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(PIFF) Pusan film festival closes with fanfare
BUSAN, Oct. 15 (Yonhap) -- The Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) closed Friday after a nine-day celebration of new and established cinema talents from around the world, demonstrating its growing stature as Asia's largest film event.

   The curtains came down with "Camellia," an omnibus of three films all set in Busan by directors from Thailand, Japan and Korea. Wisit Sasanatieng, Isao Yukisada and Jang Joon-hwan explore the nature of love from their own social perspectives in the experimental collaboration.

   The 15th PIFF boasted a strong celebrity presence from far and wide, including French actress Juliette Binoche and Hollywood actor Willem Dafoe. U.S. director Oliver Stone, Carlos Saura of Spain and Iran's Abbas Kiarostami, who headed PIFF's film academy this year, added to the spectrum of renowned guests this year.

   Asian starlets and filmmakers turned out in full force. Chinese actress Tang Wei, Japan's Yu Aoi and Bollywood darling and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai lit up the scenic Haeundae Beach, while Chinese director Zhang Yimou, whose film "Under the Hawthorn Tree" opened the festival, recounted his dramatic life and film career in one of the veterans' master classes.

   Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang, noted for his dedication to independent filmmaking, was honored as the Asian Filmmaker of the Year.

   The festival screened 306 films from 67 countries, including a record number of world premiers, 101. Both of the two US$20,000 New Currents awards for first-time and second-time Asian directors went to Korean films, "The Journals of Musan," a poignant North Korean defector story by Park Jung-bum, and "Bleak Night," a coming-of-age film about high school boys by Yun Sung-hyun.

   The other competition section, Flash Forward, which honors a talented director from outside Asia, awarded "Pure" by Sweden's Lisa Langseth. The jury also gave a special mention to "Erratum," a Polish film by Marek Lechki.

   Kurdish cinema received the spotlight in a special focus section titled "Kurdish Cinema, the Unconquered Spirit." Eight Kurdish films were presented in the section with grueling stories of the ethnic community dispersed throughout Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

   In a retrospective, the event paid tribute to eminent Korean actress Kim Jimi, who was a fixture in the Korean cinema scene from the 1950s through the '80s, starring in some 700 films. Eight of them were presented at PIFF for audiences looking to catch her legendary performances and scenes of an older Korea.

   Despite concerns about film distribution around the world, the Asian Film Market boasted sharp growth in its size and sales activity. During the four-day event, 26 films clinched deals with 39 distributors, and negotiations were under way for more. "Poetry," an auteuristic film by Lee Chang-dong that won the best screenplay award at this year's Cannes Film Festival, was sold to distributors in Japan, Portugal, Sweden and Syria. In last year's market, 23 films were sold.

   PIFF paid well-deserved respect to Kim Dong-ho, the 74-year-old festival director who spearheaded the event, a latecomer to the Asian cinema scene, into becoming the continent's most prestigious festival during its 15-year history. One of his likely successors is Lee Yong-kwan, a PIFF co-director.