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Pusan film fest gains growing influence

2004/10/16 Source

The Pusan International Film Festival wrapped up its nine-day run yesterday, confirming its growing popularity among movie buffs in Korea and Asia.
The much-celebrated annual film festival featured 266 movies from 63 countries, a lineup that has set a new record in its nine-year history. A horde of celebrities at home and abroad showed up in the southern port city of Busan to join the festival whose influence is fast expanding in Asia.

The event closed its schedule with the screening of "The Scarlet Letter", a local film by Daniel Byun. Following his feature directorial debut "Interview" in 2000, the new film is appealing to both the public and critics considering its delicate camera work, mature performance of actors and a well-refined plot.

Actors who starred in "The Scarlet Letter", the closing film of the 9th Pusan International Film Festival, answer questions at a news conference. [The Korea Herald]

The romantic thriller, borrowing its title from Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel, features Han Suk-kyu, star of "Shiri" and "Christmas in August" and also stars a trio of popular actresses - Lee Eun-joo, Sung Hyun-ah and Um Ji-won.

"This is the first time that a movie in which I play a part has been chosen as the closing film, and I felt great tension. And this is my fourth visit to PIFF, and it seems like the festival's status has become rock-solid", Han said in a press conference.

The closing ceremony was hosted by actors Kim Tae-woo and Bae Jong-ok, and Kim Dong-ho, director of PIFF, announced that the festival proved its popularity among both mainstream movie fans and industry insiders.

Before the screening of the closing film, Huh Nam-shik, chief of the PIFF organizing committee, delivered a closing address and performances were held to mark the successful run of the events that drew keen interest from both local and foreign media.

Organizers said the festival pulled in about 160,000 moviegoers, while a variety of special events and performances went smoothly.

This time around, the film festival has put much emphasis on the diversity in international cinema, screening more works from Africa, Latin America and other regions, though its perennial focus on Asian films will remain intact.

It kicked off last Thursday with a reworked version of "2046" by China's much-admired director Wong Kar Wai. The film is about a writer working on a science fiction novel. It was screened at the Cannes in May this year, and is supposedly a sequel to critically acclaimed "In the Mood for Love" (2000).

After the Cannes screening, Wong saw the work as unfinished and shot additional scenes with his crew and cast and the new version of "2046" made its international premiere at PIFF.

Together with Wong, Tony Leung, who starred in "2046" showed up in Busan, infusing greater excitement to the festive mood. Other main guests include Theo Angelopolous, Sergey Lavrentiev, Fruit Chan, Yano Kazuyuki, Philip Cheah, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Takashi Miike, Bahman Gobadi.

Notably, Angelopoulos was the festival's honoree this year, with a special retrospective section arranged for showing 12 works by the acclaimed Greek director.

PIFF offered a venue for 39 films making their world premiere, reflecting the festival's increasing clout in the cinema world. With 16 films as international premiers (shown for the first time outside the country of origin), and 50 as Asia premiers, PIFF has solidified its position.

The festival featured nine sections: 46 films for "A Window on Asian Cinema", 12 films from eight countries for "New Currents", 13 films for "Korean Panorama", 51 films from 42 countries for "World Cinema", 74 movies from 28 countries for "Wide Angle", seven films for "Open Cinema" and 10 films for "Critics' Choice".

Notably, an English documentary film maker, who visited Busan for the festival, said on Tuesday that he would produce a new feature about Korea's national football team and supporters during the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

Daniel Gordon said in an interview with local media that he was a big supporter of Korea during the World Cup and is looking for financial backers to depict the country's "amazing story" in a documentary film. Previously, Gordon filmed a documentary in North Korea, making it the first documentary feature filmed in the reclusive communist state by an outsider.

The film was about the North's national football team, which stunned the football world by defeating Italy to reach the quarterfinals of the 1966 World Cup in England.

Meanwhile, PIFF organizers said they were disappointed at North Korea's absence. North Korea presented five movies last year, but it turned down this year's invitation by the organizing committee for unspecified reasons. Pyongyang hosted its own international film festival last month, according to its state-run news agency.

Reflecting the public interest toward PIFF, more than 1,000 local and foreign reporters stampeded into Asia's most prestigious film festival, organizers said. Almost 250 foreign reporters from 30 countries covered the event this year, up from 140 last year.

Some 100 Japanese reporters were also at the film festival, testifying to the growing popularity of Korean pop culture in Japan. Hundreds of Japanese tourists also flew to Busan to attend the opening ceremony, according to organizers.

By Yang Sung-jin

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