The Korean peninsula's leading film festival kicked off yesterday in a southern beach resort town despite growing tensions over the North Korea's recent announcement that it tested a nuclear bomb.
The mood at the 11th Pusan International Film Festival, also one of Asia's most prestigious, appeared unaffected by the diplomatic fallout from the claimed nuclear test. The film festival retains the old spelling of the South Korean city now known as Busan.
Veteran Hong Kong actor-singer Andy Lau, who is being honored as Asian filmmaker of the year, was mobbed by fans as he arrived at the Busan airport late Wednesday.
Workers added finishing touches to the new PIFF Pavilion, a beachfront complex built with freight containers that houses a conference room, lounges and an outdoor stage for actor appearances.
This year's program, however, includes two timely films about the North. British documentary Crossing the Line tells the story of the last American defector to North Korea.
The German documentary Comrades in Dreams follows the life of a North Korean movie projectionist, comparing it to the lives of counterparts in southern India and Midwestern America.
The Busan festival opens with South Korean director Kim Dae-seung's Traces of Love, a man who can't overcome the pain of losing his lover. Kim wowed audiences with his debut Bungee Jumping of Their Own, a touching and innovative story about a secondary school teacher's relationship with his male student whom he believes to be the reincarnation of an old lover.
Traces of Love features Yu Ji-tae from Old Boy, which won the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004.
In all, Busan organizers will show 245 films from 63 countries, including 64 world premieres.
Director Tsai Ming-liang (蔡明亮) and Oscar winner Istvan Szabo from Hungary will give master classes.
Defying government sanctions, rising Chinese director Lou Ye (婁燁) will promote Summer Palace (頤和園), a love story set against the pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989. Chinese film authorities banned Lou from filmmaking after he screened the film at Cannes this year without clearing government censors.
Thailand yesterday opened its second film festival this year, but some question the need for two events when the country is struggling to find a niche in the already crowded festival scene.
More than 70 films from 30 countries will be screened at the fourth World Film Festival of Bangkok, and although it may lack the celebrity draw of similar events, organizers say it has loftier aims.
“We want to give the city a serious film culture event,” said festival director Victor Silakong. “Of course, we cannot afford all the big stars but we want to promote serious cinema.”
The World Film Festival of Bangkok follows the Bangkok International Film Festival earlier this year, which boasted stars including directors Oliver Stone and Terry Gilliam and actors Willem Dafoe and Catherine Deneuve.
But Thai film industry experts are perplexed as to why the kingdom needs two festivals, especially when neither of them are close to rivaling Asia's premier film event in Busan, South Korea, let alone Venice or Cannes.
“Why do we need two festivals? I think it eats into their own programming,” said Gilbert Lim, executive vice president of Thai studio Sahamongkol Films.