A glittering line-up of Asia’s biggest stars converged on the South Korean port city of Busan on today for the opening of the region’s premier film festival showcasing Asian cinema.
Along with Korean heartthrobs Lee Byung-hun and Jun Ji-hyun, Chinese stars Tang Wei and Cecilia Cheung are attending the 10-day Busan International Film Festival.
Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi — currently taking legal action against a US-based Chinese online news outlet over claims the “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” star was a prostitute who had sex with senior Chinese officials — will also attend.
Launching the 17th edition of the festival will be the world premiere of the Hong Kong thriller “Cold War” which stars Cheung alongside screen veterans Aaron Kwok and Tony Leung Ka-fai.
“It is a big moment for us,” said the film’s co-director Longman Leung, adding that he hoped “Cold War” would help refocus attention on Hong Kong cinema, which has been hit by falling production numbers and attendances in recent years.
“We want to show that what Hong Kong is going through is just a cycle. There are always ups and downs in the market,” he said.
Featuring more than 300 films — and a much-anticipated performance on Saturday from South Korean rapper Psy, whose “Gangnam Style” has become a global sensation — organizers hope the event will attract more than 200,000 people.
Around 500 fans camped outside the high-tech $150 million Busan Cinema Centre to ensure they claimed prime positions along the red carpet for Thursday’s opening night.
Festival organisers have stressed the importance of the event in terms of promoting Asia’s film industry, in which South Korea’s booming domestic market is a current bright spot.
Media attention has focused on the screening of North Korean romantic comedy “Comrade Kim Goes Flying”, with its international production team invited to the festival in an attempt to promote cultural exchange between the rival nations.
The two international directors behind the production, Belgian Anja Daelemans and Briton Nicholas Bonner, will attend.
But there was no word on whether North Korean co-director Kim Gwang-hun would accept the invitation, the first time a North Korean director has been asked to attend BIFF.
Other program highlights include a special sidebar devoted to Afghan films saved from the Taliban by the Afghanistan National Film Archive, and a Window on Asian Cinema section featuring 49 films from 11 countries, including 13 world premieres.
Busan’s main competition – the New Currents Award for debut or second-time Asian filmmakers – offers two prizes of $30,000 and has this year attracted a field of 10 productions from eight countries, including Lebanon and Iraq.