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(PIFF) Pusan International Film Festival opens with record number of world premiers
By Kim Hyun
BUSAN, Oct. 7 (Yonhap) -- The Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) opened Thursday in this southern port city, where cinema fans will rub shoulders with film stars and directors during its nine-day run along the scenic Haeundae Beach.

   Asia's largest cinema event features 308 films from 67 countries. A record number of world premiers, 103, will be offered this year.

   "The Love of the Hawthorn Tree" by China's Zhang Yimou will raise the curtain later in the evening, a prelude to the strong presence of Chinese films in this year's PIFF. Set during the violent Cultural Revolution, the love story marks Zhang's return to a simple narrative film after years of big-budget projects such as "Lovers," "House of Flying Daggers" and the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

   A strong celebrity contingent is expected, Juliette Binoche of France and Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai among them. Oliver Stone will bring his latest stock market film, "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," to the festival, while Abbas Kiarostami is chairing the ongoing Asian Film Academy, a PIFF educational section for cinema aspirants from Asian countries.

   Thirteen films are vying for the two US$30,000 awards at All New Currents, the PIFF's sole competition section for features. This section showcases films by promising first-time Asian directors, with its jury headed this year by Emi Wada, a Japanese custom designer.

   The event sheds light on films from marginalized regions. In a special section called Kurdish Cinema: The Unconquered Spirit, eight Kurdish films portray the lives of the Kurdish people engulfed in wars, poverty and exile. A high-level delegation of the Iraqi Kurdish government will visit the festival, and there will be a forum on Kurdish cinema and a Kurdish culture night.

   The PIFF also offers audiences room to reflect on the lives of North Korean defectors. "The Journals of Musan" by Park Jung-bum, "Dance Town" by Jeon Kyu-hwan and "Dooman River" by Zhang Lu tell of the toilsome journeys North Koreans make from their impoverished home country.

   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.

   The Asian Film Market opens on Sunday for a four-day run. 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.