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Plans For Asian Film Center Given Launch in Busan

Filmmakers, officials from Southeast Asia and Korean film policymakers on Monday laid the foundations for the establishment of an Asian Film Center.

Propelled into action by former Busan Film Commissioner and current Korean Film Council chairman Oh Seok-geun, the proposal emerged from a round table conference held in Korea on the margins of the Busan International Film Festival.

The conference put forward a seven-year timetable that stretches from imminent follow-up meetings, through to the launch of an Asian Film Center in 2019. Escalation to a pan-Asian Film Organization is envisaged by 2025.

The proposed structure is expected to operate in the fields of film policy; film and talent promotion; professional and audience education; and market and production development. It proposes a three-level structure: an executive board, an organizing committee and a secretariat with policy, marketing and education functions.

Oh said that he has received assurances from the highest levels of government that South Korea will provide initial funding for the organization. “There’s no need to worry,” he told delegates. Korean government sources indicate that $1.4 million (KRW15 million) has been earmarked for the launch. “In the longer term, I’d like us to establish an Asian Film Fund.”

The new mayor of Busan was also clearly on board. “We need to help solidify Asian cinema’s position in world,” said Busan mayor Oh Keo-don. “I have a dream of making Busan the Cannes of Asia.”

Korean government and European inter-government practices were held up as useful role models, for further development.

“The EU (film industry) is successful because there is government intervention and structures,” said Liza B. Dino, chair of the Film Development Council of the Philippines. “We have to bring in best practices for our industry to grow, and to reach out, not just to festivals, but also to commercial distribution.” Dino said that her organization had recently restructured and leaned heavily on KOFIC for legal direction, policy formats and practical matters such as software.

“I’m so happy to hear the emphasis that today is being put on the role of producers,” said Lorna Tee, an independent producer, festival organizer and moderator of part of the conference.

Oh teased that the initial focus on Southeast Asia reflected the popularity of Korean pop music in the region. He also acknowledged the region’s problematic political, cultural and religious diversity.

“The idea behind the AFC is not to promote Korean films. Korea has politically difficult relations with Japan and China,” he said. There were no representatives from either country at the meeting. “I’d very much like them to join. I think they will.”

While the meeting involved representatives from Brunei, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia, noticeably absent were representative from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and India.

“It is a very brave initiative. We may be witnessing history today or a big disaster,” one delegate said in confidence. “The biggest challenge will be depoliticizing the organization.”

Several speakers spoke of a shared resource center, that would possibly covering box office, talent, representation, regulatory and financial information.

Other delegates spoke of the trickle-down benefits of inter-Asian co-production. Pitfalls in that field include vastly different national film economies, large disparities between countries with generous production funding schemes and those with none and the strings that come with wealth transfer. One speaker suggested that Malaysia break open its 30% rebate scheme to accommodate all members of the Asian Film Center.

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