'Traces of Love' to open Pusan fest Thurs.

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SEOUL -- When the projectors roll Thursday night with Kim Dae-seong's "Traces of Love," the 11th annual Pusan International Film Festival will begin its second decade with more ambitions, events and spectacle than ever.

Each autumn, nearly 200,000 people flock to the southern port city for 10 days of movies, parties and film business fun, in what has grown into the largest film festival in Asia. And more than ever, PIFF's center is shifting from its original home in the downtown Pusan center of Nampo-dong (a charming if slightly dowdy region of the city), to the sparkling, fresh Haeundae Beach neighborhood to the east.

From the beginning, organizers have envisioned PIFF as an event to enhance the Korean and Asian movie industries. And with the Asian Film Market kicking off this year, PIFF's development into a "total film market" will take yet another major step forward.

On the film festival side, this year will see 245 movies from 63 countries, with more premieres than ever -- 64 world premieres, 20 international premieres and 71 Asian premieres. In the festival's one competitive section, New Currents (which features new Asian directors), 8 of the 10 films are world premieres and one is an international premiere.

Other sections focus on Asian films, Korean movies and world cinema as well as retrospectives and, beginning this year, Midnight Passion, which features 13 genre films screening in four all-night sessions.

"The ultimate goal of PIFF is that we will make every effort to fulfill our mission of discovering new Asian cinema and Asian filmmaking talent to move the Asian film industry forward," festival director Kim Dong-ho said in an interview. "We have launched the Asian Film Market and expanded the Asian Network of Documentary this year, and these projects manifest our initial commitments and dedication ... to make the industry grow."

The Asian Film Market is the new title given to a plethora of industry events running Oct. 15-18 concurrently with the festival. At the heart of the market is the Pusan Promotion Plan, now in its ninth year and featuring 36 projects by up-and-coming Asian filmmakers, including Ryoo Seung-wan, Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Tsai Ming-liang. This year, PPP also will include several non-Asian projects for the first time.

There also is the Busan International Film Commission & Industry Showcase (BIFCOM), a location and technology exhibition now in its sixth year. BIFCOM brings together 26 member commissions from eight countries around Asia as well as many other film commissions from around the world.

New this year to the industry confabs is Star Summit Asia, a unique series of events to bring actors and their management together with producers from around the region.

While an informal film market has long taken place at PIFF, this year it expands significantly and becomes an official part of the bill, with more buyers and sellers coming from more countries than ever. Japan will have a large contingent from market leaders including Toei, Dentsu, Tokyo Broadcasting System, Geneon and Gaga.

China's official attempts to reciprocate the Korean wave are limited, even as Chinese independents and foreign players working in China flock to Pusan to build on the cultural connection between the Asian neighbors.

Despite the re-launch of its overseas film sales arm, state giant China Film Group is not sending a delegation, but indie distributor Polybona and CAA's chief China rep are slated to be there as "advisors," as is the head of the China Film Producers Assn.

Other events include the second Asian Film Academy, the Asian Network of Documentary and a large schedule of industry screenings.

Closing the festival will be "Crazy Stone," China's summer sleeper from its only Hollywood joint-venture production company, Warner China Film HG. 28-year-old writer-director Ning Hao shattered boxoffice expectations and more than amply earned back the caper's budget of 3 million yuan ($400,000).
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