South Korean fest crucial in Asian region

HONG KONG — A number of Asian sales companies will skip Venice this year and go directly to Toronto. The combination of high costs and few films selected means the cost-benefit analysis weighs against the Lido.

Though Pusan falls smack in the middle of a supercrowded season, the South Korean fest-cum-market has developed as a crucial entry into the fast-moving Asian region. And after a couple of years trying to define its position, and perhaps casting its eye too far afield, Pusan this year appears to have regrouped and will focus more of its efforts in its own Asian backyard.

The core project market, Pusan Promotion Plan, has, for example, reacted to criticism and scaled down from 35-plus projects to 30, dropping nearly all the non-Asian contenders and creating more time for meetings.

Market organizers have reached out to Chinese companies that have films and projects and are now expecting a large number of Chinese in attendance.

That is successfully keeping up the interest of European firms, which at recent Filmart and Shanghai events have discovered growing appetites among a newly enfranchised crop of Chinese indie players. The U.K. Film Council and European Film Promotion are both expected to expand the size of their umbrella stands and increase the number of delegates. Though the Tokyo festival and market start just two weeks later, UniJapan also is returning to Pusan with a communal booth.

(New, slightly earlier dates also eliminate the overlap with Mipcom and may attract more long-distance travelers — and Pusan will be more generous with hospitality for these folks by covering more of their expenses or providing more hotel nights, etc.)

Fest organizers have been stung by criticism of the market facilities (at first, the beyond-slow glass elevators in packed hotels inspired jokes but later became a source of annoyance and frustration) and ticketing shortages. They’ve dealt with the former by shifting the whole of the market to the bottom four floors of the newer Sea Cloud Hotel, which also is closer to the Paradise Hotel, where the PPP remains.

Festival and market screenings also will put greater emphasis on Asian films, and there is a promise, too, of more room for the most recent commercial Korean films in mart or festival sidebars. That could help reverse the recent Korean export downtrend and return the fest to its successful roots — after all, it was the Pusan fest that had so much to do with Korean film’s meteoric rise in the first place.

Oct. 2-10
Where: Busan, South Korea

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