The elements almost put a damper on things Thursday night as the 12th Pusan Intl. Film Festival got under way to the sound of rain showers … and under a political umbrella as well.
Annoyingly wet but still a scene, the opening festivities at the Busan Yacht Club — complete with screaming fans — were notable as much for the glamorous red carpet outfits on a parade of Korean celebrities as for the crowd, all of whom donned plastic raincoats that were conveniently placed on their chairs.
The VIP pageant included three candidates for the Korean presidency, signaling the heft of the fest in this territory and underlining the near certainty that politics will continue to intrude on this year’s event. After all, a couple hundred miles away, North and South Korean leaders were wrapping only their second face-to-face meeting in 60 years of political schism.
PIFF hostess Moon So-ri helpfully explained that the new festival slogan, “Beyond the Frame,” is intended as a gesture of openness to other countries in the region.
With the rain stopping and starting, a stream of festgoers was headed by a splash of local TV stars, mixed with festival programmers from around the world and a dash of international celebs.
Runway show included veteran helmer Im Kwon-taek, Chinese multihyphenate Jiang Wen, fashionista Andre Kim, “Lost” star Daniel Kim, thesp Daniel Henney, Singaporean helmer Royston Tan and his campy entourage from movie “881,” composer Ennio Morricone, “Secret Sunshine” director and former culture minister Lee Chang-dong.
Movie biz heavyweights included Cannes topper Thierry Fremaux, Media Asia CEO John Chong, the Berlin festival’s Christoph Terhechte and leading Chinese producer Wang Zhonglei.
Top local screen stars were headed by Soo Ae, Kim Tae-hee, Park Jin-hee, Hi Jin-hee, Ha Jung-woo, Uhm Jung-hwa and Lee Dong-gun.
Carpet strutting complete, the Busan Symphony Orchestra played “Gabriel’s Oboe,” Morricone’s tune from “The Mission.”
With the rain still falling, the evening finally gave way to a volley of fireworks and the world preem of populist Chinese helmer Feng Xiaogang’s “Assembly.”
A tale of heroism set during the Chinese civil war, which starts gritty before segueing into a more personal tale of redemption, is a tough call for auds. But crix deemed it one of the most worthy preems the fest has ever programmed in the opening slot.
Continuing the theme of cross-border friendship, Feng leaned heavily on the war-movie experience of his Korean pal Kang Je Gyu (“Tae Guk Gi”) during the shooting of “Assembly.”