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Notable Absences Mark 21st Busan Festival Opening Ceremony

After two years of struggle between festival organizers and city authorities, followed by an indecisive settlement, this year’s Busan Film Festival always was going to be different.

As a result, some of Korea’s top filmmakers, including Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho, Lee Joon-ik, Choi Dong-hoon and Ryoo Seung-wan, decide not to attend the festival, and the red carpet parade presented less Korean star guests than previous years. Also absent were Lee Yong-kwan the festival director on whose watch the clashes occurred, and Seo Byung-soo, the city mayor who split the industry, and who has since resigned his ex officio chairmanship of the festival.

The opening ceremony of the 21st BIFF Thursday night was held under the open air Busan Cinema Center’s signature big roof. And it left more space than usual for members of the public.

Major Korean guests who did attend included filmmaker Kim Ki-duk and his cast for “The Net,” director Zhang Lu and his cast for the opening film, “A Quiet Dream,” rising actress Park So-dam (“The Priests”) and K-pop singer-actor Choi Min-ho (“The Derailed”).

One of Korea’s major box office hits this year, “The Handmaiden” was represented by child actress Cho Eun-hyung, while other major Korean selections “The Age of Shadows” and “The Wailing” were left unrepresented.

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Kang Soo-youn, who is now the sole director of the festival, greeted the guests along with returning festival chairman Kim Dong-ho.

Proceedings were led by Korean stars Han Hyo-joo (“Love, Lies”) and Seol Sul Kyung-gu (“The Long Way Home”). Renowned Korean musician Kim Duk-soo offered a special traditional percussion performance to celebrate the festival’s 21st edition.

The Korean Cinema Award went to France’s Forum des Images director-general, Laurence Herszberg, for arranging a Korean cinema program in France and promoting Korean films worldwide.

“A few months ago I organized a program only showing Korean films—I showed 80 of them—now when I see you here, so many people, gathered for a film festival, I realize how much we share in common, France and Korea, through our love for cinema,” Herszberg said as she received the award.

The late Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami was honored as the recipient of the Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award. Ahmad Kiarostami, the late filmmaker’s son, attended the ceremony. He spoke on his father’s behalf, mentioning that the night’s prize and the audience attending the ceremony mean that Abbas Kiarostami’s legacy will remain here. He also quoted a line from one of Abbas’ poems: “When he came, he came; When he was there, he was there; When he was dead, he was there.”

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