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  Arts & Living
Pusan Film Festival Kicks Off to Show 316 Movies from 60 Countries
Top film stars Eugene Domingo and Chris Martinez from the Philippines pose for the camera.

The 13th Pusan International Film Festival, one of Asia's top film festivals, kicked off on Oct. 2, 2008 in the South Korean beach resort city of Pusan, some 450 km south of Seoul. The festival will end on Oct. 10.

This year's edition features the biggest ever lineup of 316 films from 60 countries. They will be shown across 37 screens in six venues starting with Kazakh director Rustem Abdrashev's "The Gift to Stalin," a drama set against Soviet deportations to central Asia.

To facilitate festival-goers, multiplex theaters will screen works according to theme: Korean films will mostly be shown at Primus Theater; World cinema at Lotte Cinema; and Asian films at Megabox.

Among the planned highlights of the festival are programs on Italian directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, Asian movies about super heroes and music videos by Asian directors, and a Korean cinema retrospective.

The Asian Filmmaker of the Year award has already been announced and will be presented to Kazakh producer Gulnara Sarsenova, chairwoman of the International Eurasia Film Festival.

While maintaining the event's international profile, organizers are also looking to give the struggling local industry a boost.

Once the pride of Asian cinema for its high-quality productions that could fend off Hollywood blockbusters in the domestic market, South Korean films are in a major slump.

In Seoul, seven out of the 10 biggest box office hits in the first half of the year were imports, according to the latest edition of the Korean Film Council's quarterly newsletter.

In May, Korean films accounted for a measly 7.7 percent of the total box office" overshadowed by the Hollywood movies "Iron Man," "Speed Racer" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

Organizers of the Busan event - which retains the old spelling of the port city's name - organizers hope to help stem the decline by promoting Korean projects at the festival.

In the meantime, Ms Maricon Basco-Ebron, tourism director and attaché at the Embassy of the Philippines in Korea said that Eugene Domingo and Chris Martinez from the Philippines are currently in South Korea to attend the 13th Pusan International Film Festival. Their Cinemalaya film 100 is in competition along with 13 other films in the section called New Currents.

Directed by Chris Martinez, 100 tells the story of a woman (played by Mylene Dizon) who aims to fulfill all her goals in life in a span of three months because she is dying of cancer. Eugene plays her best friend who helps her cross tasks off her checklist as the end nears.

Theater actress-comedienne Tessie Tomas is cast as Mylene's mother in the digital film. Mylene was supposed to attend the Pusan IFF but she did not push through when she learned that she was already

The Philippine films are competing against 13 other Asian films in the New Currents section. It is the only competition section here in the biggest film festival in Asia. 100 is the only Filipino film in competition.

"Both our screenings were sold out even before the festival has started. We had our first showing this afternoon [October 4] at 1:30 pm. Eugene Domingo, star of GMA-7's telenovela Ako si Kim Samsoon, was a big hit with the Korean audience and press.

They all loved the film—laughter and sobs were heard during the entire screening. It was an exhilarating experience for me, Eugene and producer Marlon Rivera—our first international festival was an unforgettable experience.

Tessie Tomas arrives on the 6th of October to grace the October 8 screening," according to a Philippine film portal.

In Cinemalaya 2008, the full-length film 100 earned the Audience Award, the Best Actress for Mylene Dizon, Best Director and Best Screenplay Awards for Direk Chris, and the Best Supporting Actress Award for Eugene.

While news of the death of top star Choi Jin-sil on Oct. 2 had many of the local press flocking back to Seoul, the ceremony at the Suyoung Bay Yacht Marina was well spotlighted as 100 or so top stars from near and far appeared on the red carpet. Festival director Kim Dong-ho expressed grief for Choi's death with festivalgoers.

In attendance were Culture Minister Yu In-chon; Ko Heung-gil, head of the National Assembly's Culture, Sports, Tourism, Broadcasting and Communication Committee and Busan Mayor/PIFF festival chairman Hur Nam-sik.

Three independent films from the Philippines, in the meantime, topped the recently concluded 6th Bangkok International Film Festival.

In the festival's Main Competition, Francis Xavier Pasion's "Jay" won a Special Mention prize. In the fest's South East Asian Competition, Brillante Mendoza's "Serbis" won the Kinnaree Grand Prize (Best Picture) and John Torres' "Years When I Was a Child Outside" won a Special Mention award.
That three Filipino films were honored is a triumph for Philippine cinema.

"Jay," which won Best Picture at the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival last July, is a mockumentary that takes a behind-the-scenes look at a reality TV show investigating the murder of a gay man.

Mendoza, who is currently in Pusan, South Korea, said: "I feel vindicated especially after all the negative reviews."

"Serbis" focuses on a dysfunctional family that lives in a run-down moviehouse that also serves as a front for male prostitution.




 

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