The Korean Film Festival opened at the Publicis Cinémas located on the Champs-Elysées right next to the Arc de Triomphe at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday (local time). As the opening hour approached, film festival officials looked concerned with most of the events, including movie stars invitation and opening ceremony, cancelled while raining outside.
The film festival, which marks its 15th anniversary this year, has played a key role in promoting Korean films in France and across Europe. Only 529 audiences showed up at the first Korean Film Festival in 2006 but the number has exceeded 10,000. In particular, the festival attracted nearly 20,000 people last year thanks to Parasite’s winning of Palme d’Or at Cannes film festival and the participation of Song Kang-ho in its opening ceremony. French people have taken part in selecting films to be screened at the festival, which has played a pivotal role in cultural exchange between Korea and France.
But it was unclear whether the festival could be held this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic that began to spread worldwide in March. The opening of the film festival was uncertain this year as multi-use facilities, such as concert halls were closed. When France saw a second wave of COVID-19 last month and daily new cases recently topped 50,000, festival officials began to predict a pessimistic scenario that they might not be able to hold a festival this year.
But it was the French people who encouraged the organizers to push ahead with their plan. French volunteers gave the organizers words of courage, saying they can hold the festival if they wear masks and follow social distancing measures. There were hundreds of comments supporting the opening of the film festival on its official social media account.
On the day of the opening, concerns turned into cheers. People started to line up in front of the theater and there was over 100-meter line less than 40 minutes ahead of the opening. “I didn’t take a summer vacation to take days off from work during the Korean Film Festival,” said Thierry, 29-year-old Parisian. Celia, who has attended the festival for 13 consecutive years, said she came to support Korean films despite difficult times of the pandemic.
Some 200 people watched the films on the opening day. Considering that only half of the full seats (400) were open in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, all tickets were sold out. All of the audience wore a mask and cooperated to temperature checks. “My eyes are tearing up to see the audience,” said programmer David Treadler, who has participated in selecting the screening films. “This year, we chose films that would make everyone forget about COVID-19 and have a laugh instead of serious and grand opening films.” A comedy film, “OK! Madam” was chosen as the opening film.
The audience seemed to be relieved from the “COVID-19 stress” while watching the film. “I hope we overcome the COVID-19 crisis just like the Korean Film Festival opened despite all odds,” said Pierre, 32.
Youn-Jong Kim email@example.com