Pusan festival adds Asian film market
The opening film this year is a domestic melodrama, “Traces of Love,” by the established director Kim Dae-sung of “Bungee Jumping of Their Own.” “Traces” is only the fourth Korean film to open the festival, and stars Yu Ji-tae and Kim Ji-su in an autumn love story. When advance tickets went on sale for the opening Sept. 19, they sold out in less than three minutes. The closing film is a Chinese comedy, “Crazy Stone,” about the heist of a valuable jade piece. Both opening and closing ceremonies will take place in the 5,000-seat outdoor theater of the Haeundae Yachting Center.
PIFF’s competitive division is dubbed New Currents, and the head of the jury will be the Academy Award-winning Hungarian director Istvan Szabo. There are 10 films in the competition, ranging from a low-key Chinese teenage drama “Betelnut,” by Heng Yang, to an experimental animation-live action-puppetry hybrid “Wool 100%” by Japanese director Mai Tominaga. Szabo will also give a master class at the festival with Taiwanese Ming-liang Tsai.
The retrospective section offers a special treat this year: Seven restored Korean films from the Japanese colonial era, including “Sweet Dreams” from 1936, thought to be the oldest Korean movie of which a print still remains. The section also honors the famed Korean director Shin Sang-ok, who passed away in April, by screening a restored version of his 1962 film “The Arch of Chastity.”
The largest expansion at PIFF this year is the addition of a film market. The Asian Film Market will host Asian sales booths, mostly from Korean and Japanese companies, and sellers including Sony, Universal, the Weinstein Company, StudioCanal and more. In all, 70 sales booths from 95 companies will take part.
There was opposition to the opening from already-established film markets in Tokyo, whose market opens the day after PIFF closes, and Bangkok, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Another conflict was with the first Rome Film Festival, which takes place through most of PIFF’s run. Though the programmers said they eventually agreed with Rome on who would show what, two “co-world premieres,” of the films “After This Our Exile” by Patrik Tam and “Nightmare Detective” by Shinya Tsukamoto, will take place at both festivals.
Festival director Kim Dong-ho was particularly proud of the news that Variety, the entertainment trade newspaper, will cover the festival daily for the first time. Variety only covers three other film festivals in this way: Cannes, Berlin and Toronto.
The patriarch of Korean film, Im Kwon-taek, will lead this year’s Asian Film Academy, a series of special classes that PIFF offers every year with five directors and cinematographers and 24 academy fellows, with the goal of producing a film by the end of the 26-week class period.
Other divisions at the festival this year include a second animation section, which will screen new films from Japan, Thailand, Singapore and Korea, including “Paprika,” by the Japanese director Satoshi Kon, known for “Millennium Actress” and “Perfect Blue,” and “Aachi & Ssipak,” a coarse, kinetic Korean feature.
PIFF continues its support for documentary filmmaking by offering 120 million won ($127,000) in funding through the Asian Network of Documentary. Eight documentaries on indigenous Asian cultures will screen in the festival’s Wide Angle section, plus other documentaries on a variety of subjects. The “Vision Session” will support low-budget Korean film directors.
The Korean Cinema Today section will survey current domestic film, featuring a screening of Im Sang-soo’s “The President’s Last Bang” with controversial documentary footage, originally excised by the Korean courts, restored.
by Ben Applegate