Busan: Asian Film Market Closes With Record Attendance

2015 Busan Asian Film Market 2 - H 2015
Courtesy of Busan International Film Festival

The South Korean event proved its ground as Asia's largest pre-market with pilot events for trading 'intellectual property content' and casting pan-Asian stars.

Prospects for this year's Busan Asian Film Market had, frankly, been quite dim: The Chinese stock market plummeted earlier this year, and the nationwide outbreak of the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in South Korea during the registration period deterred many industryites, particularly since MIPCOM and other larger events were due to open at the same time. To make matters worse, the host organizers of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) suffered drastic budget cuts that made it unclear whether the market's signature programs would live up to expectations.

The 10th-anniversary edition of the event, however, drew its curtain on Tuesday with a record number of participants and pre-market meetings as well as a boost in sales revenue for many companies. The event saw a drop in the number of Chinese companies, which dominated last year's edition, but a total 208 companies participated, which was up 10 from 2014.

Asian Project Market (APM), the region's largest pre-market, saw a record 600 business deals, which was about 100 more than the previous edition. According to market organizers, the most popular among the 30 official APM titles from 19 countries were London Stories (U.K.) by Hana Makhmalbaf, The Adventure of Han Meimei (China, Korea) by Kim Junghan, and A Means to an End (China, France) by Yu Lik-Wai — all winning titles of this year's awards (see full list of winners at the end of the story).

Korean entertainment giants, moreover, enjoyed back-to-back meetings as pan-Asian demand for local films remains high.

"It was one of the busiest markets to date for us, and things have been better than last year in terms of both the market atmosphere and business transactions," said Kim Ha-won, svp of CJ Entertainment's international marketing and festivals division.

"There was high demand for our signature titles including One Way Trip, Collective Invention, The Advocate: A Missing Body and The Accidental Detective, which have led to about 30 contract deals with buyers from countries such as Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. There was also a lot of interest in the trailer for our upcoming film, The Himalayas."

Buyers also showed interest in The Throne, Korea's entry for the foreign-language Oscar, and Summer Snow, a rare example of heartwarming family drama in an industry that is known for noir thrillers and big-budget actioners.

"We were slightly concerned that AFM was taking place at the same time as MIPCOM, but we had a very successful run with bigger sales revenue compared to last year," said Luna Kim, svp international business at Showbox/Mediaplex, which handles both titles. "We were surprised that there was so much interest in The Throne, because Asian buyers are often reluctant about historical costume court dramas. Summer Snow also seems to have stood out for its heartwarming tale, and we are expecting to wrap up many deals soon."

Works-in-progress by prominent Asian auteurs were also introduced, including those by Korean directors Lee Joon-ik, Lee Soo-yeon and Lee Sung-gang as well as Philippine director Lav Diaz and China's Wang Bing.

Meanwhile, the Busan market saw successful launches of the inaugural Entertainment Intellectual Property (E-IP) Market and Star Casting Market. The first of its kind in the world, the E-IP Market set the stage for production, investment and distribution companies such as China's Alibaba Pictures, Huace Union Pictures and Huayi Brothers as well as Korea's Opus Pictures, to forge remake rights for web content, literary works and stage shows. China's Beijing Alpha Transmedia, for example, bought the rights for the web drama The Cravings by Korea's Kirin Productions.

The Asian Casting Market introduced regional actors in light of growing international co-productions, including Korea's Kim Woo-bin and Kim Go-eun; Japan's Takeru Satoh and Masami Nagasawa; and Mark Chao and Sandrine Pinna representing Chinese-speaking territories.

"There are more and more co-productions across Asia and all this mix and match of diversity, with Masami [starring in John Woo's] The Crossing," Chao told THR. The Taiwanese-Canadian is a star of top-grossing Chinese films such as Tsui Hark's Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon and just finished shooting Luc Besson's China-French venture Warrior's Gate."The casting event was an educational experience and can really help filmmakers find an organic match for multinational projects."

Jay Choi, CEO of Warner Bros. Korea-Local Production, agreed, saying: "The biggest advantage [of the casting market] is being able to give casting offers on the spot to actors that are difficult to cast even in one's own home countries, and discovering each actor's strengths besides the obvious information that are already available." 

Meanwhile, AFM announced winners of various awards.

2015 Asian Project Market competition

Busan Award ($20,000): London Stories by Hana Makhmalbaf (China, France)

Dexter Studios Award ($20,000): A Means to an End by Yu Lik-wai (China, France)

CJ Entertainment Award ($10,000): Birdshot by Mikhail Red (Philippines, Qatar)

Lotte Award (10,000,000 won) Brother by Kim Tae-yong (Korea)

KOCCA Award (10,000,000 won): The Adventure of Han Meimei by Kim Junghan (China, Korea)

Arte International Prize (6,000 euros): The Wasted Land by Eddie Canhyono (Indonesia, France)

MONEFF Award ($30,000): Unlosable by CJ Wang (Taiwan)

E-IP Market 2015 Next Entertainment World (NEW) Award Winners

NEW Creator Award — Book To Film: Disappeared the Time 4:10 by Tchue Jong Lim (publisher: Think-Book)

NEW Creator Award — E-IP Pitching: The Underdog by Oh Seongyun and Lee ChunBaek, (publishers Odoltogi and Dream Search C&C)