Sun, stars herald Pusan fest opening


BUSAN, South Korea -- The autumn sun shone brightly on South Korea's Haeundae Beach on Thursday, welcoming the single biggest gathering of global moviemaking professionals
in Asia to the opening of the 15th Pusan International Film Festival.

At the final PIFF presided over by Kim Dong-ho, the festival's longtime director and patriarch, the initial curtain rose under the stars of Korea's second-largest city. In front of a packed house of more than 3,000 guests, Kim welcomed opening film director Zhang Yimou from China to the red carpet at the Busan Yachting Center Outdoor Theater.

Festivities included a music video dedicated to outgoing festival director Kim, who then introduced the 12 members of the New Currents Jury. He also introduced opening film director Zhang Yimou, himself a PIFF veteran.

"Twelve years ago my film was screened here as a closing film, and I'm honored to be back," Zhang said, whose "Keep Cool" had played here previously.

Oliver Stone, Willem Dafoe, Aishwarya Rai and Juliette Binoche arrived to celebrate Kim¹s achievements and help open the festival that will screen 308 features, documentaries, animated films and shorts from 67 countries, including a record 108 premieres.

Korean actor Jang Dong-gun ("Good Morning, President") walked the gauntlet just three days after the birth of his first child, promoting his debut Hollywood film, "Warrior¹s Way," while Chinese actress Tang Wei ("Lust, Caution") joined the procession to promote the release of her English-language film "Late Autumn," a Hong Kong-Korea-U.S. co-production shot partly in Seattle.

The tireless and amicable Kim, who turned 73 in August, has worked 13 years past Korea¹s retirement age of 60. He will be feted at a farewell party on Oct. 14, the day before the festival he founded officially closes.

"Mr. Kim is like air and water. When it's there, you don't notice; when he's gone, we'll know how important it was," said Nam Dong-chul, a former film industry reporter with the popular Korean magazine Cine21, who joined Kim's team at PIFF a few years ago. "When I was a journalist, I didn't feel his presence so much. When I went to work for the festival, I saw his presence was bigger than I ever imagined, especially when I went to events overseas."

"Kim is the symbol of Korean cinema," Michael Werner, co-founder of film sales agency Fortissimo Films and one of the world's most dedicated promoters of Asian cinema, called Kim's founding PIFF as an incubator for the region's rising stars, "both audacious and
visionary."

"PIFF foreshadowed and then paralleled the rebirth and internationalization of Korean cinema while at the same time establishing itself as the pre-eminent gathering spot of everyone related to, involved in, or interested in Asian Cinema," said Werner, who's attending the festival with Fortissimo's Esther Yeung and Winnie Lau, flying in from Hong Kong and New
York, respectively. "The fact that three Fortissimo execs are attending this year attests to the importance we attach to the event."
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