Dialogue: Kim Dong-ho

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Kim Dong-ho has led the Pusan International Film Festival since its inception in 1996, following 27 years in the Ministry of Culture. The 70-year-old Kim talked to The Hollywood Reporter's Mark Russell about PIFF's role in Asian cinema and the future of the festival.

The Hollywood Reporter: How has the Pusan International Film Festival grown and changed since the its first year?
Kim Dong-ho: First of all, the number of movies invited has increased from 130-140 to 270. Secondly, the number of foreign guests and press has sharply increased. But most importantly, the world premieres and international premieres have sharply increased, from less than 10 to more than 90. That shows PIFF's growth has been not only in quantity but also in quality. PIFF's importance in Asian movies has grown and Asian movie people recognize PIFF more, so more producers and directors want to bring their movies to Busan.


THR: And how has PIFF helped Korean and Asian films over the years?
Kim: Important programmers from major film festivals such as Cannes and Berlin, and also from minor film festivals, come to Busan, watch Korean movies and invite people to their festivals. PIFF has been a window for Korean movies going abroad. For example, at Cannes, for the 50 years before PIFF started, only three Korean movies were shown. But a couple of years after PIFF started -- from around 1998 -- Cannes started to invite four or five Korean movies every year. Also, at the second PIFF, we had a retrospective of the works of Kim Ki-yong, which also was shown at Berlin a few months later. And Chung Chang-wha's event also. In addition, we created the Asia Film Market and made an import company to import Asian movies to Korean cable TV and cinemas. And we are going to create a PIFF television channel.

THR: PIFF is renowned for its art house content, but how important is it for PIFF to showcase more mainstream works, too?
Kim: Although PIFF mainly focuses on artistic and director-driven movies, at the same time we consider more popular, commercial movies too, especially for our opening and closing movies. For example, this year's opening movie ("Assembly") is a Chinese movie by director Feng Xiaogang and is relatively commercial. And for the closing movie, we have the animated "Evangelion," which is also more commercial. Still however, I think the main focus is on independent, art house movies.

THR: What are your favorite memories of PIFF?
Kim: At first people were worried and doubtful about PIFF; they thought it would be just a one-time event. As PIFF was unknown, it was difficult to get funding. But we overcame those doubts and the first PIFF started successfully, drawing 200,000 people to Busan from all over the country. Those are the unforgettable moments for me.

THR: You're now sharing the festival director position with longtime programmer and festival co-founder Lee Yong-kwan. Does it feel good to have a lighter workload?
Kim: Even so, I still work more than last year. I am especially going abroad more and more, this year included. However, having film festival preparations done in Korea by co-director Lee Yong-kwan helps a lot. But still there is a lot of work to do. After 12 years, I think the festival is on track now, and we have developed projects for 10 years in the future. Now major tasks left are to make the PIFF Center perfect and set up the festival so it can run financially independently. I want to lead those tasks myself, and when they're done it'll be a good time for me to hand over the festival to my co-director and leave. Or maybe in one or two years.


VITAL STATS

Title: Festival director of the Pusan International Film Festival

Age: 70

Career history: 27 years at the Ministry of Culture, including several years as Vice Minister; former head of the Performance Ethics Board; former president of the Korean Motion Picture Promotion Corp. (predecessor of Korean Film Council); former president of the Seoul Arts Center
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