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‘Bibimbap’ Festival Flair

Korea’s 2010 Jeonju Film Festival is like the favorite dish: colorful and diverse.

Next week, with added ‘bibimbap-ness’, (according, at least, to the Korea Times), the 11th annual Jeonju Film Festival will be hitting South Korea from April 29th to May 7th.

The ‘bibimbap-ness’ refers to bibimbap, one of Korea’s most popular dishes and a cuisine that Jeouju city, where the event is taking place, is particularly famous for. And it’s the harmonious mixture of ingredients and flavours of the dish that is the metaphor for this year’s festival, which is high in diversity.

The 2010 Jeonju Film Festival will feature 209 films from 49 countries with the strong presence of South American cinema, including Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio’s To the Sea, the festival’s closing film. Other Asian films in the competition are India’s The Man’s Woman and Other Stories directed by Amit Dutta, Singapore’s Red Dragonflies by Liao Jiekai and Suzuki Takuji’s I Am a Cat Stalker from Japan. Park Jinoh’s debut work, Should Have Kissed, will be the event opener.

JIFF Chairman Song Ha-jin reaffirmed the liberal and avant-garde nature of the festival when he told the press that the aim of the festival is to show, ‘independent and art house films that possess both artistry and mainstream appeal, and are not widely distributed.’ Furthermore, he went on to recommend to visitors to take ‘a fun cinematic trip through Jeonju,’ a place of ‘tradition and modernity.’

Interestingly enough, also last month, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak travelled through North Jeolla Province where Jeonju is located, and afterward pledged to support efforts to make the region the ‘food capital’ of Northeast Asia. He was quoted saying that the plan would ‘help promote regional development’ and ‘help foreigners better understand Korea and its dietary culture.’ The Times reported that this is part of the South Korean government’s current plan to ‘globalize hansik, Korea’s traditional cuisine.’ (I’ll be featuring more on hansik, as part of a five-part series on Korean culture in the near future.)

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Jeonju city is two to three hours away from Seoul by car or bus, located in the south-western province of North Jeolla. Apart from its trademark bibimbap, the area is known for Jeonju Hanok Village, an area with over 800 traditional Korean hanok houses and the nearby is Gyeongju National Park, which is part of the Gyeongju Historic Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.