HAMBURG — Ten years after its first humble appearance at the Pusan Intl. Film Festival that few might have even noticed, the European Film Promotion will now be filling new direct flight service from Munich to Pusan with its biggest contingent ever to South Korea’s second city.
EFP topper Renate Rose says that 21 European directors, two actors, 16 film sales support agents and 19 office participants will be carrying the EFP banner in Pusan this year to help promote more than 60 European films in the 275-pic field at the fest this year, which runs through Friday.
“It’s going to be our biggest presence ever,” says Rose, who 10 years ago first went on a lonely expedition on a circuitous route to and through Seoul to get to Pusan with EFP President Claudia Landsberger.
“There’s been incredible growth in the last few years. At first it was more of an experimental voyage but we were quickly impressed and convinced that, even though it was a rather small festival at the time, it was the right place for us to be.”
Rose says that even if Asia has never been a particularly easy market for European films, in part because of the strong Hollywood presence in many of the territories and the strong position of national homegrown industries, there is nevertheless a significant segment of Euro film fans in the region. And Pusan has for years been an ideal beachhead for the EFP, the Hamburg-based umbrella organization of 27 national film promotional orgs in Europe.
“It’s the most exciting film festival in East Asia,” says Rose, who adds that PIFF is one of a half dozen festivals around the world where the EFP provides sales support. The partnership with Pusan has become one of the EFP’s major focuses each year.
“It’s had incredible growth in the last few years. The crowds are huge and enthusiastic, and they’re extremely interested in European cinema. That’s been their policy, not to show the American majors but instead concentrate on international independents, lots of Europe and, of course, Asian films. We found that combination to our liking from the start.”
Last year, EFP flew in 18 directors, producers and writers of films that have unspooled at the festival.
This year, there will be 21 directors, including Romania’s Cristian Mungiu (presenting “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” that won this year’s Palme D’Or in Cannes), Germany’s Volker Schloendorff (presenting “Ulzhan”), and Spain’s Jamie Rosales (“Solitary Fragments”). Also, France’s Claude Lelouch will be ready to lead audience discussions about his “Crossed Tracks,” and Pusan-born Sung-Hyung Cho will present her feted German documentary “Full Metal Village.”
Says Rosales: “As a filmmaker, it’s important for me to be open to the wider audience worldwide, and Pusan seems to be the perfect entry into the Asian market.”
The European actors and filmmakers will be presenting their films in the World Cinema and Wide Angle sections, as well as in the latenight screenings of Midnight Passion and the new Flash Forward section.
EFP will have an office in the center of the Asian Film Market Monday-Thursday that will be made available for business meetings, screenings and promo materials. EFP will be looking after the offices for U.K. companies organized by the U.K. Film Council.
More than 15 sales companies and producers have registered at the EFP office, including Nordisk Film Sales (Denmark), Celluloid Dreams (France), Memento Films Intl. (France) and the Match Factory (Germany).
“So far, the box office for European films has been quite modest in South Korea, even though the crowds in Pusan are enthusiastic about them,” Rose explains. “But the good thing about Pusan is that it’s not only Koreans but buyers from all over Asia are there.”