[interview] Kim Dong-ho, Director of the Pusan International Film Festival

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[interview] Kim Dong-ho, Director of the Pusan International Film Festival

Alain Patel is President of Asian Film Festival in Deauville and Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Universite Rene Descartes, Paris

My relationship with Korea goes back to 1972. I was teaching and demonstrating medical technology at Seoul National University and Yonsei University until the mid-1980s, when the French government was giving scholarships to Korean students. In fact, I'm an honorary professor at Yonsei University. I have also been the president of AMFA (Franco Asian Medical Association) since 1979, mainly to offer and coordinate medical technology and social services.

The idea of promoting Asian films in France came to me in December, 1998, when some close friends and I were discussing Asian culture. Nicholas Druz, the director of Europe Journal, and Michel Deverage, a multilingual diplomat who served in Asian countries for over 25 years, and I wanted French people to encounter various Asian experiences. We had no money but three months later, we arranged for famous actors from China to walk around the streets of Deauville.

The festival could have been held in a big city such as Paris, but we wanted to created our own flavor by holding the event in such a beautiful place. As you can see, the venue is not only used for film viewing. We have a lacquer exhibition from Taiwan, an exhibition of traditional costumes from all over Asia, painting and performance from Korea, an Asian food buffet from one of best Asian restaurants in Paris and so on. If you come to Deauville, you can experience everything beautiful that is Asian! I'm personally very excited it has begun to happen.

We began with only 15 films in the first year, 25 the following year and 30 this year. The number of visitors has grown from 10,000 to 14,000 and then 20,000 this year. The organizing committee works on the festival all year round and one of the biggest problems is communication because of the linguistic and cultural barriers.

Next year, we plan to include short film and documentary sections by extending the duration of the festival. By continuing our effort and passionate love for Asian movies and culture, we hope we can develop a market for Asian films worldwide.

Kim Dong-ho is Director of the Pusan International Film Festival

Deauville is the only Asian film festival in Europe, apart from Italy's Urdine Festival which is held in the summer. Deauville and Pusan began an exchange program last year, which is a good way to introduce Asian films to France. Dr. Alain Patel attended the ceremony and held a press conference in Pusan. He personally selected films to be shown in Deauville while in Pusan, and thanks to his cooperation, Korean films are gaining recognition worldwide. In the first year, a retrospective about Shin Sang-ok was held. Last year Korean films took the major awards, and this year "JSA" took the honor. In Pusan this year, though, we are focusing on Thai films.

Dr. Patel chose Deauville for the location of the film festival for a challenging reason. Deauville is famous for an American Film Festival. He wanted the place where Asian films become successful to be the same location where world-famous stars gather to celebrate their triumphs. Compared to the size of the festival in Pusan, which features about 220 films from 55 countries and attracts over 200,000 visitors, Deauville is on a small scale. But, as an organizer of a film festival myself, I feel that Deauville has qualities that we can learn from. The facilities and utilization of space are admirable, an example of which are the enormous theaters all strategically located in the basement. Another significant fact is the role that media coverage and sponsorship, including Air France, have played in its growth.

For more information on the Asian Film Festival in Deauville, visit the town's official Web site

or e-mail Jeremy Segay at panasia@ifrance.com.

by Ines Cho

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