Pusan kicks off

Korea's biggest names help launch fest

The atmosphere was upbeat as some of Korea’s biggest names — including Won Bin, who starred in hit “The Man From Nowhere,” and Jeon Do-youn of Cannes player “The Housemaid” — walked the red carpet for the opening of the Pusan Film Festival on Thursday.

The outdoor screening of Zhang Yimou’s poignant love story “Under the Hawthorn Tree” was delayed 20 minutes by a technical hitch, but that didn’t spoil the proceedings.

This year’s fest marks the swansong of popular festival director Kim Dong-ho, who has transformed Pusan into a regional heavyweight since it began in 1996.

Pusan will feature 103 preems — a record for the fest — and will show 308 films from 67 countries.

Among celebs skedded to visit are thesps Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe and Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai; and helmers Oliver Stone, Carlos Saura and Abbas Kiarostami, who is heading the Asian Film Academy, the educational section for aspiring filmmakers from Asian countries.

Among the highlights of the fest will be the Asian Film Market, which kicks off Sunday for four days and will preem an online screening system for potential buyers and producers. Directors of 25 film festivals from 15 countries will attend a discussion forum on marketing.

There will be a special focus on Kurdish cinema and spotlights on the Spanish and Czech biz.

The fest will also feature pics looking at North Korea through the experiences of defectors, including “The Journals of Musan” by Park Jung-bum, “Dance Town” by Jeon Kyu-hwan and “Dooman River” by Zhang Lu.

Pusan is expected to draw up to 180,000 visitors in its nine-day run. It closes Oct. 15 with “Camellia,” an omnibus film by three Asian helmers, Wisit Sasanatieng of Thailand, Isao Yukisada of Japan and Jang Jun-hwan of South Korea.

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