Famous beach destination surrenders itself to celluloid
When he recalls those days from 1995, when he was launching the film festival, Kim, the festival’s director, is relishing the fact that the Pusan International Film Festival (or PIFF) is about to enjoy its 12th opening night next Thursday and has become one of the most important film festivals in Asia.
What makes him even more proud is that the festival is ready to offer its audience 275 films from 66 countries. This year’s theme, “Beyond the Frame,” was chosen to suggest that PIFF is ready jump to a higher level.
Kim is also delighted that 66 films in the PIFF 2007 lineup are having their world premiere in Busan and 35 are being shown for the first time outside of their home country, reflecting the festival’s growing status. The number of premieres is the highest in the history of PIFF ― in its opening year the festival had just 10 or so premieres ― and its scale continues to grow. About 7.8 billion won ($8.9 million) was invested in the festival this year, and eight films funded by the festival’s development plan will be screened during this year’s event.
A large clutch of celebrities will also grace the red carpet during the festival including actress Michelle Yeoh, Claude Lelouch, the French director famous for his film “A Man and a Woman” and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, an Iranian director who will hold a master class.
One of the secrets behind the festival’s success is that its focus is not just auteur and independent films but commercial films as well.
Kim said that PIFF’s appeal to a wider audience can be seen in its history of selecting popular films for the opening and closing ceremonies.
This year is no exception. The opening film, “Assembly,” is directed by Feng Xiaogang, who is often called the Steven Spielberg of China. The closing film, meanwhile, is “Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone,” a theater version of a legendary Japanese anime.
Tickets for the opening and closing films sold out in less than an hour when sales opened last week.
However, hundreds of other films will be offered. The festival’s competition section for feature films, “New Currents,” deserves attention, as its 11 films from seven Asian countries show that a low budget is not an obstacle for talented independent filmmakers determined to make the most of celluloid aesthetics.
Lee Sang-yong, the section’s co-programmer, noted that many directors have been exploring the collapse of family and its meaning in films like “Park and Love Hotel,” by Izuru Kumasaka from Japan, “Flower in the Pocket,” by Seng Tat Liew from Malaysia and “The Red Awn,” by China’s Shangjun Cai.
The section called “A Window on Asian Cinema” will offer 38 films from 11 Asian countries and its programmer, Kim Ji-seok, has noted the recent developments in Southeast Asian cinema, especially the boom in the Philippine film scene. Kim recommends “Slingshot” by Brillante Mendoza, an insightful look into the lower echelons of Filipino society and “Philippine Science” by Auraeus Solito, about eight elite high school students caught up in the 1986 People Power Revolution.
In the same section, Hana Makhmalbaf, the daughter of the acclaimed Iranian filmmaking family, presents “Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame,” about the children of Bamiyan, Afghanistan and their suffering after the town’s giant Buddhas were destroyed by the Taliban.
The festival has two sections dedicated to Korean film ― “Korean Cinema Today” and “Korean Cinema Retrospective.”
The Today section is divided into “Panorama” and “Vision” sections.
Panorama deals with relatively recent films, including “Secret Sunshine” by Lee Chang-dong and “Beyond the Years” by Im Kwon-taek.
Lee Sang-yong, the section’s programmer, noted a recent decline in Korean cinema but said in a press conference that he sees its future in the talent of young Korean directors.
The Vision section is the place to test the future of Korean cinema, as it features seven low-budget independent films, including “With a Girl of Black Soil” by Jeon Soo-il, which was also invited to this year’s Venice International Film Festival.
In the Retrospective section, the festival pays homage to the actor Kim Seung-ho, who reigned over Korean cinema during the 1950s and the 1960s. There will be eight films starring Kim as a father figure from an era of Korean society that has now disappeared. The section also celebrates the designation of seven historic Korean films as cultural assets, the first time the Cultural Heritage Administration has given this recognition to movies.
This year the festival will have a Gala Presentation that features the latest or much-talked-about films from master filmmakers.
Award-winning director Hou Hsiao Hsien from Taiwan will present “Flight of the Red Balloon” starring seasoned French actress Juliette Binoche. This section also features the Korean director Lee Myung-se and his latest film “M,” a thriller with a notable play on light and darkness in the mise-en-scene.
Another new addition this year is “Flash Forward,” offering films from young directors that explore social controversies.
“Munyurangabo,” the feature debut by Korean-American director Lee Isaac Chung, examines the Rwandan genocide through the journey of a young boy who is searching for his father’s killer.
Jan Bonny portrays the grim reality of a middle-aged couple and the domestic abuse they inflict on each other in his latest black comedy, “Counterparts.” “France” by Serge Bozon is a war movie shot in the style of a musical.
Notable screenings from this year’s selection of non-Asian films include “Nightwatching,” a biographical portrait of the famed Dutch painter Rembrandt and the golden age of Amsterdam by Peter Greenaway, the British director known for visually-arresting films such as “The Pillow Book” and “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.”
“It’s a Free World” is the latest film by Ken Loach, noted for his social realism. It’s about two flatmates who are laid off and start a business using cheap labor provided by migrant workers.
In “To Each His Own Cinema,” produced to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival, director Bernard Emond compiled 33 three-minute shorts from leading directors about their personal experiences in darkened cinemas. Topics include a first kiss and a happy ending.
One of the highlights of this year’s festival is a tribute to Malaysian film, an industry that has recently witnessed the emergence of a new generation of filmmakers, owing to the country’s advances in digital technology and various social issues driven by the country’s multi ethnicity.
“There has been a significant rise of independent Southeast Asian films particularly from Malaysia and the Philippines,” says Kim Ji-seok, the festival’s programmer. “That, along with the steady growth of the film market in Japan, China and India, have been the main changes to the Asian film scene over the last year.”
As a special treat, PIFF will offer retrospectives of works by two master filmmakers, Dariush Mehrjui, a leading figure in contemporary Iranian cinema, and Edward Yang, who is dubbed the pioneer of new wave Taiwanese cinema, who died in June. Mehrjui also heads the jury for the New Currents section.
Other jury members include Lee Chang-dong, whose “Secret Sunshine” earned Jeon Do-yeon the award for best actress at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
An innovative lineup of experimental shorts and documentaries will be shown in the festival’s “Wide Angle” section, including three documentaries about autism, one of which, “Her Name is Sabine,” traces the personal story of former actor Sandrine Bonnaire and her sister, who suffers from the illness.
Fifteen Iranian directors, including Abbas Kiarostami, also teamed up to create “Persian Carpet,” an omnibus work of short documentaries celebrating Iranian craftsmanship.
For more relaxing entertainment, the festival also offers some famous blockbusters in the Open Cinema section of outdoor screenings, including Masayuki Suzuki’s “Hero,” a box-office hit adapted from a TV drama series starring Japanese superstar Takuya Kimura from the boy band SMAP. For more information and tickets, visit www.piff.org.
By Park Soo-mee Staff Writer [firstname.lastname@example.org]
By Chun Su jin [email@example.com]