Abdrashev's 'Gift' opening Pusan fest

Festival will feature 315 films from 60 countries

BUSAN, South Korea -- Kazakhstan will plant its flag firmly into South Korean soil Wednesday when Rustem Abdrashev's "The Gift to Stalin" kicks off the Pusan International Film Festival as the opening film.

It will be one of two times that the Central Asian nation will draw the spotlight at the 13th annual festival, which will feature 315 films from 60 countries, including 48 international premieres. Producer Gulnara Sarsenova ("Mongol"), who is based in Kazakhstan, will receive the Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award on Monday night.

Richard Pena, program director at New York's Lincoln Center, will get the Korean Cinema Award. Both Sarsenova and Pena will receive the awards on Asian Filmmakers' Night, which starts at 10 p.m. at the Paradise Hotel.

Alongside the festival is the third Asian Film Market, the region's top co-production and film distribution event. It will be stationed at the Paradise and Seacloud hotels in Busan's Haeundae Beach area.

Included in the AFM is the 11th Pusan Promotion Plan, designed to support young, predominantly Asian filmmakers with finance and distribution options. Thirty films from 16 countries and territories were selected from 200 applicants. It will run Friday-Monday.

Also part of the AFM is the three-day Asian Film Funds Forum, which opens Friday against the backdrop of global financial uncertainty. Seminar panelists include Continental Entertainment Capital CEO Benjamin Waisbren, ACTI CEO In-taek Yoo and Irresistible Films managing director Nansun Shi.

On Saturday and Sunday, the Asian Film Funds Forum will feature presentations by leading regional film-finance representatives, including Asian Film Fund vp Bey Logan, Irresistible Films director Buddy Marini and RGM Entertainment CEO Devesh Chetty. Asian Film Funds Forum events will be held at the Paradise Hotel.

AFM is presenting Korean Producers In Focus with the Producers Guild of Korea, featuring five films and a Korean co-production panel, with producers from Korea, Thailand, Japan and Hong Kong.

Other PIFF-related events include the European Film Promotion-backed Eurozone section, with 85 films and a retrospective of Romanian New Wave films; Superheroes in Asia, with looks at supermen and superwomen from Japan, India and Korea; and classic Korean cinema, capping an increased local presence at this year's festival.

PIFF closes Oct. 10 with the premiere of the Korean film "I Am Happy," by Yoon Jong-chan, featuring Korean television star Hyun Bin.