By Joon Soh
In a year when major European festivals have gone Hollywood in a big way, the Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF), Asia's biggest cinema event, will continue to go the other direction, emphasizing the diversity in international cinema more than in previous years.
With 266 films from 63 countries to be presented _ the most in the festival's nine years _ it may not be difficult to be diverse. Although the event has always had its focus on films from Asia, this year's PIFF will screen more films from Africa, Latin America and South America.
"That a larger number of countries will be represented is a special characteristic of this year's event", Kim Dong-ho
, director of PIFF, said at a news conference in Seoul Monday.
The festival, to be held from Oct. 7 through 15 at the port city, will open with a reworked version of "2046" by China's auteur director Wong Gar Wai. The film, a sensual and mysterious story about a writer working on a science fiction novel, was the director's first since winning over audiences with "In the Mood for Love" four years ago, and made its much-anticipated premiere at Cannes in May.
But many including Wong, a notorious perfectionist, saw the work as unfinished and soon after Cannes, the director went back with his cast and shot additional scenes. Starring Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi
and Maggie Cheung, the new version of "2046" will be released in China at the end of September and will make its international premiere at PIFF.
Surrounded with as much expectation as "2046" is "Chuhung Kulsi (The Scarlet Letter)", the local film by Daniel Byun that will close the event. The romantic thriller, which takes its title but not its story from Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel, marks the return to screen for Han Suk-kyu, star of "Shiri
" and "Palwolui Christmas (Christmas in August
)" and also stars a trio of popular actresses _ Lee Eun-joo
, Sung Hyun-ah and Um Ji-won.
Along with "Scarlet Letter", there will be 39 films making their world premiere at the event. Eight will be in the New Currents section, where works by young and up-and-coming Asian filmmakers are presented.
A Window on Asian Cinema section will have a relatively large selection of films from Southeast Asia, an area that is gaining in international attention according to Kim Ji-seok
, the section's programmer. Kim said that Indonesia especially is a country to keep an eye on, a reason the festival will hold a special section on contemporary Indonesian cinema this year.
Some of the films in the Window on Asian Cinema section include "Buffalo Boy" by Nguyen-vo Minh of Vietnam, "Woman of Breakwater" by Mario O'Hara of the Philippines and "Earth and Ashes" by Atiq Rahimi of Afghanistan.
The section will also have world premieres by two Korean-Japanese directors _ "Blood and Bone", a look at Japanese life from a outsider's perspective by Choi Yang-il
, and "69", a story about a high school student in the late 1960s by Lee Sang-il
Of the films from outside Asia, the festival's organizers made particular note of works by directors from South America, such as Gonzalo Justiniano, Daniel Burman and Alberto Chicho Durant, which can be seen in the World Cinema section, and Israeli features and documentaries, which will be presented as part of two sections, Critic's Choice and Wide Angle.
"Just like Korean films are hot right now in the festival scene, films from Argentina and Israel could be next", World Cinema programmer Jay Jeon said.
As in previous years, World Cinema will also be an opportunity to check out quality award-winning films from around the world. Among the 106 films in the section are the French film "Exiles", which garnered Tony Gatlif the director's prize at this year's Cannes, and "The Return" by Russian filmmaker Andrei Zvyagintsev, the winner of the Golden Lion at Venice last year.
The event will also present the complete works of the acclaimed Greek director Theo Angelopoulos in a special retrospective section and a look back at co-productions by Korea and Hong Kong from the 1960s and '70s in the Korean Retrospective section.
Recent films from Germany, including Wim Wenders' newest film "Land of Plenty", will be screened in the section German Panorama.
The Korean Panorama section will present an overview of offerings from this year's domestic cinema. Kim Ki-duk
, winner of director's prizes at Berlin and Venice this year, heads the list with "Samaria
(Samaritan Girl)" and "Pinjip (3 Iron)". Also presented will be "Haryu Insaeng (Low Life)" by Im Kwon-taek
and Hong Sang-soo
's "Yojanun Namjaui Miraeda (Woman is the Future of Man
)", as well as commercial hits "Pomjoeui Chaegusong (The Big Swindle
)" by Choi Dong-hun and the horror film "R-Point
" by Kong Soo-chang
. Missing, however, are the two record-breaking blockbusters from the first half of the year "Silmido
" and "Taegukgi