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Busan: Hot Titles at the Asian Film Market

Sitting between the early fall festivals of Toronto and Venice and November’s American Film Market, Busan’s Asian Film Market is either badly timed or brilliantly positioned, depending on your point of view.

There is no doubt, however, that it plays host to a range of hidden gems, and allows buyers to get an early jump on a selection of key titles – both of the artistic and the commercial varieties.

Hong Kong’s Mandarin Entertainment is handling the festival’s big-budget ($28 million production cost) closing film, “Master Z: Ip Man Legacy,” with its starry cast including Dave Bautista, Michelle Yeoh and Tony Jaa. The company is also pre-selling its even bigger “Ip Man 4.” The budget is now confirmed at $52 million and pitches Asian superstar Donnie Yen against British action star Scott Adkins (“The Expendables,” “Wolf Warrior II”) with delivery scheduled in 2019.

Another Hong Kong studio, Edko Films, is touting $40 million China-Australia co-production “The Whistleblower.” Directed by Chinese female filmmaker Xue Xiaolu (“Finding Mr, Right”), the action-thriller stars Tang Wei as an employee who calls time on her bosses. Edko’s artier offering is “The Poet,” by Chinese director Liu Hao. The film plays later this month in competition in Tokyo.

Taiwan-based sales house Flash Forward Entertainment is also offering Busan market participants an early glimpse of “A First Farewell,” which also plays in Tokyo.

Japanese sales and production firm Free Stone is bringing “Love’s Twisting Path” to market. The film is the first to be made in two decades by veteran director Sadao Nakajima, who was a master of the samurai genre at the Toei studio before turning to the Yakuza genre, and is best-known for “The Seburi Story.”

Busan is, of course, also a prime platform for the Korean majors to show footage and launch new fare. CJ Entertainment is unveiling three of its fourth-quarter behemoths. The slate is headed by financial thriller “Default,” featuring “Burning” star Yoo Ah-in and France’s Vincent Cassel. Military actioner “Take Point” stars Ha Jung-woo (“Along With the Gods”) alongside Jennifer Ehle and Kevin Durand. CJ is also pitching Chinese-language crime actioner “The Big Shot.” Directed by Wu Bai, the film stars Wang Qianyuan (“Shadow”) and Bao Baier (“Detective Chinatown 2”).

The market is also the platform for the launch of completed films that have proved their worth in home markets, but have yet to cross over in other territories. Playtime is handling Rithy Panh’s Vietnamese foreign-language Oscar contender “Graves Without a Name.” Black comedy “Dying to Survive” was a commercial hit that had such an impact in China that it changed government policy on pharmaceuticals procurement. Movie View Intl. is handling the overseas rights.

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