The 12th edition of the Pusan International Film Festival kicked off with the world premiere of Feng Xiaogang's Chinese war epic The Assembly, which, by virtue of its national origin, is itself newsworthy. As I mentioned last month, Pusan has rapidly grown into an essential stop on the festival circuit for the Asian film community. Before this year, however, the festival's opening night presentation has traditionally been a Korean film. Patrick Frater of Variety Asia Online says that the selection of The Assembly "is a symbolic gesture, as South Korea ... reaches out to other Asian countries at a time when Korean films are in crisis."

Frater explains that South Korean films have not been selling well to foreign distributors. Japan, for example, has notably cut down on imports in view of domestic successes. After years of high-pitched international excitement about Korean films, 2007 has been very quiet indeed. In a separate article at Variety Asian Online, though, film critic Derek Elley points to several anticipated South Korean productions that will be screening at Pusan. He makes special mention of "dark psychodrama" M (directed by Lee Myung-se, who previously made the high-octane breakthrough Nowhere to Hide and the ambitious if messy Duelist) and world premieres of Spare, a "gangster caper" by debut director Lee Seong-han and Hello, Stranger, a drama by Kim Dong-hyun.

Other Korean films that caught my eye include two world premieres. Written starts with a man who wakes up in a bath tub, discovers that one of his kidneys is missing and then learns that he is a character in an unfinished film. Set in the early 1990s, Drawing Paper (pictured) is a coming of age story about a girl in a high school band who's more concerned about her uncertain future than the teenage love triangles that swirl around her. The Pusan festival runs through October 12.
categories Cinematical