BUSAN - Asia's largest film festival rolls out the red carpet at its stunning new $140 million home yesterday, hoping a parade of stars will usher in a new era for cinema in the region.
"Today is a day of great meaning and significance", said Korean director Song Il-gon, whose romance "Always" was chosen to open the 16th edition of the Busan International Film Festival. "Busan has long played an important role in Korean cinema and in Asian cinema and it now has a building of significance that reflects that role. This is a landmark for cinema".
Scaffolding was coming down at the new Busan Film Center, a complex covering 30,000 square meters (323,000 square feet) and including a 4,000-seat outdoor theater, just hours before the stars were due to arrive.
Around 150 faithful film fans had camped out overnight in an effort to ensure prime star-gazing positions for the big event and they were to be joined by more than 4,000 official guests for the evening festivities.
Among those gracing the red carpet were Korean idols Song Hye-kyo and Ahn Seong-gi, alongside Taiwanese heartthrob Takeshi Kaneshiro and China's Tang Wei, here to promote the Peter Chan-directed blockbuster "Wu Xia".
International A-listers included veteran French actress Isabelle Huppert, French director Luc Besson and Malaysia's Michelle Yeoh, star of Besson's latest film, "The Lady", on the life of Myanmar activist Aung San Suu Kyi.
Chinese director-producer Tsui Hark is also in town to collect the Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award for a career spanning three decades that has included credits on the likes of the gangster classic "A Better Tomorrow" and the ground-breaking fantasy "Zu Warriors".
Festival director Lee Yong-kwan said he was happy that Korea and the world could see what his team had been working on for the past three years. "Our new center is a place for films and a place for people", he said. "We are confident it will serve more than the festival but become the home of cinema in Asia".
BIFF has lined up 307 films to be screened over nine days, with 135 either world or international premieres, meaning they are screening outside their home nations for the first time.
The Busan festival's major award, New Currents, offers two $30,000 prizes for first- or second-time Asian filmmakers and has attracted a final field of 13 productions, representing 11 countries.
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