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Curtain falls on Pusan film fest

2008/10/09 Source

The 13th Pusan International Film Festival, which featured 315 films from 60 countries, will wrap up its nine-day run today in the southeastern port city of Busan with the closing film "I Am Happy", directed by Korean filmmaker Yoon Jong-chan.

Amid expectations about the festival's growing influence as a leading venue for premiering Asian films, PIFF broadened its scope by selecting a Kazakh film, "The Gift to Stalin", and screened a record number of world and international premieres, totaling 133.

However, there were some concerns about whether the festival would attract as much publicity as it wanted, due to the shocking suicide of Choi Jin-sil, one of Korea's most iconic actresses, last Thursday, PIFF's the opening day.

Choi Jin-sil, 40, was found dead by her mother early Thursday morning, after apparently committing suicide due to rumors connecting her with the death of another entertainer.

A host of Korean actors who planned to participate in the festival canceled their appearances in Busan and rushed back to Seoul.

The festival suffered a couple of technical problems last week. At the opening ceremony, some of the microphones and speakers did not work, interrupting the operations, and on Saturday a power generator at an outdoor theater broke down, prompting complaints from moviegoers.

But the festival managed to regain normal operations over the weekend, envoking a festive mood. One of the positive developments came from the Asian Film Market, the festival's ambitious film marketplace that has gone through an extensive overhaul this year.

Thanks to an aggressive promotion and operations upgrade, 12 Korean movies were sold at the Asian Film Market. "Secret Sunshine", which gave its heroine Jeon Do-yeon the best actress award at last year's Cannes Film Festival, and "The Good, the Bad, the Weird", a Korean blockbuster featuring top-notch actors, were among the films sold to European and Asian countries.

Another positive result from Busan was that Kim Dong-ho, who has been serving as the chief organizer of PIFF for the past 13 years, received the Nielsen Impact Award from the New York-based Nielsen Company. The Hollywood Reporter, the media conglomerate's film industry newspaper, presented the award.

"We are pleased to present this award to Kim Dong-ho for the impact he has personally made in bringing Korean films to the world, and, in doing so, bridging cultures and promoting tolerance and understanding", said Eric Mika, publisher of the Hollywood Reporter.

As part of efforts to bolster Busan's role as a hub of films in connection with PIFF, the city began the construction for a film center, "Dureraum", which means "together" in Korean, a project that is estimated to cost 162.4 billion won ($133 million). The center, designed by Austrian architect Coop Himmel, will sport six theaters, a museum, exhibition halls and other auxiliary facilities in order to serve as a key venue to educate young filmmakers attending PIFF as well as the Asian Film Academy, which is held as part of the festival.

Some of Asia's most celebrated stars, including many leading Korean actors, joined the film festival. The guest list includes top Japanese actress Juri Ueno, who is widely popular both in Korea and Japan for her comic role in the Japanese television drama "Nodame Cantabile", and Li Xiaolu, one of the four little empresses of China.

Many directors and programmers from the world's major film festivals, including Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux and Sundance festival director Geoffrey Gilmore also dropped by at the festival.

Leading Korean actors Cho Jae-hyun and Ye Ji-won will host the closing ceremony to be held at the Yachting Center at 7 p.m. today. About 5,000 patrons are expected to join the closing show where "I Am Happy", starring Hyun Bin and Lee Bo-young, will be screened, and the winner of the New Currents, the festival's sole competition section, will be announced.

By Yang Sung-jin

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