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Cinephiles unite for Busan film festival

2008/10/03 Source

The 13th Pusan International Film Festival places its focus on regions that have been overlooked in the past. Twenty-two selections from Central and Southeast Asia have been invited to compete.

Chosen for their storytelling merit, most are films without the flash and extravagance usually afforded to better-funded films. It was the power of their story that attracted the attention of PIFF organizers.

In addition to reaching further into newer territories, the festival will carry a sort of support group atmosphere within the domestic film community.

Participants and visitors watch "The Gift to Stalin" by Khazakstan`s Rustem Abdrashev that kick-started the 13th Pusan International Film Festival at the Suyoungman Yacht Stadium in Busan on Thursday evening. [Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald]

Even the festival slogans, "The discovery and unearthing of new territories" and "Get back on your feet, Korean films!" are reflected upon the choices of the opening and closing films. The Kazakh film, "The Gift to Stalin", by emerging director Rustem Abdrashev, kick-started the festival on Thursday while Yoon Jong-chan's "I Am Happy", will close the 13th edition of the film fest on Oct. 10.

This year's installment will feature 315 films from 60 nations, of which 48 will be screened outside of their home country for the first time.

Not that the rest of the world has been given the cold shoulder to make way for the two untapped regions, selections both in-competition and screening out of competition from North America, Europe and the rest of the Americas will grace the PIFF screens as well.

Here, we take a look at just a few of the notable films that might peak the interests of those who decide to trek down to Busan.

The Hunger

Directed by Steve McQueen. Starring Michael Fassbender.

Michael Fassbender stars as Bobby Sands, the Provisional Irish Republican Army member who led the 1981 Irish hunger strike and participated in the no wash protest in which Republican prisoners tried to win political status. It dramatizes events at the Maze prison six weeks prior to Sands death. The film has yet to be screened in the United Kingdom, but has premiered at the 2008 Cannes film festival where it famously sparked both walk-outs and a standing ovation. It also garnered the Camera d'Or, an award of the Cannes Film Festival for the best first feature film.

Native Dancer (Kazakhstan, Russia)

Directed by Guka Omarova. Starring Omarbekova Nesipkul.

Set in a small town in Kazakhstan. Addai, a shaman, is treated as local authority; she helps find missing people, heal illnesses, and punishes anyone who commits any wrongdoings. Conflict arises when foreign investors try to build a gas station in the land where Addai resides. The land is owned by an affluent man, Batyr. Addai refuses to leave because she believes the land is the origin of her power. Native Dancer is a seething criticism of how the greed of capitalism and materialism can destroy local communities and eradicate traditions. For director Guka Omarova, this is her second feature. Her first feature "Schizo", was selected for the Un Certain Regard section of the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and was named one of the 20 best films of 2005 by the New York Times, following its US release.

The Yurt (Uzbekistan)

Directed by Ayub Shakhobitdinov. Starring Nazim Tulakhodjaev.

Convinced he lost his wife and parents due to his past political activities, a father does everything he can to prevent his son from going the same path as he. But like father like son, it is not an easy task to keep a free spirit shackled. His son is eager to break out and his stubborn nature to go against his father's wish threatens to destroy the foundation of their relationship. This is Shakhobitdinov's third feature film. After studying scriptwriting and directing in Moscow, he finished the feature "The Tulip Under a Snow (2003)", which received the grand prize at the International Youth Film Festival.

Service (Philippines)

Directed by Brillante Ma. Mendoza. Starring Gina Pareno.

A drama that follows the travails of the Pineda family in the Filipino city of Angeles -- bigamy, unwanted pregnancy, possible incest and bothersome skin irritations are all part of their daily challenges, but the real "star" of the show is an enormous, dilapidated movie theater that doubles as family business and living space. At one time a prestige establishment, the theater now runs porn double bills and serves as a meeting ground for hustlers of every conceivable persuasion. The film captures the sordid, fetid atmosphere, interweaving various family subplots with the comings and goings of customers, thieves and even a runaway goat while enveloping the viewer in a maelstrom of sound, noise and continuous motion.

My Magic (Singapore)

Directed by Eric Khoo. Starring Bosco Francis.

A single dad looks to give up drinking and his bartender job in order to impress his son and find work as a magician. Starring real life magician Francis Bosco, many of the grotesque and amazing acts of illusion were all performed by the man himself, but those are just added incentives to look forward to.

At the heart of the film is the tragic and uplifting story of a poor single dad's battle with alcoholism and his iron will to rear his only son to be a better man. The buzz around Eric Khoo's bittersweet drama has been building since it was selected as the official entry for the 2009 Academy Award Foreign Language category in Singapore.

Still Walking (Japan)

Directed by Hirokazu Kore-ada. Starring Horoshi Abe.

"Still Walking", is the sixth feature film from the acclaimed director, Hirokazu Kore-ada. The film is a probing look at an average middle class Japanese family like many of the director's previous works. Best described to western viewers as the Japanese Terrence Malick for the meditative tone that runs constant throughout his films, he is also known in his native land as the fitting successor of Yasujiro Ozu, the auteur behind such Japanese classics as Tokyo Story. For those patient enough to allow the film to seduce and hypnotize through its serene temperament, it will be an unforgettable movie viewing experience.

"I Am Happy" (Korea)

Directed by Yoon Jong-chan. Starring Hyun Bin, Lee Bo-young.

Contrary to the film's title, Yoon Jong-chan's "I Am Happy", starring Hyun Bin and Lee Bo-young, is far from happy. The film is loosely based on the short story "Mr. Cho, Man-deuk", by novelist Lee Cheong-joon and tells of a story about an patient at a psychiatric ward with a tortured past that result in his committal. Man-soo (Hyun Bin) comes from a dysfunctional household and has a brother who is a gambling addict. There at the psychiatric ward, Soo-kyung, a nurse with a tortured past and a closet full of the proverbial skeletons, tends to him.

Slowly, but surely, they form a unique bond that teeters between friendship and unrequited love. The film marks the return of Yoon Jong-chan after directing the critically acclaimed, "Blue Swallow", and has been chosen to close the festival on Oct. 10

By Song Woong-ki

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