Pusan Plan shines in Asia

Promotional market helping films find right niche

Project markets have become increasingly trendy in the past five years, with festivals across the world taking on the role of matchmaker for intriguing new projects and potential financiers. But the Pusan Promotion Plan ranks as one of the pioneers.

Launched in 1998, with founders Park Kwang-su, Jeong Tae-sung and Kang Sung-kyu taking inspiration from Rotterdam’s Cinemart, the PPP has played an important role in the development of a whole new generation of Asian filmmakers. This year it celebrates its 10th edition with a glance back at its past, and a 35-title lineup that as usual includes both celebrated auteurs and talented up-and-comers.

“Partly because we were the first project market to focus on Asia, we were able to offer a space where financiers could meet and network with the top filmmakers in Asian cinema. I think this is the biggest reason behind our success,” says PPP manager Lim Ji-yoon.

This year the festival will publish a retrospective on the history of the PPP and hold a special 10th anni party.

As for the lineup, established names include Hong Kong director Fruit Chan with the horror film “Don’t Look Up,” about a Hollywood director making a film in Romania; Korean helmer Hong Sang-soo (“Woman on the Beach”), whose eighth film, “Night and Day,” will be mostly shot in Paris; Iranian Bahman Ghobadi (San Sebastian winner “Turtles Can Fly”) with an untitled project about two young men who begin to act out the events in a short story; and Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai (“Beijing Bicycle”) with “11 Flowers,” about a boy who unwittingly helps an injured fugitive.

One of the most intriguing projects has no director attached yet — the first time this has happened in the history of the PPP. Producer Peter Fudakowski (“Tsotsi”) will bring a film adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer” to Pusan, where he hopes to find an Asian director to helm the work.

Two other projects will also boast famous producers: Terence Chang, well known for his collaborations with John Woo including “Red Cliff,” will represent “The Wooden-Man Chamber of Shaolin Temple” by Benny Lau. Meanwhile, celebrated Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang will put on a producer’s hat for “New Sorrowful to a Ghost,” directed by 72-year-old martial arts film legend Joseph Nan Hong Kuo.

The growth and maturation of the PPP has coincided with expanding interest on the part of Western festivals to showcase Asian films. Commercial releases of Asian films in Europe and North America have also expanded, even if they remain niche product. As a result, an expanding number of investors and sales companies are taking the trip to Pusan to try to get their hands on the hottest new projects.

“This year we’ve seen a clear increase in the number of European sales companies attending the PPP. Many of them are looking for new titles that they can then pre-sell around the world,” says Janice Chung, head of publicity for the Asian Film Market.

Although such a deal would be the best-case scenario for many of the PPP’s official selections, those that don’t secure financing will still qualify for a selection of awards given out by the event. This year, six awards totaling close to $95,000 will be presented to various PPP projects.

PPP projects from past years have gone on to win Silver Bears, a Golden Lion, a Silver Leopard and a Golden Globe and have set box office records. At the same time, the PPP has been the key factor behind PIFF’s transformation from a purely cinephile event into a broader festival that draws industry people from around the globe.

What does the future hold?

“I don’t expect there will be major changes introduced to the PPP in the coming years,” says Lim. “In some ways our biggest change came last year, when we started including some non-Asian projects and embracing more commercial titles. But we look forward to using our link with the Asian Film Market to expand opportunities for the directors who come here.”

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