Asia stars shine at Pusan bow

Starry night, 'Traces' faces power up fest's opener

PUSAN — The 11th Pusan Intl. Film Festival blasted off on Thursday night with a glittering ceremony and an open-air screening of Korean drama “Traces of Love.”

Asian star power was on display as a procession of high-profile actors walked down a red-carpeted platform that extended through the middle of the 6,000-strong crowd.

Hong Kong star Andy Lau, in town to receive an award for service to Asian cinema, elicited some of the biggest cheers, while fans struggled to catch a glimpse of local favorites Lee Byung-heon and Lee Jun-ki.

A massive fireworks display over Haeundae Beach capped the introductions before the opening night film unspooled.

“As a somewhat green filmmaker who has only made three features, it’s a great honor to have my film open this prestigious festival,” said “Traces” director Kim Dae-seung.

Structured around the real-life collapse of a Seoul department store in 1995, Kim’s film struck a somber note amid the ceremony’s charged atmosphere.

Kim also took advantage of the spotlight to express his concern over South Korea’s decision last January to significantly weaken its screen quota system, which guarantees screen time for local pics. “I fear for the future of the Korean film industry without these protective measures,” he said.

Few are questioning the future of the Pusan festival, however, as the event launches an ambitious Asian Film Market and continues to attract thousands of industry guests from all over the world.

After a record-sized 10th edition last year, the 2006 fest will present new initiatives to capitalize on and further support the increased commercial clout of Asian cinema.

A key focus for the fest and its new market will be to encourage more pan-Asian co-productions. Events such as Asia’s leading project market the Pusan Promotion Plan, which is gradually embracing more commercial product, and the inaugural Star Summit Asia, which supports cross-border casting in Asian films, are at the center of these efforts.

PIFF runs through Oct. 20, when it will wrap with the international premiere of breakout Chinese hit “Crazy Stone.”

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