Asian cinema gets tag-team boost

Pusan fest, Asian Excellence Awards will promote regional cinema

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BUSAN, South Korea -- The Pusan International Film Festival and the Asian Excellence Awards will collaborate to promote Asian film talent globally, the two organizations said Friday in signing a memorandum of understanding at the Asia Pacific Actors Network.

The Asian Excellence Awards is a Hollywood-set ceremony broadcast to 100 million households across the U.S. via Comcast. It celebrates the achievements of Asians and Asian-Americans in film, television and music.

During the APAN conference, Korean actor Ahn Sung-ki and actress Gang Soo-yeon hosted a panel discussion with rising Asian actors and agency representatives. Citing such cross-Asian collaborative films as "Red Cliff" and "Three Kingdoms," Gang said, "International casting is not an accident but a reality now."

Ahn also announced the publication of the APAN 2008 Guide, which lists 79 companies by region and the top actors they represent, saying that through the book he hopes "the door to Asian acting talent will be opened."

Actors on the panel included China's Jaqueline Li ("Blood Brothers"), Philippine actress Mercedes Cabral (cast in Park Chan-wook's "Thirst"), Taiwan's Kelly Lin, Thai actress Apinya Sakul Jaroensuk and Los Angeles-based Korean-American actors Moon Bloodgood (cast in "Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins"), Aaron Yoo and James Kyson Lee.

Topics addressed Friday included strategies for greater exposure, like seeking casting in commercial advertising and in the lucrative gaming market. Issues brought up by the actors included typecasting and weighing the boxoffice drawing power of celebrity Asians like Rain versus a more personalized approach to casting.

Lee summed up the hurdles Asian-American actors face.

"Being an actor alone is hard enough in Hollywood, but to be an Asian-American actor is the smallest demographic possible," he said.

Still, noting his fellow panelists, he added, "I think we're representing the beginning of changing of times."