18th Busan International Film Festival is under way

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18th Busan International Film Festival is under way


From left to right: The opening film “Vara: A Blessing,” Ha Jung-woo’s directorial debut “Fasten Your Seatbelt,” Kim Jee-woon’s technologically groundbreaking film “The X,” Bong Joon-ho’s “Snowpiercer,” and the closing film “The Dinner,” directed by Kim Dong-hyun. Provided by the festival

BUSAN - For the next nine days, the port city of Busan will come to a standstill as some of the brightest filmmakers from Asia and beyond - not to mention thousands of avid film fans - will descend on the town for the 18th Busan International Film Festival.

The opening ceremonies took place yesterday at the Busan Cinema Center, featuring appearances by scores of celebrities, including the controversial director Kim Ki-duk, actors Uhm Tae-woong and Han Hyo-joo, and this year’s Asian Filmmaker Award recipient Rithy Panh.

The opening film, “Vara: A Blessing,” is the story of a young Indian temple dancer named Lila and a low-caste boy, Shaym, who dreams of being a sculptor.

“Vara” was directed by the Bhutanese monk Khyentse Norbu - also known as Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche - and organizers say it embodies their goal for this year’s festival, “a focus on a diverse range of films, not just Korean works.”

The closing film is Kim Dong-hyun’s family melodrama “The Dinner,” which is generating strong advance buzz.

In total, there are more than 301 works from 70 countries being screened at the festival; of those, 137 films are international premieres.

Those many films are divided into a variety of segments. “Gala Presentations” features works by master directors from around the world. “A Window of Asian Cinema” is a showcase of the latest in cinema from around the continent. And “New Currents” looks at more experimental and sophisticated works.

“Wide Angle” focuses on shorts and documentaries from around the world, while “Open Cinema” is the outdoor screening section, where more than 1,000 people gather to enjoy popular movies in the open air.

In this year’s retrospective section, the festival takes a look at director Im Kwon-taek, featuring a dozen of the master’s best films.

No doubt one of the major highlights of this year’s festival will be the unveiling of Kim Jee-woon’s “The X,” a 31-minute action short that Kim made especially for the new ScreenX format. Korea’s CGV multiplex chain has invented ScreenX, a format that adds screens to the sides of the theater, so the movie wraps around the audience.

Another film that’s being talked about is actor Ha Jung-woo’s directorial debut, the comedy “Fasten Your Seatbelt.” The comedy is the story of a bratty Hallyu star aboard a plane full of strange people, when a huge storm threatens to crash the plane.

Ha also has two other movies that he starred in at the festival, “The Terror Live” and “The Berlin Files.”

The film festival is a great time for filmmakers and stars to promote their new releases.

One popular event is the outdoor greeting, where the public can come and see their favorite stars, either on Haeundae Beach or in Nampo-dong, the festival’s old home.

Some of the stars participating in the outdoor events this year include Yoo Ah-in (“Tough as Iron”), Mblaq singer Lee Joon (“Rough Play”) and actor Jung Woo-sung (“Cold Eyes”).

But perhaps the wildest reaction will go to Big Bang star T.O.P, who will come to town to promote his movie “Commitment,” in which he plays a high school assassin from North Korea sent on a mission to the South to save his sister.

T.O.P and his co-star Kim Yoo-jung will make their way to Busan today and the fans will no doubt be glad as the production has had a few glitches along the way - including an accident that caused T.O.P to have surgery after being cut by glass fragments.

The film is also notable for having a high-profile director controversy when director Park Shin-woo walked away partway through filming and was replaced by Park Hong-soo.

BIFF will also be busy with a dizzying array of activities, including lectures and seminars, for the general public and film industry professionals.

Alongside the festival runs a series of professional events, including the Asian Film Market, Asian Project Market and Asian Film Academy.

BIFF runs until Oct.12.

By Carla Sunwoo [carlasunwoo@joongang.co.kr]

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