Economy takes toll on Busan showcase


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BUSAN, South Korea -- The worldwide economic slowdown has taken its toll on the Busan International Film Commission and Industry Showcase, which this year has seen fewer buyers and attendees.

The total number of booths dropped from 69 to 61. Officially scheduled meetings numbered about 250, also lower than last year's total of 400.

But all is not lost. Three new film commissions -- from Taipei, Jordan and Honolulu -- joined this year, and major post houses, including Parkroad Post (New Zealand) and Shaw Studios (Hong Kong), gave seminars, initiating healthy debate on the future film market through digital restoration.

"It's an interesting way to approach the subject considering how unpopular digital cinema is at the moment," said Lee Sang-woo, a team manager of AZ Works, Busan's new post-house that restored the classic Korean film "The Housemaid" (1960), to be screened at this year's Cannes. "It's more a hope for letting me know that various digital options could exist."

Film commissions promoting their regional film locations and joint-venture productions took up the majority of the event's booths. Location deals signed through past BIFCOM editions include "Old Boy" in New Zealand and "Blue Swallow" in Changchun, China.

"We've had tremendous success in the past with productions coming from Europe, U.S. and recently Pacific regions," said George David, a representative from the Royal Film Commission in Jordan who participated in BIFCOM this year for the first time. "We had a film from Bollywood and a major Pepsi commercial from China three years ago. This (participation at BIFCOM) was to rekindle that connection with the Pacific region."

Sapporo Film Commission, which hosted 35% of foreign films in their region, including this year's Korea-Japan co-production "Oishii Man," signed a memorandum of understanding with the Busan Film Commission on Friday, pledging to facilitate an exchange of training of film professionals, production and distribution deals between the two cities.

New Zealand and Korea signed a similar co-production agreement last month -- though it hasn't gone into effect -- aiming to offer better access to funding incentives, temporary immigration for the film crews and equipment importation necessary for the joint-venture projects.