The Jeonju International Film Festival, JIFF, continues to deliver high-quality films in the hometown setting of Jeonju. But don’t be fooled by the small city location! JIFF is a highly attended event and it can leave a first-time visitor feeling underprepared. Here are my best tips for enjoying the film festival.
First, be prepared to buy tickets quickly. Before tickets go on sale online, you should research and make a list of the films you want to see. I recommend searching online for reviews, looking up films with directors or actors you enjoy, or reading a synopsis on the JIFF website in order to choose your favorite films. The JIFF website also states the language the film will be shown in and the subtitles. Nearly all films will have English subtitles if the primary language is not in English.
After you’ve chosen your films, check showing times. Some films will have Guest Visits where you can listen to a Q&A session with the filmmakers and/or actors. Some showings will even include hour long film classes. There is usually English translation available for Korean-language films, but usually English translation is not available for other foreign language films.
Unfortunately, even with preparation, most tickets sell out within minutes online, especially for the opening weekend. But don’t worry! You can still see a movie! The festival sets aside 10% of all seats to be sold the day of the showing. I recommend showing up an hour or two before the box office opens to ensure you get to see your favorite films. Jeonju residents also get discounts at the film festival! Check the website for the most updated information, and be sure to show your Jeonju ID when you purchase tickets at the box office. On top of that, it’s best to have a list of backups: there’s a good chance that as you approach the front of the line a JIFF volunteer with a bright yellow jacket will be plastering red “Sold Out” stickers all over the giant film schedule sitting near the box office. Despite being a film festival, JIFF offers plenty to do besides indulging in cinema! On Cine Street in the Gaeksa area, you can see a variety of busking performances from local Korean rock bands to traditional Korean performances, you can take photos with the different JIFF photo booths or JIFF cubes that come many sizes, or enjoy the various street fairs selling all sorts of souvenirs. Walking around the crowded street with friends is a great way to pass the time during the festival. Depending on the year, you may also be able to see art exhibits in the area, including a collection of 100 film posters from the event. Keep in mind that the first weekend of the festival is the busiest, so make sure you buy any merchandise quickly, or else it will sell out!
JIFF has been delivering cutting edge films from the Korean independent cinema field for the past twenty years, and will hopefully do so for decades to come. I highly recommend you visit JIFF to see the other side of Jeonju: the contemporary issues, the artistic films, and the crowded streets.