Busan film fest embraces Asian diversity

A Hong Kong action-thriller and a rural drama from Bangladesh will open and close Asia's top film festival next month, as its South Korean hosts look to share more of the spotlight with regional offerings.

In the past, Korean films have nearly always bookended the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), but with the event now in its 17th year, organisers said they were keen to underline the diversity of Asian cinema.

The October 4-13 festival will feature 304 movies from 75 countries, including "Comrade Kim Goes Flying," a romantic comedy filmed entirely in North Korea.

Launched in 1996, the annual festival has developed into the largest of its kind in Asia with a focus on discovering new movies and first-time directors from across the region.

More than 90 of the films being screened in the southern South Korean city of Busan will be world premiers.

"This year's festival marks a new beginning for Asia's film market to grow significantly," festival director Lee Yong-Kwan told a news conference late on Monday.

Among the world premiers is the Hong Kong police action movie "Cold War" that has been chosen as the festival curtain raiser.

Directed by Longman Leung and Sunny Luk, the film was praised by organisers as a taut psychological thriller that examines the conflict between human desire and conscience.

"With its realistic approach about police waging a war on crime, this film opened a new chapter in Asia's movie industry," Lee said.

The closing film is "Television", a satirical drama directed by Mostofa Farooki, a leading force in a new wave of Bangladeshi film-makers who lend a documentary feel to movies that explore themes like guilt and atonement in the Islamic world.

The festival's most prominent award, The Asian Filmmaker of the Year, will be presented to the veteran Japanese director Koji Wakamatsu for his contribution to the advancement of Asian cinema and culture.

A prolific filmmaker, Wakamatsu originally made his name helming soft-core "pink" movies, but is also known for projects with overt political and anti-war themes.

The festival will offer retrospective screenings of three Wakamatsu films -- "Mishima", "The Millennial Rapture" and "Petrel Hotel Blue".

Other highlights include a special programme entitled "Afghanistan National Film Archive: The Rise from The Ashes," featuring films the archive's employees dramatically hid and saved from the Taliban.

"This will provide a special moment for not just seeing films but also delving into Afghan history and the country's splendid and unique heritage," the organisers said in a statement.

In keeping with the choices for opening and closing the festival, this year's event will be hosted for the first time by a non-Korean -- Chinese actress Tang Wei, star of Ang Lee's steamy wartime thriller "Lust, Caution".

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