13rd Pusan International Film Festival

South Korea, October 2 - October 10 2008

The jury

Hynek Pallas (Sweden), Dubravka Lakic (Serbia), Bitopan Borborah (India), Kang Ho Shin (South Korea), Élise Domenach (France)

Awarded films

The 2008 edition of the Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) had an all time high of theatre visits — just shy of 200 000 — to a record amount of 315 films from 60 countries in 827 screenings. Still there was talk throughout the festival week that there were too many films, sidebars and panels for guests to attend, and that some of the cinemas are simply too far apart from each other.                

PIFF founder Mr. Kim Dong-ho, who during the festival received the Nielsen Impact Award in recognition for his career in promoting Asian films, addressed these concerns during the closing press conference and said that he will discuss the amount of films with his programmers for next year’s festival. He also revealed that PIFF, along with the city of Pusan, is planning a new theatre complex with 4000 seats, which would open in 2011.                  

Other cause for concern, which left a dent in festival talk was the health of Korean cinema — the “Hollywood Reporter” ran the headline “Korean Wave Cresting”. Attendance in theatres is steadily heading down, many say due to distribution problems, lack of national blockbusters last year and internet-piracy in this broadband-dense country.              

Still, despite these concerns, the line-up of films of the festival was not only impressive but also covered interesting parts of Central Asia that seem to be busting with cinema activity. The PIFF opened with a screening of Kazakhstan director Rustem Abdrashev’s The Gift to Stalin, a story about a nuclear test seen through the eyes of a boy.    

Several other Kazakh titles played at the festival and producer Gulnara Sarsenova — the strong business woman of Kazakh film, who since the collapse of the Soviet Union have invested heavily in Central Asian cinema and scored a hit with Russian director Sergei Bodrovs Kazakh-made Mongol which was Oscar-nominated — received the Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award.                

The “A Window on Asian Cinema”-section included films from all over Asia — from Iran to Korea — and gave a in depth overview of the past years activity in the region. The regions debut and sophomore features were presented in the “Wide Angle” and “New Currents”‘ sections; the latter full of films with fresh narrative inventions and experimentation. Audiences who wanted to dwell deeper into Asian cinema could see films in the sections “Korean Cinema Today” or “Korean Retrospective” or the kitsch lauded Superheroes in the Asia section. Apart from this, the World Cinema, Open Cinema and Romanian New Wave-sections presented audiences with many more European titles — out of them several festival darlings, such as Gomorrha, The Class and Happy-Go-Lucky — than ever before at this Asian festival.              

Korean cinema, despite its problems, had its fresh angles and titles as well. At an Open Talk session on women in Korean cinema — with amongst others director Yim Son-rye who directed the first sports-film made by a female in Korea, the hit Forever the Moment — talked about the rising number of female directors on Korea; six out of 20 features in the Korean “Cinema Today”-section were directed by women. And if films such as the Almodovaresque comedy Crush and Blush by Lee Kyung-mi are anything to go by — women may well be the future of Korean cinema. (Hynek Pallas)

Pusan International Film Festival: www.biff.kr