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49th Seoul Independent Film Festival aims to encourage indie filmmakers working in tough times

Nov. 8, 2023 - 18:31 By Kim Da-sol
From left: 49th Seoul International Film Festival Executive Chairman Kim Dong-hyun, feature film section judge and filmmaker Yeon Sang-ho, actor Kwon Hae-hyo and SIFF programmer Kim Young-woo pose for a photo during a press conference held for the 49th SIFF in Seoul on Wednesday. (SIFF)

This year's Seoul Independent Film Festival, the country’s one and only independent film festival with a competition showcase, aims to send a message of encouragement to creators, the organizer said Wednesday.

Under the slogan of “Dear Life,” SIFF’s Executive Chairman Kim Dong-hyun said this year’s festival hopes to encourage those who are experiencing tough times in the movie industry.

According to Kim, a total of 1,374 films were submitted this year. Compared to last year, 201 fewer short films were submitted, suggesting that the film industry saw fewer people producing short films following the closing of many film festivals around the country in recent years, as well as budget cuts by the Korean Film Council.

While the number of feature films directed by debuting filmmakers fell by about 10 percent, making for the fewest number of features in five years, the number of feature films directed by female directors rose by 9 percent, she added.

“The fluctuation in the numbers in short and feature-length films seems to portray the polarization of the Korean film industry. But through SIFF, we hope to show the true virtue of indie films,” said SIFF programmer Kim Young-woo during a press conference held in Seoul on Wednesday.

Director Im Jeong-hwan’s “The Cenozoic Life” will open the festival on Nov. 30.

“The Cenozoic Life” follows Kim Min-joo, played by Kim Sae-byuk, who goes to Lithuania to find her missing husband. She stays with Oh-young, her college friend who emigrated to the country long ago, but she gets kicked out after a dispute. Min-joo then meets two suspicious men who claim to be detectives belonging to an international detective organization.

The film is Im’s second full-length feature, following “The King of the Border,” which won an award at the 43rd SIFF in 2017.

The film of the year, which will be announced during the award ceremony, will close the festival.

The jury is composed of director Yeon Sang-ho (“Train to Busan,” “Hellbound”), actor Ye Soo-jung, producer Choi Jae-wo (“A Tale of Two Sisters,” “The Age of Shadows,” “Cobweb”) and director Kim Bo-ra (“House of Hummingbird”).

“I’d like to send a special message of encouragement to all directors who make movies in these difficult times. I will judge the works based on how well the filmmakers portrayed their world and how rookie directors developed their new vision through films,” Yeon told reporters.

Actor Kwon Hae-hyo will lead the SIFF’s signature rookie actors audition, which marks its sixth edition this year. A total of 2,940 rookie actors have applied this year, nearly 1,000 more compared to last year.

Up to 17 awards are up for grabs and the winners will receive a total of 100 million won ($76,000) in prizes.

The 49th SIFF kicks off Nov. 30 for a nine-day run at CGV Apgujeong in Seoul.