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Asia's Biggest Film Festival Gets Rolling

2004/10/04 Source

The 9th Pusan International Film Festival is set to entice audiences with its best lineup to date

Todd Thacker (internews)

Setting sail from Korea's southern port city of Busan, the 9th Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) is ready for another celebration of cinema. On tap is an impressive 264 feature, 63 nation lineup from Oct. 7 to Oct. 15.

As Asia's largest film event, PIFF 2004 promises audiences a wide-ranging selection of new and established directors, along with a tantalizing 40 films having their world premieres, on top of 16 international and 48 Asian premieres. Korea will showcase 58 films.

Set to wow audiences at this Thursday's festival opener is a newly edited version of "2046", from Hong Kong's Wong Kar Wai, a film that was nominated for a Golden Palm at Cannes earlier this year. The opener's 3,800 public seats sold out in less than five minutes when the online registration system went live last month.

With the Wong's trademark rich imagery, disjointed narrative and theme of unrequited love, "2046" is the story of a writer named Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung), who lives in a seedy Hong Kong hotel in the 1960s. Chow's bizarre tales of science fiction are inspired by his love affairs with three women.

To round out the nine-day event, Daniel Byun's Korean production "The Scarlet Letter" (2004), which features Korean star Han Seok Kyu as a police investigator, is set to make waves with a melodramatic story of murder and desire.

There are nine regular program sections, with "New Currents: Asian Cinema's Intrepid Challenge" being the only competitive event. Duking it out for the prestige of being marked as Asia's hottest new filmmaker will be 12 entries from eight countries, including India and Indonesia. A grand prize of US$10,000 will be awarded to the winner of this section.

Among those on the jury will be German director Dito Tsintsadze ("Gun-shy"), Thailand's Apichatpong Weerasethakul ("Mysterious Object at Noon", "Tropical Malady") and Hong Kong's Fruit Chan ("Made in Hong Kong", "Three, Monster").

"Korean Panorama: Virtue of Korean Cinema" shows off the richness and complexity of Korean direction in 13 films by such internationally recognized names as Im Kwon Taek, Hong Sang Soo, Park Chan Wook and Kim Ki Duk. Kim's 11th film "3-Iron" (2004) will be screened at PIFF and has been invited to Venice and Toronto.

The theme of this year's "Korean Cinema Retrospective" is "The Decades of Co-production between Hong Kong and Korea", highlighting works from the late 1950s right through to the early 80s. "Last Women of Shang" (1964), "Duel to the Death" (1977) and "The Bamboo House of Dolls" (1974) are set to enthrall audiences with the scope of the historical drama and mayhem of martial arts moves.

"A Window of Asian Cinema: Spirit of Asian Cinema" will highlight the opening of China's film industry, India's continuing moviemaking fecundity and the trials and tribulations faced by filmmakers in Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia.

Fifty films from 42 countries in the "World Cinema: International Film's Foremost Front" section will bring into focus such outstanding films as Ousmane Sembene's tale of female circumcision in Senegal "Moolaadé" (2004), Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll's critique of Uruguayan society "Whisky" (2003) and more from veterans like Jean-Luc Goddard with "Our Music" (2004) and Emir Kusturica's "Life is a Miracle" (2004).

The "Special Programs" section is comprised of "Garin and Next Generation: New Possibility of Indonesian Cinema", "Rediscovering Asian Cinema Network: The Decades of Co-production between Hong Kong and Korea", AniAsia!: A Leap of Asian Feature Animation" and "German Panorama", which is an 11-film overview of New German Cinema.

Also of note is a 12-film Theo Angelopoulos retrospective. The legendary 68-year-old Greek director, who won top prizes at Venice and Cannes for such works as "Landscape in the Mist" (1988) "The Gaze of Ulysses" (1995) and "Eternity and a Day" (1998), will be on-hand to talk about his life's work during a master class on Oct. 12.

As one of PIFF's VIPs this year, Angelopoulos will be honored at a handprint ceremony on Oct. 13, joining the ranks of past honorees like Jeremy Irons, Kitano Takeshi and Jeanne Moreau.

Other sections to watch out for are "Wide Angle: Widening of Our Cinematic Vision", with 74 films from 28 countries, "Open Cinema: Rendezvous of Films and Its Audiences", and "Critics' Choice", which promises to reveal the inner nature of 10 select films from nine countries in Europe, Asia and North and South America, as selected by Korea's top film critics, including Jeon Chan Il and Kim Sun Yub.

Since 1999, Korea has seen a "renaissance" in its domestic productions, prospering with rave reviews, awards and record-breaking box office sales at home and abroad.

PIFF was established in 1996 to kick-start the film industries of Korea and Asia. Over the years it has been piloted by festival director Kim Dong Ho, who was determined to make Korea into the host of a major international film event in Asia.

Overcoming the economic doldrums of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, PIFF's reputation has solidified into a noteworthy autumn destination for filmmakers and movie-buffs alike. Last year over 165,000 people viewed 243 films from 61 countries.

OhmyNews International will have regular dispatches from PIFF starting Oct. 7.

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