Film festivals present an opportunity not only to see your work on the big screen and see the audience's reaction to it, but also the opportunity to connect with fellow filmmakers in a productive, social, and sometimes highly entertaining environment. Then there are film festivals that provide you the opportunity to go somewhere you’ve never dreamed of going. Ulju Mountain Film Festival checked all these boxes, situated in the hills above the little industrial city of Ulju in Ulsan Province of South Korea.
Quite frankly, I went to Ulju because they paid for me to come and Korea had been in the news a lot at the time making me want to experience it for myself. Upon arrival, it quickly became apparent that the Koreans take hospitality pretty seriously. Adventure filmmakers aren’t used to being treated like royalty, so being shuffled along red carpets serenaded by, among other acts, a locally renowned K-Pop band was definitely eye-opening. Having a welcome banquet beneath the steep roofs of South Korea’s largest climbing wall is also something I won’t forget in a hurry. In fact, just when you thought the quirky entertainment was coming to a close, there was always something else to keep us occupied. A South Korean yodeler? Yup, they exist (and damn they're good!). Sharing all this with fellow filmmakers and discussing your ideas, past and future amongst the relative madness is a rewarding process.
However, the real reason I was interested in South Korea was a little known park I'd heard of called Seoraksan. So, accompanied by Andrew Lenz (the protagonist of our film “Above the Alley, Beneath the Sky”) and Jean our newfound Korean friend that agreed to help prevent us getting totally lost, we headed to the National Park to explore its valleys and climb the ethereal domed peaks, complete with monastic dwellings in the occasional cave and crevice. The climbing was of course fantastic, but the local culture had a certain flair that really made things interesting: bus stops with seats that are made to look like bums, coffee shops with intentionally phallic light bulbs. Korean BBQ. Cat puzzles. Love hotels. A thousand things that are forever lost in translation and yet providing tiny pieces of an experience that made a huge tapestry of fun.
In conclusion to these ramblings, I’d recommend any filmmaker to seek out the outlying film festivals and enter your film, there’s no knowing what you might experience once you get there!
You can find more info about Ulju Mountain Film Festival here: http://www.mountainfilmalliance.org/members/detail/ulju-mountain-film-festival/