BIAF hopes to reach to wider audiences as Oscar-qualifying festival

Yoon Gap-yong (L), chief organizer of the Busan International Animation Festival, and Park Cho-rong, leader of the girl group Apink, who is the honorary ambassador for the festival, pose for photographers during a news conference to announce the festival's Oscar-qualifying status and its follow-up plans in Seoul on Jan. 19, 2018.

The Bucheon International Animation Festival (BIAF) said Friday its recent designation as one of South Korea's two Oscar-qualifying festivals would help expand its reach to global animation fans.

The BIAF and the Busan International Short Film Festival were officially accredited on Dec. 21 by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, which hosts the Academy Awards. This will make top prize winners in short film categories of the festivals eligible for consideration as preliminary candidates for the Academy Short Film Award the next year.

"The accreditation has set the ground for the BIAF to become a global event. True to our status as an Oscar-qualifying festival, we'll make efforts to move a step closer to audiences and single out excellent titles," the festival's chief organizer, Yoon Gap-yong, said during a news conference in Seoul to announce the accreditation and the festival's follow-up plans.

"In the increasingly competitive and globalized ecosystem of film festivals, Oscar-qualifying status becomes an important distinction," said Kim Seong-il, the chief programmer of the festival. "I think this would be a good chance for the Korean animated film industry, too, because if a Korean work wins the grand prize at BIAF, it would automatically be up for consideration at the Academy Awards."

Founded in 1999, BIAF has grown to be one of the largest animation film festivals in Asia. It now awards prizes in five categories of competition sections: feature films, short films, TV & commissioned films, online and students' works. Last year's edition featured 149 animated films from 37 countries.

Seo Chae-hwan, the festival's executive director, appealed for more government support for the festival.

"We were able to come to this point with support from the Bucheon municipal government. It is the city's principle that it provides help but doesn't interfere, which has been kept very well so far," Seo said. "If there is a hope, it would be full support from the Korean Film Council or the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. We're preparing for a meeting for this."

The 20th edition of the festival is set to run from Oct. 19 to 23.