Korea's Busan stakes claim as Asian film hub

Sat Oct 8, 2011 12:02pm EDT
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By Jonathan Hopfner

BUSAN, South Korea (Reuters) - With a new name, a new venue and an emphasis on actors and directors from lesser-known parts of Asia, this South Korean port city is moving decisively to assert its status as the region's pre-eminent film industry destination.

The 16th annual Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), Asia's largest, kicked off earlier this week at the new Busan Cinema Center, an eye-catching, $140 million complex designed by Austria-based architectural collective Coop Himmelblau.

Over 300 movies from 70 countries will be screened at the festival, including 89 world premieres.

Organizers have spared no expense on infrastructure and expanded the festival to include industry forums and educational activities as the number of competing regional events grows.

Beijing launched its own international film festival this year, and similar events have emerged in such seemingly unlikely places as Luang Prabang, Laos.

Even South Korea's hostile northern neighbor is getting in on the act, with the next edition of the biennial Pyongyang Film Festival slated for September next year.

Organizers expressed hopes the 30,000 square foot venue, topped by a sprawling, LED-covered roof that resembles a pair of wings taking flight, would become a "symbolic structure" representative of the region's burgeoning film business.

One of the jury members, Australian director Gillian Armstrong, said of the venue at a news conference earlier this week that she was "very, very jealous. I want to take it home."   Continued...