Busan: Asia's Top Film Stars Gather for Opening Night Gala

Associated Press
Tang Wei at the Busan opening night gala

Japan's Ken Watanabe and China's Tang Wei were among those making the scene

Asia's top film industry stars gathered in South Korea on Thursday evening for the launch of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF). The region's largest festival kicked off its 19th edition with Taiwanese war drama Paradise in Service.

Oscar-nominated Japanese actor Ken Watanabe and esteemed Korean actress Moon So-ri co-hosted the gala, which was attended by other regional stars including Chinese screen beauty Tang Wei, Japanese heartthrob Haruma Miura, Korean actors Jung Woo Sung and Ha Ji-won and Indian actress Suhasini Maniratnam.

Also walking the red carpet were Korean veteran filmmaker Im Kwon-taek, whose 102nd film Revivre is receiving a gala presentation; Hong Kong director Anna Hui, who is being honored as 2014 Asian Filmmaker of the Year; and Doze Niu, the director of this year's opening film.

Other iconic filmmakers attending the fest this year include Chinese legend Zhang Yimou, Oscar-winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, who is serving as jury head of Busan's New Currents competition, and esteemed Hungarian aueteur Bela Tarr, who is heading the Asian Film Academy.

This year's BIFF will present 312 films from 79 countries, including 98 world premieres.

The Korean festival has taken the initiative to help unearth rare gems in regional cinema, in particular titles from obscure film industries.

"I'd like to welcome everyone to Busan," said festival director Lee Yong-kwan. "Busan emphasizes its non-competitive programs, which we believe enable festival-goers to enjoy a greater variety of unique films. This year we have invited films from Nepal, Lebanon and other parts of Asia."

Buzz has built around the first screening of The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol, a documentary about the devastating April sinking of a Korean ferry that left hundreds dead. The festival has gone ahead with that film's premiere in spite of protests from the disaster victims' families. Also drawing attention is a rare showing of a black-and-white version of Bong Joon Ho's Mother, which premiered to rave reviews in Cannes in 2009.

The festival will also spotlight non-Asian films, presenting special showcases on Georgian women filmmakers and Turkish independent cinema.

BIFF will close on Oct. 11 with the world premiere of the Hong Kong noir Gangster Payday by Lee Po Cheung.