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11th PIFF is Biggest Film Festival in Asia

The Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF), which takes place every October in the south-eastern port city of Busan, South Korea gears up for its 11th edition, its largest thus far. In fact, the festival has grown to such proportions that US entertainment media Variety will begin publishing dailies at PIFF this year, something it until now had only done for the world’s top three film festivals, Cannes, Berlin, and Toronto.

In Seoul, South Korea at an unusually crowded press conference, PIFF director KIM Dong-ho and his team, presented an impressive line-up of premieres, programs, and celebrity events, all to take place during its 9 day run, October 12th to 20th “We have been focusing on securing a stable ground for the festival's survival for the past 10 years, and its turned out to be more successful than anyone could have expected”, said Kim Dong-ho.

Since its inception in 1996, PIFF has grown steadily to become the biggest and most sought-after film festival in Asia, inviting comparisons to Cannes, Venice and Toronto. After last year’s 10th Anniversary celebrations, the 11th PIFF is set to expand its frontiers with the opening of the inaugural Asian Film Market, a comprehensive film industry hub that covers everything from the sales of completed films to the financing of prospective ones.

This year’s festival will open with the gala premiere of Korean film Traces of Love, by director KIM Dai-seung, known for his previous hits, Blood Rain and Bungee Jumping of Their Own. Actresses KIM Ji-soo and UHM Ji-won, who were present at the press conference, star alongside YU Ji-tae, in a drama of loss and recovery. The film is about a lawyer whose fiancée dies in the collapse of a department store, a place where he had asked her to wait for him. After working recklessly puts his career on hold, he discovers his dead love’s travel diary and sets out on a journey to trace her memories.

A Chinese feature, Crazy Stone, a black comedy by director NING Hao, has been named closing film. The 11th PIFF will present in total 245 films from 63 countries. Of those, 64 will be World Premieres, 71 will have their Asian premiere, and 20 their international premiere. Films from Europe dominate the program at 55%, while 29% come from Asia, 10% from North America and 6% from Africa.

Like other major festivals, PIFF has a prestigious international competition section called New Currents, which awards a prize of US$30 000 to the winning director. This year the New Currents jury will be presided over by Oscar-winning Hungarian director Istvan Szabo. Also on the Jury are Cannes Grand Prize-winning director Bruno Dumont, producer Daniel Yu, Iranian director Abolfazl Jalili, and Korean actress MOON So-ri. They will select the best film from among 10 new features from up-and-coming directors. Two Korean films will have their World Premieres in the competition section: Driving With My Wife’s Lover by KIM Tae-sik, and The Railroad by PARK Heung-sik.

This year’s World Cinema section will showcase 52 films from around the world, including the latest works of renowned directors such as Aki Kaurismaki (Lights in the Dusk), Bruno Dumont (Flanders), Tony Gatlif (Transylvania), Lars Von Trier (The Boss of it All), and Fyodor Bondarchuk (9th Company).

As always, there will be a special section highlighting domestic films. Korean Cinema Today will present films under 3 headings, Panorama – representing popular and artistic achievements in Korean cinema this year (The Host, City of Violence, A Dirty Carnival, Family Ties, King and the Clown, Woman on the Beach); Vision – showcasing innovative new directors such as SHIN Dong-il (My Friend and his Wife) and NOH Dong-seok (Boys of Tomorrow); while Special Premiere will present world debut screenings such as Gangster High by PARK Ki-hyung and an uncut original version of IM Sang-soo’s 2005 film about President Park Chung-hee’s assassination, The President’s Last Bang, which had been censored for political reasons but has now been fully restored.

As part of the Korean Cinema Retrospective PIFF has also announced it will screen 7 films produced during the Japanese colonial period. It will also screen a classic Korean film that was thought long lost. Bound By Chastity Rule (1961), by late Korean master-director SHIN Sang-ok, was tracked down by specialists from the Korean Film Archive (KOFA) who located a 16mm print of the film at the Chinese Taipei Film Archive in November 2004.

Following an official request, the print was sent to Korea in December 2005, when a complex restoration project by KOFA began. The film was completely restored in June of this year, after six months of strenuous work, including the reconstruction of 30 minutes of inaudible sound.

Director SHIN Sang-ok’s best-known film internationally was The Mother and the Houseguest (1961), which displayed his true cinematic craftsmanship. Bound By Chastity Rule is said to be of the same high order, and was part of the official selection at the Berlin International Film Festival around the time of its release.

The movie deals with traditional mores and gender issues in Confucian society through the portrayal of a forbidden love between a widow and a serf who belong to different social classes. Along with the director's trademark insights into gender issues, critics single out the impressive performances of CHOI Eun-hee and HAN Eun-jin as a key element contributing to the film's high rating.

Before and during the festival, PIFF’s Asian Film Academy (AFA) will take place, allowing up-and-coming filmmakers a chance to learn from cinematic masters. Selected students will learn the finer-points of the craft from veteran director IM Kwon-taek, and award-winning directors PARK Ki-yong, BAE Chang-ho, and Darezhan Omirbayev along with Japanese cinematographer TAKAMA Kenji.

Director Istvan Svabo has been named as honouree for PIFF’s hand-printing ceremony, while the Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award will this year go to Andy Lau for his acting and producing efforts. Both Szabo and Taiwanese director TSAI Ming-liang will lead Master Classes, giving lectures to the public on how they make and view cinema.

Continuing every year, are the sections Wide Angle, which presents short films from Korea and abroad, Critics Choice, which offers 12 highly regarded features as chosen by 5 top Korean film critics, A Window On Asian Cinema, your guide to recent trends and accomplishments in Asia’s growing film industry, and Open Cinema, which presents 7 outdoor screenings for movie-lovers, including Cannes Palm d’Or winner The Wind that Shakes the Barley.

Newly created Midnight Passion section will offer 4 nights of midnight-to-dawn screenings, featuring darkly entertaining films from various genres. In Special Focus this year, is a section called Contemporary French Auteur, presenting 13 films from French masters such as Jean-luc Godard and Patrice Leconte. A focus on Asian Auteurs, and Asian feature animation will also be showcased.

Various events have been organized around the festival, including nightly live music concerts at the Haeundae Yacht Center, an all-night international DJ party, and special talks given on Chinese Queer Films, as well as on documentaries about North Korea. British filmmaker Daniel Gordon will host the latter talk and present his new North Korean documentary Crossing the Line. Another documentary highlight is 16 Takes on Korean Society, which looks at contemporary Korean history from various perspectives.

PIFF will again set up its guest and information centres on the beach, with various shows and exhibits to entertain the public. The festival prides itself on removing the exclusivity synonymous with big film fests, so audiences will enjoy a greater degree of interaction with celebrities.

All films will have English and Korean subtitles unless otherwise noted. The main theater venues are at Haeundae Megabox, Primus and CGV and at the Daeyoung Cinema in Nampo-dong. The opening, closing, and Open cinema screenings will be held at the 5000-seat Haeundae Yacht Center. The city of Busan is 2 hours and 40 minutes south-east of Seoul by high-speed train and 5 hours by bus and regular train. Advance tickets will be available from Sept. 26th at Megabox in Co-ex and Suwon, and at any Busan Bank. More information can be found at the festival’s website,

By Nigel D’Sa

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