Mart cuts back to feature more works from Asians

If the concept hadn’t already been working so well in Rotterdam’s Cinemart, Pusan’s PPP would have a great case to make for patenting its winning project-market formula — which it amply demonstrates again in its selection this year.

The mart, which runs for four days through the first weekend of the Pusan Festival, puts forward a by-now classic mashup of international arthouse leading lights alongside lesser-known names. All hold scripts or projects in need of finance.

In a flurry of film industry speed dating, or “booking,” as Koreans call it, the PPP organizers fill up everyone’s dance cards by arranging a series of meetings between the project reps and would-be film financiers. These range from equity investors and bankers, through individual-territory distributors and international sales agents to foreign producers seeking matches for their skills (and dowries) by setting up co-productions.

Highlights of this year’s lineup includes new projects by established names such as Japan’s Sabu and China’s Zhang Lu and interesting first-timers such as Ounie Lecomte and an Asian-American project by Kimi Takesue.

Overall, however, the PPP this year has been scaled down slightly and more tightly focused on Asian-originated works. It has 30 projects, plus two carried over from Shanghai’s Catch and Pitch event in June.

The retrenchment may reflect a degree of less-is-more thinking that is notably absent from the rest of the festival, which this year is swollen by the number of completed films screening to levels a notch above the 10th anniversary’s bumper edition.

PPP’s smaller scale may also reflect the growing competition for presentable projects among festivals, so many of which deem it necessary to add industry functions and launch their own project-financing events.

South Korea saw such a new event this year, when the PiFan fantasy fest in July successfully launched the Network of Asian Fantastic Films (NAFF), a meet for genre film projects. Among NAFF’s 14 projects was “Stranger,” the China-set thriller being produced and directed by the U.K.’s Simon Rumley, that also appears in the PPP lineup. And PPP is followed only a couple of weeks later by the Tokyo fest’s Tokyo Project Gathering.

Others PPP attractions include “Executioner Garden,” a creepy and decadent drama set inside a prison, by Zhang Yuan. The Chinese helmer has a glittering festival career that includes “East Palace, West Palace” and “Little Red Flowers.”

Couldn’t say no

One project the mart probably could not have refused is “A Father,” by Korean-Chinese helmer Zhang Lu, whose “Grain in Ear” and North Korean refugee drama “Hyazgar” have been politically relevant festival favorites around the world. Zhang’s new pic dealing with senile dementia is set in Busan and takes the Pusan festival as its backdrop.

“Arrested Memories,” directed and produced by Sabu (“Drive,” “Blessing Bell”) and promoted by Korean sales house Fine Cut, also addresses the same subject, albeit as a distorted police procedural.

Although the fest makes little effort to include South Asian filmmaking, the PPP gives room to “The Sunrise,” a child-trafficking drama by Indian auteur Partho Sen-Gupta (“Let the Wind Blow”).

Lee Chang Dong, whose painfully tough but moving oeuvre has disturbed and delighted festival auds around the world, makes a double appearance at PPP, as helmer and as first-time producer.

The “Oasis” and “Peppermint Candy” director is pitching “Poetry,” the story of a woman at the end of her life searching for meaning.

Pic already has the majority of its finance in place, from UniKorea, and has Fine Cut attached as sales agent.

In Pusan, Lee may be able to announce the pic’s main casting ahead of lensing, skedded to begin at the end of the year.

Lee is throwing his considerable weight as novelist and former South Korean culture minister behind “A Brand New Life,” a debut feature by Lecomte which he is producing. Script, about orphans in a strange country, is clearly only a step away from Korean-born French adoptee Lecomte’s own history, but is already gathering buzz.

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