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The Pusan International Film Festival
The Pusan
International
Film Festival
Asia’s Grandest Arena for Cinema
The largest and most important film event in Asia opens every autumn in Korea’s lively southern city of Busan. Filmmakers, actors, industry folks and movie lovers from all walks of life descend upon the city to participate in the 12th edition of PIFF, the Pusan International Film Festival. With all its glamor and fine programming, it is an event you'll not want to miss.

PIFF began in 1996 when its primary focus was to screen Asian films. However, the festival has grown over the years and now screens films from across the world. This year, the festival will be showing a total of 275 movies from 64 countries from around the globe. Many of these are world premieres of films that, not being especially commercially-oriented, will likely be seen only in their home nations or other like-minded festivals after screening here. With so many movies, you’re sure to find something that suits your taste.

→ For more on the Pusan International Film Festival



International Masters & Discoveries

"The World Cinema section is one that always stirs up quite a bit of interest. It offers the chance to see commercially and aesthetically important films from Australia to Ireland, from Argentina to Iceland, and points in between."

To help viewers decide what to see, the organizers of PIFF have divided their selections into 11 sections, each with a different theme. You may want to check out the films from the Gala Presentation section, for example. Films shown under this banner include the most anticipated and talked about movies in the world. Here you can see “Flight of the Red Balloons,” a French film by Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien, or perhaps the latest from acclaimed Korean director Lee Myung-se, with his atmospheric film, “M,” about an author pursuing both reality and fiction, past and future.

The World Cinema section is one that always stirs up quite a bit of interest. It offers the chance to see commercially and aesthetically important films from Australia to Ireland, from Argentina to Iceland, and points inbetween. It was through past versions of this section that I was introduced to cinema from Brazil, the Czech Republic and Israel.

The numerous films in this category deal with a wide range of themes, from an actress approaching middle-age in the French film, “Actresses,” to the recreation of punk rocker Ian Curtis’ short life in “Control” from the United Kingdom. You can see the South African movie, “Meisei,” about a young girl who’s gifted at mathematics, or a film about the Mexican underclass in the US, “Our Father.”

If you’re looking for films that’ll keep you awake all night, literally, you may want to brave PIFF’s Midnight Passion. These films screened in the early morning hours include the bizarre and terrifying, the gruesome and brutal and, occasionally, the hilarious. Here you can watch the hair-raising film, “The Ferryman,” made by New Zealand filmmaker Chris Graham about Caron from Greek mythology coming for a group of vacationers in Fiji. There’s also “The Matrimony” from China, about a newly-married man who refuses to come out of the attic and keeps the room off-limits to anyone in the household.



Showcasing Korea’s Finest

Korean cinema is, of course, well-represented at the nation’s largest film festival. PIFF is always the perfect place for foreigners to introduce themselves to Korean movies, as all the films are subtitled in English. As in the past, the festival has divided Korean films into two categories:Korean Cinema Today and the Korean Cinema Retrospective.

Korean Cinema Today features films that have proved to be successful in the box office, as well as films that have succeeded artistically. Falling into the latter group is “Breath,” a beautifully-shot film by master art house director Kim Ki-duk. The award-winning “Secret Sunshine,” which earned actress Jeon Do-yeon the prize for Best Actress at Cannes earlier this year, will be screening at PIFF. The popular domestic hit, “Paradise Murdered,” will also be screened for those who missed the mystery film during its theatrical run. Many of the films showing in this section are also premieres with domestic release slated for later this year, such as “Skeletons in the Closet,” which looks at an extremely dysfunctional family, and the action movie, “Spare,” about a man trying to outwit the yakuza.
"Thousands of movies made prior the Korean Wave, the renaissance that bought Korean movies to international attention in the mid-1990s, are very hard to locate with English subtitles. Film festivals such as PIFF work in close cooperation with the Korean Film Archives in making these movies available to foreign audiences."

The Korean Cinema Retrospective always holds a special place for lovers of Korean films. Thousands of movies made prior the Korean Wave, the renaissance that bought Korean movies to international attention in the mid-1990s, are very hard to locate with English subtitles. Film festivals such as PIFF work in close cooperation with the Korean Film Archives in making these movies available to foreign audiences. This year, festival organizers have further divided the retrospective section into two sub-categories. The first group consists of some outstanding films featuring actor Kim Seung-ho. Of the multitude of films that Kim appeared in, PIFF has selected the eight best and are offering them at this year’s festival. Of these, I highly recommend “The Coachman” (1961), “Mr. Park” (1960) and “Money” (1958).

The Korean Film Retrospective will be of special interest to those curious about the very early years of Korean cinema. It will include the oldest extant movie made in Korea, the 1936 film, “Sweet Dream.” Films made in the 1940s include “Hometown in My Heart” (1949), which was remade a few years ago as “The Little Monk,” and “Viva Freedom” (1946), the first film made after the nation regained independence following WorldWar II.



Bustling Nampo-dong, Relaxing Haeundae Beach

In the unlikely event that you get tired of watching movies, PIFF has plenty of other attractions to grab your attention and hold your interest. Among the best are the open-air stages at the scenic Haeundae Beach and also downtown Nampo-dong, at a place now known as PIFF Square. These stages host a variety of events from music concerts to art and video exhibitions. There’s nothing like laying outside under a starry sky on the white sands of Haeundae Beach while the strains of music from all over the world fill the air, complemented by the peaceful sound of rolling waves.

Haeundae Beach itself is a major attraction of Busan, and PIFF screens half the movies in theaters nearby the beautiful coastal resort. The clean sandy beach stretches more than 1.5 kilometers along Korea’s southern shore. Summer crowds have long since departed by the time the festival opens, but the air and water are still frequently warm enough to enjoy a barefoot stroll or even a quick dip in the deep clear water.

The other half of the festival’s films are shown in Nampo-dong, the bustling center of Korea’s second largest city. Don’t let that fact put you off, though. Busan is far easier to get around in than you might expect. It has just two subway lines, one running east/west and the other running north/south, so you can never get lost. The north/south line runs directly between Nampo-dong and Haeundae, making travel between the two sites quick, convenient and comfortable.  Nampo-dong also offers a variety of attractions for tourists and visitors.

Shopping is always an option there, and the unbelievable Jagalchi Market is not to  be missed. Jagalchi Market is a large open-air fish market which draws both Koreans and tourists in droves and is within easy walking distance from PIFF Square. The low prices and delicious raw fish dishes attract diners and shoppers alike.

The Pusan International Film Festival will open on October 4 with the showing of the Chinese blockbuster war epic, “Assembly,” and runs until October 12 with “Evangelion 1.O:You Are (Not) Alone” as the closing night film. If you’re going to be in Korea during the early part of October, don’t miss this opportunity to rub shoulders with the film industry elite and be a part of greatest, most exciting film event on the entire Asian continent.

[Find out more!]
→ Busan(Pusan), Beautiful Port City
→ Busan Luxury vs. Budget Tour

Written by Tom Giammarco / Photos courtesy of PIFF
The article courtesy of SEOUL magazine

Date   07/08/2008



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