Asian Film Market: Busy but with few deals

CJ-Splendid deal on 'West 32nd'

More news from the Pusan fest

BUSAN, South Korea -- For a market with so few deals getting signed, this year's Asian Film Market wound down Wednesday to widespread approval, though participants reported very divergent experiences about how busy they were.

"The quality of meetings has been very good," said Monica Han, sales manager at Activers Entertainment. "At Berlin or Cannes, buyers are always in too much of a hurry. Here we can talk and build more interest in our titles."

As usual, buyers and sellers found the market's prime value in building ties and laying the groundwork for deals to be signed at the American Film Market in November.

"For me it was more about setting up deals at the other AFM," Kimmel International president Mark Lindsay said. "But overall it was a positive experience for the value. The offices were cheap, they gave you great rooms. Every night there was a great party with lots of opportunities to network."

Said Ying Ye, company director of Arclight Films: "We've been very busy. The Korean market has been very active. We had seven to eight meetings a day, with lots of walk-ins to the suite in addition to the meetings we had set up. I feel there was more business this year than last year."

Indonesian film companies, running a booth at Pusan for the first time, were particularly upbeat. "We're very happy," said Gope T. Samtani, head of foreign affairs and festivals at Persatuan Perusahaan Film Indonesia. "We're had interest from Korea, Germany, China and others, especially in our horror titles."

When opinions differed, however, they often differed strongly, with a notable minority complaining about how quiet business was this year.

Despite the schmooze nature of the market, some deals did get done.

Korea's Cineclick Asia closed deals in Japan, Hungary and the Middle East.

Their biggest deal was with Saudi Arabia-based Ghassan Production and Distribution for all Middle Eastern rights to Kim Ki-duk's "Breath," and TV and DVD rights to a package of nine titles, including "Tuya's Marriage," "Tale of Two Sisters" and two older Kim movies.

Cineclick also sold TV rights to four older titles to Japan's Nettai Museum and four titles to Hungary's Cinetel.

CJ Entertainment reported selling all rights to Germany's Splendid for new title "West 32nd" as well as "Black Hole," "Puzzle" and "Wide Awake."

"We did not expect that at all, because there were so few European buyers," said Kini Kim, vp international sales at CJ.

Ko Mori, president and CEO of Eleven Arts, said that he closed one deal with Emotion Pictures for the Takayuki Nakamura documentary "Yokohama Mary" and had one or two additional deals pending.

Several other companies reported small deals potentially ready to sign in the coming days.

But despite high hopes that they could sell Korean rights to the PIFF opening-night film, director Feng Xiaogang's Chinese civil war picture "Assembly," Beijing-based Huayi Brothers Pictures was set to leave Pusan empty-handed.

Market organizers said that the number of attendees was about the same as last year, about 3,500, including the BIFCOM location market.

As for the film festival itself, even a passing typhoon did not slow it down and, as of the end of Tuesday evening, organizers said they had passed 180,000 admissions.

However, the Korean press, especially the mercurial online variety, turned on PIFF this year, showering the festival with a barrage of complaints: Guest Ennio Morricone left the festival in an angry huff (false), a press conference for Lee Myung-se's "M" was far too crowded (true), a beachfront pavilion leaked (true, but there was a typhoon at the time).

But such complaints did not extend to the market, which received more upbeat press.

The market runs through today, but while a few participants had meetings scheduled or hopes of signing a couple more small deals, for the most part they were planning on shutting down and going home.

Gregg Kilday and Jonathan Landreth contributed to this report.