Asian films flowering in Toronto


TORONTO -- Buoyed by the recent international success of Chinese and Korean films, the possibilities of a pan-Asian film industry are emerging this week at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Korean director Lee Myung-Se brought his film "M," a supernatural love story about a writer who loses his memory and falls in love with a mysterious young girl, to Toronto for a world premiere.

Lee said his next movie, a reworking of a traditional Japanese action movie, will be shot in Japan.

"Even though we have cultural differences and a past, Korean and Japanese filmmakers should be working together," he said Monday night ahead of his first public screening in Toronto.

Giovanna Fulvi, Asian programmer at Toronto, said that indigenous filmmakers across the continent are trying to focus on common themes of ethnicity and identity.

But finding that common Asian filmmaking voice has been hampered, according to Fulvi, by such issues as censorship from Beijing and a downturn for the Korean film industry, which has seen Japan importing fewer of its titles of late.

Azusa Soya, manager of international promotions at UniJapan, said that Japanese producers are more open to making films with Asian partners.

"If someone says Japanese movies, people think Manga, or (with) Korea, its sad love stories. But Asian film is more about variety these days, with new directors trying new things," she said.

Soya added that audiences in Korea and Japan recognize each other's pop music and film stars, while producers in both countries have shown a willingness to shoot movies in such exotic locations as Thailand and Vietnam.

Also in Toronto is Iranian director Pourya Azarbayjani, who is premiering his "Unfinished Stories," a portrait of three young women who find themselves alone on the streets of Tehran.

Azarbayjani praised Toronto as a film festival willing to bring ordinary filmgoers out to see his debut feature, which is being sold via international sales agent Sheherazad Media International.

The Toronto International Film Festival continues through Saturday.