Edinburgh International Film Festival: Jury Chair Bong Joon-Ho Speaks!
Posted on Friday June 28, 2013, 15:24 by Stephen Carty in Edinburgh International Film Festival
Bong Joon-Ho is a busy man. At the time of writing, he’s gearing up for the arrival of his upcoming English-language debut Snowpiercer, the eagerly-awaited climate-disaster sci-fi which should pull into cinemas later this year. As such, he’d be forgiven for hanging a sizeable ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on his front door, but yet the renowned South Korean filmmaker has found time to chair the International Feature Film Competition Jury at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival.
So what does this involve? Well, joined by Game Of Thrones star Natalie Dormer and leading Scottish film critic Siobhan Synnot, Bong – or “director Bong” as he’s called by those around him – has been tasked with choosing the winner from a selection of ten international films. Despite this adding to his already bulging schedule, he found the time to sit down with Empire – we reckon he’s pinched Hermione Granger’s time-turner – in order to talk to us through the process.
“Well I wake up in the morning at 8:30, they pick us up and take us to the theatre and we watch good movies,” smiles Bong, far more relaxed than you’d expect someone with so many plates in the air to be. “And after watching movies, we take lunch together and talk about the movie we saw just before. It’s quite enjoyable! Just a few weeks ago I finished post-production on Snowpiercer. And then I’m here. I always enjoy watching movies, so I’m very happy with the great quality here.”
His involvement in the festival was (rightly) hailed as something of a coup, but it turns out to be the product of a quick exchange between old pals. “Chris Fujiwara, the Artistic Director, e-mailed me in February,” explains the South Korean helmer. “I met him five years ago at a film festival – we were on the same jury – and this year he mailed me saying ‘Oh, Edinburgh, I hope to go there again with great movies.’ He’s very busy, introducing the movies and directors, but he never interferes with the jury. Our three jury members are very independent.”
For Bong, who’s still best known as the director of stand-out monster-horror flick The Host, finding a winner boils down to personal taste. “I always try to enjoy the movie,” he explains. “But not as a jury member - like a film-festival audience member. Basically it’s a matter of taste, I think. Of course, we always talk about the quality, if it’s well made or not, but the base is a matter of personal taste. We always pretend to be very objective, but…[he trails off]”
Such trailing off is intentional. Admitting that he’s ‘only’ seen films in the competition, Bong is understandably unable to name which ones he’s liked, for fear of giving the game away. Articulate and thoughtful, he’s forever mindful not to let anything slip, as you might expect, but quite willing to talk about what he’s looking for.
“Something new,” he clarifies definitively. “I always hope to make new and strange movies that people have never seen. So watching a movie and inspecting a movie is also the same thing to me. I always want to see new, fresh and unique movies I have never seen. I really hate movies with a mixture or collection of clichés. Bad genre movies are full of bad genre conventions and clichés. Even in arthouse films, there are sometimes a collection of clichés. I don’t want to divide the movies into arthouse films and genre movies. Anything new, anything fresh, anything unique is good for me.”
Refreshingly upbeat, the writer-director is keen to heap praise on the festival as a whole and its different yearly timeslot. “I love this town,” he says with sincerity. “This is my second time here. I was here in 2006 for The Host. At that time [the Edinburgh Film Festival] was held in August with the Fringe Festival, but now it’s moved to June it’s more focused on the Film Festival.”
While others might have hinted at the sort of judge-squabbling you’re likely to see on X-Factor, Bong admits that “just one” film disappointed him while stressing the jury’s harmony. “We just did the final deliberation”, he continues, again careful not to let the prize winner out of the bag. “The three jury members and I were very happy. There was no divide.” Empire jokes that everyone is looking forward to seeing Snowpiercer as The Surprise Film on Thursday – which would be a welcome if unlikely choice - but he meets this water-testing observation with a smile that reveals nothing. If this man ever gets bored with creating exciting movies or charing film festival juries, he’d certainly make a great poker player.