Eastern Europe meets Far East

Belgrade fest official leads Euro contingent at Pusan

More news from the Pusan fest

BUSAN, South Korea -- Belgrade International Film Festival programmer Miroljub Vuckovic said the "Beyond Frame" slogan of the 12th annual Pusan International Film Festival was the invitation he needed to start building a bridge from southeast Europe to Asia.

Included in the group of filmmakers Vuckovic led to Korea from eight countries are two PIFF juror-directors: Romanian Cristian Mungiu, whose "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" won the Cannes Palme d'Or, and Serbian Goran Paskaljevic ("Cabaret Balkan in the USA").

Vuckovic first visited Pusan in 1996, has returned six times and is thrilled to see films at PIFF from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey and his native Serbia, part of the former Yugoslavia that was torn by war throughout the 1990s.

"After the war, when Bosnia got its first Oscar ever for 'No Man's Land,' it was a force for change and progress," Vuckovic said. "That Pusan has recognized these changes and invited Mungiu and Paskaljevic shows Asia sees us as a natural partner."

Vuckovic said the trip to Pusan would not have been possible without sponsorship from European Film Promotion, which this year helped countries outside its EU membership base for the first time.

"These days, its easy to find money to make films, but hard to find the money to promote them internationally," Vuckovic said. "We are very grateful to the EFP."

Among the southeast European films presented at PIFF are "Huddersfield" by Ivan Zivkovic of Serbia and two by Paskaljevic -- "Beach Guard in Wintertime" and "These Earthly Days Go Rolling By."

And the exchange goes both ways.

To raise Asia's presence in southeast Europe, Vuckovic said he plans to invite Asian filmmakers to join the jury in Belgrade, and noted that the festival there, held early in March most years since 1971, has presented both "Peppermint Candy" and "Oasis," by Korea's Lee Chang-dong, and invited his most recent effort, "Secret Sunshine"

Vuckovic does not rule out co-productions with Asia but said it is more realistic to expect that there will be technical cooperation and an exchange of facilities and locations first.

Other Asian directors popular in southeast Europe include Korea's Kim Ki-duk ("Breath"), Tsai Ming-liang ("The Wayward Cloud") and Hong Kong's Johnnie To ("Exiled"), Vuckovic said.

Three years ago, Belgrade started up a B2B (Back to Belgrade or Back to Business) section to promote filmmaking. In 2006, Tajikistan director Jamshed Usmonov's "To Get to Heaven, First You Have to Die" was one of three projects to get €7,000 ($9,876) in support. In March, Belgrade's jury independently awarded Usmonov its top prize in what Vuckovic called "wonderful agitprop" for the festival.