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(PIFF) Pusan International Film Festival to lift debut directors
By Kim Hyun
BUSAN, Oct. 6 (Yonhap) -- Asian young filmmakers will showcase their talent and a celebrity contingent will add sparkle to this year's Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) set to open in this southern port town on Thursday.

   Asia's largest cinema event features 308 films from 67 countries. A record number of world premiers, 103, are on offer this year.

   "The Love of the Hawthorn Tree" by China's Zhang Yimou will open the festival at a yacht stadium overlooking the ocean. The love story set during China's Cultural Revolution marks Zhang's return to auteurism after many years on large-scale projects such as "Lovers," "House of Flying Daggers" and the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

   This year's PIFF is particularly marked by its list of celebrities from far and wide. Hollywood director Oliver Stone, Carlos Saura of Spain and Abbas Kiarostami of Iran are among the internationally acclaimed filmmakers to take part. Juliette Binoche of France, Jane March of Britain and Aishwarya Rai of India, who is also famous in Hollywood, will add to the festive mood. Hollywood actor Willem Dafoe will visit to promote the screening of "A Woman" directed by his wife, Giada Colagrande, from Italy.

   Apart from the star power, the 15th PIFF draws attention with its spotlight on young filmmakers. The festival's only feature competition section, All New Currents, presents 13 films, all world or international premiers, by directors who are promising but have yet to establish their name at home and abroad.

   "The first thing in this year's program is that a large number of debut directors are presented. They will be introduced here for the first time to the world's cinema scene," said Kim Ji-seok, the head programmer, adding that Sanjoy Nag of India, Lu Yang of China, Sheron Dayoc of the Philippines and Sivaroj Kongsakul of Thailand are some of the eminent directors featured in the section.

   Taking on the unique geopolitical position of the host country, the event offers audience room to reflect on the lives of North Korean defectors. "The Journals of Musan" by Park Jung-bum portrays a North Korean man striving to adjust in the capitalist South; Jeon Kyu-hwan's "Dance Town" follows a grueling journey of a female defector away from her husband in the North; and Zhang Lu, a Korean-Chinese director, weaves a poignant story of a North Korean boy opening up to a Chinese friend after defecting in "Dooman River."

   In Korean Cinema Today, the theme of violence is dominant. "No Doubt," "Boy," "The Man from Nowhere," "Moss" and "Secret Reunion," as well as "Poetry," the winner of the Cannes' screenplay award, delve into issues of community and family violence in Korean society.

   Audiences looking for an older Korea may turn to the Korean Cinema Retrospective section with eight films starring eminent actress Kim Jimi, a fragment of the some 700 films she acted in from the late 1950s through the 80s.

   Special Programs in Focus features eight Kurdish films. Living in a land that officially belongs to Turkey, Iraq, Iran or Syria, Kurdish directors have long had to hide their identity but have never ceased to pursue their cinematic expression of wars, poverty and exile gripping their people, organizers said.

   The festival also pays tribute to Kwak Ji-kyun, a director whose melodramas swept the Korean sentiment in the 1970s and 80s. Out of work for a long time, Kwak committed suicide in May.
The PIFF closes on Oct. 15 with "Camellia," an omnibus by three directors: Wisit Sasanatieng of Thailand, Isao Yukisada of Japan and Jang Jun-hwan of Korea.

   For organizers, this year's PIFF will bid an emotional farewell to Kim Dong-ho, the respected festival director who has spearheaded its growth into Asia's largest since its inception in 1996. Kim has expressed his intention to resign.

   "It's been a rewarding job for me that the Pusan film festival has grown into a major international event, despite its initial prospects of uncertainty," Kim said earlier.

   "The PIFF's largest appeal is that it is the most dynamic and youngest major festival in the world." PIFF was named after the city name Busan using the old Romanization system.

   Meanwhile, the Asian Film Market will open Oct. 10-13 on the sidelines of the film screenings. It will introduce an online screening system for potential buyers and financiers. Directors of 25 film festivals from 15 countries will attend a discussion forum on marketing.