JWR Articles: Preview - Pusan International Film Festival (Director: Ho Yuhang) - October 28, 2006
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Pusan International Film Festival

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Korea in the spotlight

The announcement by North Korea that it has successfully conducted a nuclear test leads recent newscasts worldwide. The very real possibility that South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon will succeed Kofi Annan as the next UN secretary general is a source of pride for many. The allegations (backed up by a videotape made by the complainant’s boyfriend) that a Canadian refugee judge, Steve Ellis, would approve a South Korean woman’s claim in return for sexual favours reminded everyone how those in positions of trust can abuse their power.

Thanks goodness for the 11th edition of the Pusan International Film Festival (October 12-20, Busan, South Korea). Hye-young Namgoong’s artistic vision, The Bird in Dream (touched up by PIFF’s art director, Soon-dae Choi), is a marvellous graphic representation of the flights of fancy and sky-high freedom that so much cinema brings.

With over 300 films from dozens of countries, the multi-national flavour will be strong.

Nothing timelier than the world première of Daniel Gordon’s Crossing the Line (U.K.). The documentary traces the steps of “Comrade Joe.” He’s an American soldier who, in 1962, defects to North Korea and vanishes from the planet. Uli Gaulke’s Comrades in Dreams (Germany) explores the lives of four projectionists living in South India, Burkina Faso, mid-west U.S. and North Korea.

Other first screenings focus thematically around relationships and include Eternal Summer (Leste Chen, Taiwan), Grand Festival (Biju Viswanath, India), Illusion—a sexy case of mistaken identity—(Paolo Villaluna & Ellen Ramos Philippines), and The White Silk Dress—a heady mix of poverty, love, dreams and reality—(Huynh Luu, Vietnam).

Home-grown features are equally varied. In Gangster High, Park Ki Hyung probes hooliganism and high levels of testosterone as a group of freshman soccer-playing chums are forced to do battle with bullying upper classmates. Gangs also come into play in Cruel Winter Blues (Lee Jeon-beom). Artistic talent, espionage and guilt-by-association set the stage for Korean Don Quixote, Lee Hise’s contribution to the wide-angle section.

The fest kicks off with Kim Daeseung’s Trace of Love (Korea). The aftermath of the collapse of a South Korean department store makes a wonderful metaphor for crumbling lives and sturdy beliefs everywhere. Nine days later, PIFF wraps up with a gem of a closer. Crazy Stone (Ning Hao, China) is a heist flick with homage to The Lavender Hill Mob and the “Oceans” franchise—should be a steal!

The World Cinema section harvests global creativity with a fascinating array of work. The Night Listener (Patrick Stettner, U.S.) will have its Asian première; Carolyn Arden Combs’ Acts of Imagination (Canada) will have its international première; Ragnar Bragason’s Children focuses on the trials and tribulations of modern-day life in Reykjavik; from Switzerland comes Andrea Staka’s Fräulein—a work which delves into the lives and survival strategies of three women in the former Yugoslavia; Laila Pakalnina’s The Hostage (Slovenia/Estonia) goes to the skies to examine a hijacking as seen through the eyes and needs of a seven-year-old.

Besides the flicks, there’s a full-fledged business component: The Asian Film Market is hyped as a “total market, covering financing, production, post-production and sales.&rdquo Sounds like a movers and shakers dream!

Those lucky enough to be in Busan are in for a fabulous selection of filmmaking’s current state-of-the-art. If only world leaders would drop by and see how beliefs, values and discourse can be openly shared with nary a shot being fired.

See you in the cinema! JWR

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Director - Ho Yuhang
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