonhap)

For the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jeonju International Film Festival’s iconic white dome finally returned on Thursday. Though crowds had to wear masks, the 23rd Jeonju International Film Festival appeared to return to its pre-pandemic grand opening ceremony.

Actors and directors walked on the red carpet into the dome as onlookers, siting side by side without distancing, clapped and cheered loudly, which were banned before the social distancing measures were lifted earlier this month.

“How long has it been since we could scream our lungs out that ‘Jeonju is a film.’ When I say ‘Jeonju’, please shout ‘is a film,’” Jeonju Mayor Kim Seung-su, who serves as chairman of Jeonju IFF’s organizing committee, said at the beginning of the opening ceremony on Thursday night.

“This year is the last year for this iconic Jeonju Dome. Finally, on this land, a Jeonju Independent Film House, to be the mecca of independent films, will be constructed,” Kim added.

The opening ceremony was hosted by actors Jang Hyun-sung and Yoo In-na.

After Kim’s opening speech, festival director Lee Joon-dong briefly talked about the difficulties that the fest organizer experienced over the last two years.

Jeonju Dome is set up for the 23rd Jeonju International Film Festival on Thursday. (Yonhap)

“Two years ago, at the time, we did not have any examples that we could refer to,” Lee said. “From online screening to long-term screening, we created everything. This year we are also the first one to hold the event after the government ended social distancing.”

Lee added that the fest organizing committee is still very careful but is working hard to bring back the normal Jeonju IFF.

During the opening ceremony, the lifetime achievement award was given to Lee Tae-won, the influential producer who ran Taeheung before his passing last year.

Film production company Taeheung is known for producing Im Kwon-taek’s “Chihwhaseon” (2002), which earned the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Lee’s son Lee Ji-seung, a film director, receive the award on his father‘s behalf.

“When my father was alive, there was a time when he received a prize similar to this one. I told him that he had to be there to receive the award and he said he will not go because there is nothing that he has done to deserve it. He said it is directors, staff and actors who deserve awards. This award reminded me of that conversation I had with him,” director Lee Ji-seung said. “So I want to thank all the directors, staff and actors who worked on Taeheung’s films and I will deliver this prize safely to my father.” 

A scene from the 23rd Jeonju International Film Festival‘s opening film “After Yang” directed by Kogonada (Jeonju IFF)

After that, judges of the four competition sections—International Competition, Korean Competition, Korean Competition for Shorts and Netpac—were also introduced during the ceremony.

One of the Netpac section judges Gong Seung-yeon, who won the best actor prize at last year’s Jeonju IFF for playing Jin-ah in “Aloners,” said “I had good memories in Jeonju last year, and I’m glad to continue this good relationship this year. I have some pressure, but I’ll make a fair decision with other judges”

Comedian Jung Hyung-don, rapper Defconn, boy band Doremifa, which consists of seven actors—Kim Joon-bae, Oh Dae-hwan, Lee Joong-ok, Lee Ho-chul, Hyun Bong-sik, Choi Young-woo and Don Mills— as well as acapella group May Tree performed to add to the festival spirit toward the end of the ceremony.

After the ceremony, “After Yang” directed by Kogonada, was screened at the Jeonju Dome as this year’s opening film.

Actor Justin H. Min, who played Yang in the Jeonju International Film Festival opener “After Yang” walks the red carpet during the opening ceremony on Thursday. (Yonhap)

“After Yang” is a film about a family -- father Jake, mother Kyra, their adopted daughter Mika, and Yang, an android who is a cultural techno-sapien, a type of robot used to teach adopted children about their heritage.

The 23rd edition of Jeonju IFF will run through May 7 at five theaters in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province. A total of 217 films -- 123 foreign films and 94 Korean films -- from 56 countries will be screened during this year’s film festival.