Foul weather can't dampen Pusan crowds

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Typhoon rains welcomed the arrival of some of the 1,500 participants, including 350 registered buyers, set to attend Busan's second annual four-day Asian Film Market, which opened today.

But by Sunday evening, no inbound flights were delayed to this South Korean beach resort, and organizers said there were no cancellations -- and many newcomers -- at the market and the Busan International Film Commission & Industry Showcase.

"Attendance will be the same as last year, and we are expecting exciting and focused events," market director Park Kwang-su said. Since Korea's film industry has had a down year, he said, "attendance won't grow, either."

At noon Sunday at the Grand Hotel, the market's core, many of the sales suites stood empty, while in others sellers were just beginning to hang posters and lay out brochures.

Kini Kim, director of international business at CJ Entertainment, said a scan of the guest list showed that many Europeans he met last year would not be coming back.

"I'm worried that there are too many markets around this time," Kim said. "People are going to Rome because Rome is closer for European buyers."

Newcomers were plentiful. Mark Lindsay -- former Miramax executive, now president of New York-based Kimmel International -- arrived in Busan after stopping in Tokyo. There, he met Japanese distributors to show off the two-year-old company's growing slate, which ranges from "Management," a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston, to "All God's Children Can Dance," a feature set in Los Angeles' Koreatown, starring Joan Chen and Jason Lew.

"It's important to go where the Asian buyers are," Lindsay said. "A lot of doing sales in Asia is all about face-to-face contact. So for me this is an opportunity to re-establish old relationships and establish new ones."

Another first-time visitor was Ludo Cremers, president of 24 Frames, a Los Angeles-based distributor of international films for the U.S. market. He had seen 14 films since arriving Wednesday.

"I like the level of the films that I see here, but I'm still hoping to find an edge-of-your-seat horror film in the market," said Cremers, who has bought five films since founding the company in February, including the Thai horror "Alone," purchased in Cannes.

By Sunday at 6:30, parties hosted by the Udine Far East Film Festival and a group of Malaysian filmmakers stood a chance of being moved because of the menacing weather. Both were to be held in the partly open-air Pusan International Film Festival Pavilion built onto Haeundae beach. A sand barrier to protect it was built up in the morning, but rough surf threatened.

"Despite the rain, everybody here is extremely helpful and is making the best of it," Cremers said.

Opening day at the Grand also will see a seminar about the growing casting crossover between Asia and Hollywood. Participants include casting directors Yoko Narahashi ("Babel") and Susan Shopmaker ("West 32nd"), Korean-American actor John Cho and Madame Park Sung-hae, head of Korean talent management company Sidus iHQ.

Market director Park said he expected Asian companies to be talking up co-productions with more than 200 producers visiting from around the world arriving with projects in varying stages of completion.

"We still need more refinement and understanding about co-productions to broaden the market in Asia," Park said.

Other highlights will see Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien ("Flight of the Red Balloon") present his next project, a traditional action movie called "The Assassin," and Japanese music and movies group Avex pitch the sort of projects it is looking to back.

"The market itself looks pretty organized. We're getting a lot of appointments and expect to start out the autumn market season here and hope to close at AFM," said Minako Mita, deputy director of the motion picture department, international sales, Fuji-TV, whose screening of "Hero" here she hopes will attract Asian buyers.

The worst of Supertyphoon Krosa had shifted course into China and blown down, offering relief to the organizers of the market, which ends Thursday.

Mark Russell and Gregg Kilday contributed to this report.
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