(ATTN: CORRECTS closing film's title in para 7; UPDATES with organizers' comments in paras 5-6)
By Shin Hae-in
SEOUL, Sept. 8 (Yonhap) -- The Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF), South Korea's first and one of Asia's largest film events, finalized its lineup Tuesday, with nearly 100 films to be premiered for the first time during the fete.
Opening with "Good Morning President," a film by South Korean director Jang Jin and starring Korean Wave star Jang Dong-gun, the 14th PIFF will feature 355 films from 70 countries from Oct. 8-16, the largest of the annual events to date.
"...President," the latest of comedy master Jang's creations featuring three fictional presidents feeling trapped between political and ethical choices they face, is the first local movie to open the event in three years.
Held each year in the southeastern port city of Busan, after which the event is named using the old Romanization system, PIFF was established in 1996 and has since grown into one of most influential film fests in Asia with its focus on discovering new films and first-time directors from across the region.
"We will focus on turning the event into something that can contribute to showing off the power of Korean cinema across the universe," said Kim Dong-ho, festival director of the PIFF.
Calling the festival a "looking glass into the past and the future of Asian cinema," Huh Nam-sik, the mayor of Busan and member of the PIFF organizing committee, said this year's event will be another step into the global cinema industry.
"The Message," a lavish period spy flick about communists fighting against Japanese invaders, will close the event. Co-directed by Chen Kuofu and Gao Qunshu, the movie is one of the most impressive Chinese films of the year, organizers said.
Up to 98 films will be premiered for the first time during the festival, which will be held at six major theaters and art houses in Busan under 11 categories.
Along with current prizes, including the New Current Award and the Sonje Award for short films, which come with cash prizes of 30 million won (US$24,000) and 20 million won, respectively, PIFF has newly established the "Flash Forward Award" this year, to be given to emerging directors from non-Asian regions.
Oscar-nominated French director Jean-Jacques Beineix will head the jury for the New Current prize along with South Korean cinematographer Kim Hyung-koo, Thai director Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Taiwanese actress Terri Kwan. New Currents is PIFF's only international competition section featuring first or second features by leading directors of Asian cinema.
Various special programs have also been prepared to spice up the event, organizers said, including retrospectives on Chinese action master Johnnie To and late South Korean directors Yoo Hyeon-Mok and Ha Gil-jong.
Three representative works of South Korean actress Jang Jin-young, who died Sept. 1 at the age of 35 after suffering from stomach cancer, will be screened in a show of condolence for the late actress and her fans.
The Ani Asia section will screen nine animated feature films from countries including Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand.
Pusan Promotion Plan (PPP), a pre-market venue where promising filmmakers and producers meet with potential co-producers and financiers, will again open on Oct. 11-14. Established in 1999, the PPP has played an important role in connecting young and little-known directors to funding sources from in and out of Asia.
Hundreds of the world's best-known film stars including Bryan Singer, the producer of Hollywood's "X-men" series, actor Josh Hartnett, Japanese auteur Masahiro Kobayashi and Italian director Dario Argento will be attending the event.
Expected to be visited by more than 200,000 people this year, organizers of PIFF also said they were on high alert for the fast-spreading Influenza A virus, setting up medical booths in all event locations and requesting prior cooperation from nearby hospitals.
None of the invited guests have so far canceled their visit due to the virus, according to organizers.
Tickets for the opening and closing films will go on sale on- and off-line beginning Sept. 21, with the remainder to go on sale beginning Sept. 23.
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