Film direction was considered nearly off limits to women in the recent past. But, thanks to the efforts of a few dedicated women of vision, times have changed. Lee Hyae-kyong, the director and Bun Jai-ran, co-director of the International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul (IWFFIS) are two such heroines.
"There were only seven women directors in the film industry when the first festival was held in 1997. It is amazing to see how high the status of women directors is today. You might have heard of movies like “Crush and Blush and Forever the Moment,” that was directed by women," said Byun.
Byun described IWFFIS as a “platform of movies” for female directors, because it gives opportunities for relatively new women directors to introduce their films and get awarded.
This year, a new project called Pitch and Catch will be launched at the festival.
"Pitch and Catch is different from other types of pitching done in closed areas for evaluation purposes. This is a presentation of movies that will be open to the public," said Byun.
Pitch and Catch allows male directors to pitch their movies too. In this sense, the project relates itself to the theme of the 12th festival, “Friendship and Hospitality.”
”It is what our festival should pursue since they stimulate a positive side of the film festival by enabling communication and understanding of others through various perspectives," said Lee.
Byun and Lee emphasized the importance of viewing the world through women's perspectives, which is also the festival's catch phrase.
"When I first heard the catch phrase, ‘See the World Through Women's Eyes’ at the World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, there was a sparkle in my head saying that this is what we need at the women's film festival in Korea. Film contributes to influencing people’s perspectives" said Lee.
This year, the IWFFIS has celebrated its 12 th anniversary. It is younger than other film festivals in Asia such as the Tokyo International Women’s Film Festival and Woman Make Waves International Film Festival in Taiwan but is regarded as the most dynamic
“Thanks to the active participation from the audience, the IWFFIS could become a public place for discussing several themes ranging from progressive cultural topics to small life matters." said Byun.
The IWFFIS serves as a place for various people, regardless of generations, to gather and interact.
"I saw groups of senior women holding alumni reunions at the festival and mothers coming to relax as we provide them child care facility," said Byun.
IWFFIS is also a creative outlet in which people can be free from their mundane daily routines.
"I attended Yonsei University, and in between classes I would take a bus at the back gate to the Centre Culturel Francais located in Sagan-dong to watch movies. This was a special outlet for my university life,” said Byun with a smile. “I recommend you to come and enjoy the festival. It’s right there in Sinchon near the school.”