Busan Fest Deputy Director Kim Ji-seok Dies at 57

A founding member of BIFF, Kim suffered a fatal heart attack during the Cannes Film Festival.

Kim Ji-seok, deputy director of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), died Thursday in Cannes. He was 57.

The respected South Korean film expert suffered a fatal heart attack, sources close to BIFF told The Hollywood Reporter.

Born and raised in the port city of Busan, Kim was a founder member of the festival which has now grown to become Asia’s largest. Kim was among the “the BIFF big four,” along with founder/chairman Kim Dong-ho, former fest director Lee Yong-kwan and former deputy director Jay Jeon. 

Having long served as BIFF’s head programmer, Kim was particularly known for curating Busan’s signature Asian selections. Among others, he has been credited with helping launch the careers of such renowned Asian filmmakers as Jia Zhangke, Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Zhang Ming.

Last June, Kim was named deputy director of BIFF, which was met with some controversy, as he had filled in for the much-contested absence of fellow fest co-founders Lee and Jeon. However, as BIFF became further enveloped in a government censorship scandal that left the South Korean film community divided and torn, he also was seen as one of the few veterans that could help hold the fest together.

Kim’s personal life has also been well known to have followed the arc of BIFF’s history. He married in 1996, the year BIFF was inaugurated, while he has said in media interviews that his son also wished to work for the festival.

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