August 26, 2007
By Lee Hyo-won
The traveling RESFEST Film Festival has concluded its 10 year run celebrating innovative motion pictures in Seoul. The cinematic event opened here for what was to be its eighth and final time. RESFEST founder Jonathan Wells and Lana Kim, head of music videos at Directors Bureau and a special guest of the festival, sat down with The Korea Times at a Seoul cafe Friday, before the start of the three-day event.
"The company we sold RESFEST to didn't want to do it anymore. But we came here to celebrate eight years of RESFEST in Korea and the last RESFEST _ in fact the last RESFEST in the whole world, ever… So it's a really significant event",
But don't despair, RESFEST fans. "My new company FLUX is working on starting a new venture with Jae (Soh, the producer of RESFEST Korea). It's both an ending and a new beginning", said the 37-year-old.
Founded 10 years ago in 1997, the film festival has undergone continual change to highlight the latest and pioneering works from music videos and commercials to short and feature films, presenting them in creative ways to give audiences a unique audiovisual experience. The festival had been the exclusive breeding ground for digital films at the brink of their birth in the late 1990s.
RESFEST first traveled to Japan in 1999 to debut overseas, and made its way to Korea in 2000. It then went on to tour in some 40 cities in 18 countries.
"One of the reasons I'm really happy to be back is because, of all of the places we've produced RESFEST outside of the U.S., internationally, the event in Seoul was one of the biggest, both in number of days and even in attendance for a single screening", he said on his third visit to Korea, adding that some of the popular programs drew up to 1,000 people. RESFEST recently drew more than a total of 20,000 participants.
"Historically, on an international level, it's been one of the best RESFEST events. I'm particularly interested in Korea because there's so much happening technology-wise, and there is a lot of potential for collaboration with artists, filmmakers and designers to work with this new technology", he said.
The festival had formally been called RESFEST Digital Film Festival and became a feeding ground for this innovative new medium. "People are using technology in new ways and digital filmmaking was empowering people who wouldn't have been filmmakers otherwise", he said.
But as the technology became universal, however, with big budget digital films like "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" (2002) and "Zodiac" (2007), RESFEST no longer felt the need to focus uniquely on the digital medium.
Furthermore, Wells emphasized that substance presides over style: "It's not just about how you make it, but what you make _ that's the most important thing, really. You could do something with a crayon or a still camera, IMAX or HD (hi-definition)… it doesn't really matter. It's what's your story. People are doing interesting things with technology but I don't think that should be the deciding factor".
"This advancement in technology has helped filmmakers in many ways, but I think it really needs to go back to the theaters and needs to go back to filmmaking", agreed Kim, who jumped into the conversation with much enthusiasm. "I think it's really interesting that RESFEST provided a platform for these music videos, because you're normally limited to what television decides to show.
"But even nowadays, with videos online and DVDs, you have no control over what the people are seeing, what part of the video the audience is paying attention to… RESFEST shows them on the big screen, and it really captivates the audience: You can see the visual arc in a video from the beginning to the end… It's really overwhelming", said the 28-year-old Korean-American, who grew up as an avid fan of music videos. Now working side by side with her favorite filmmakers Like Roman Coppola, Kim co-produces music videos herself.
"When I saw Roman (Coppola's) Retrospective for the first time in Los Angeles, I was sitting in my seat, just filled with tears, because these videos have been so important for me in my life", she said.
"I remember when I first saw his videos I tape-recorded them on a VHS tape… But the fact that you saw them on the big screen, you saw everything he meant for you to see and event he things he didn't, and you realize what an amazing piece it is".
Spike Jonze, for example, had not yet made a feature film until RESFEST showed his short pieces, like music videos and short films for his skateboarding company. Filmmakers like Michel Gondry were well known in the industry, but RESFEST was unique in showing their works on the big screen, said Wells. "A lot of the best music videos, you could never see on TV".
"If you're a feature movie director, you can go sit in a theater with audiences and observe their reaction, whether they're laughing, crying or bored. "But music video directors never get that kind of feedback. But RESFEST screens music videos in front of an audience of 600 people and you can see their reaction", added Wells.
"Mike Knolls, for example, told me he knew where RESFEST was touring, because he'd start getting emails from Brazil and then Japan", he said.
"But one of the things that changed over the last ten years… is the influence of Youtube", he said. Before, RESFEST had provided the rare occasion to view special works, but now, people can freely share video clips from the far side of the globe on the community portal site. This year's festival addressed this trend through a program entitled "Youtube killed the video star".
People always love a good party with groovy music, and RESFEST has organized exciting events like a New York screening Michel Gondry's "Science of Sleep" (2007) on a rooftop, accompanied by the film's feature band's live performance.
At the opening performance here Friday night, a DJ, VJ and IJ (Internet jockey) showcased an electrifying audiovisual show/party. Although RESFEST has marked its finale, fans of RESFEST can look forward to a newly named and improved festival next year continuing the spirit of the festival, presenting innovative works in creative ways, will surely endure. "A rose by any other name will smell as sweet", and perhaps its end is in sync with its ever-evolving nature.