Busan Festival Gets off to Lively Start

BUSAN — The third year of ceremonies at the BIFF Centre, Thursday night, was arguably the smoothest yet — and the most fun.

“I didn’t realize that the atmosphere here was going to be so lively,” said Taiwanese director Doze Niu, who then introduced the cast of opening night film “Paradise in Service.”

Proceedings overseen by Moon So-ri and Japan’s Watanabe Ken, were helped by the generally clement weather, short speeches, and the smooth functioning of the purpose-built festival centre. A volley of fireworks from the building next door was a nice touch.

The red carpet parade this year clearly put the accent on elegance rather than sex appeal, a steady stream of full-length gowns in ivory, white, and gold with, mostly, high neck lines.

That was perhaps driven by a new festival policy, which dispensed with the presence of dozens of scantily-clad minor celebrities who in previous years had been forced on the festival through trades with talent agencies.

The 19th edition of the festival, which will present 313 films over 9 days, opens at a time when the Korean film industry continues perform at a level that would be the envy of most other nationalities.

Box office share for Korean films to date this year is 51%, propelled by hits such as “Roaring Currents” “Miss Granny” and “The Pirates,” although the total is down from last year’s almost unprecedented 59%.

The Korean Cinema Award went to Corinne Siegrist-Oboussier, for bringing Korean cinema to Swiss audiences. The programmer then surprised by admitting she had never previously having visited the country.

Veteran Hong Kong director Ann Hui was also called up on stage to receive the Asian Film Maker of the Year Award. Hui will return to the stage later in the week for a gala screening of her biopic “The Golden Era,” which stars Tang Wei, the Chinese actress most beloved of Korean audiences.

“Last year was the year I suffered the most, while editing and trying something new with ‘The Golden Era.’ This is my reward,” said Hui.

The only off not was the surprising absence of top director Bong Joon-ho, who is a member of the New Currents jury, and was detained in Seoul “for personal reasons.”

Celebrities and executives on the red carpet included veteran Korean director Juhn Jaihong, who this week receives a retrospective tribute; Mike Ellis and Stephen Jenner of the Motion Picture Association of America; big name actor Jung Woo Sung; maverick director Kim Ki-duk; Tom Yoda and Yasushi Shiina, past and present directors of the Tokyo International Film Festival; character actor Ahn Sung-ki; Hong Kong director Peter Chan Ho-sun (“Dearest”); Isabelle Glachant and Wang Weiming (producer and director of competition film “Sex Appeal”); Victor Koo, CEO of Chinese video site Youku; Dieter Kosslick, head of the Berlin film festival; Busan co-founder Kim Dong Ho; and Mayor of Busan, Seo Byung-soo.

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