BUSAN - The 14th Pusan International Film Festival opened with all of the glitz and glamour as promised by its organizers on Thursday, kicking off the 9-day celebration under the cool coastal breeze at the Suyoungman Yacht Marina.
The opening of Asia`s biggest film festival began with the screening of director Jang Jin`s latest, an inspiring tale of three Korean heads of state titled "Good Morning President," starring Jang Dong-gun as Korea`s youngest president-elect.
Continental stars like Jang Dong-gun, Lee Byung-hun, Sul Kyoung-gu, So Ji-sub, Ha Ji-won, Ha Jung-woo, Kim Yoon-jin, and Han Chae-young were all in attendance during the festival`s red carpet gala that sent photographers from the press on a mad rush, jockeying for position as the stars walked down the aisle of the venue.
Also on hand throughout the on-going festival will be Hollywood hunks like Josh Hartnett and Japanese heartthrob Takuya Kimura, who were also in attendance during the opening ceremony.
The two are here on a special invitation from Hallyu-star Lee Byung-hun, who co-stars in the film "I come with the rain."
The list of VIPs to the festival also includes Bryan Singer who produced the "X-Men" series and Italian horror maestro Dario Argento.
Unlike last year`s edition, this year`s PIFF shifted its focus from small independent films from the central and southeast Asian region to a more broader and commercial-centric selection.
This year`s choice of "Good Morning President" as the opening film came as a surprise to many. Last year`s selection was an obscure Kazakh film that organizers claimed would showcase films from emerging film markets.
This year, organizers have switched their focus to domestic films buoyed by the string of recent success of local films.
More than 2 million visitors are expected to congregate in Busan this year. For ticket and venue details, log onto www.piff.org
"Good Morning President"
Directed by celebrated playwright and acclaimed writer-director Jang Jin, "Good Morning President" stars Jang Dong-gun as Korea`s youngest head of state in a fictional film that chronicles the political lives of three presidents.
Director Jang, whose previous films have been hailed by critics for seamless integration of comedy and drama, is back in the cinema-fold after a five-year sabbatical from behind the camera.
"Good Morning President" is an inspiring tale about the life of three different presidents who all struggle to make moral choices while serving their country. The three are: the older President Kim Jung-ho at the end of his term, the young President Cha Ji-wook, a determined and skillful manipulator of foreign policy, and the country`s first female President Han Kyuong-ja, who is constantly at odds with her bumbling husband.
President Kim Jung-ho - played by veteran actor Lee Soon-jae - is at a moral crossroads when he wins a 24 billion won lottery jackpot. Cha Ji-wook, the youngest Korean president in history, must choose whether he should commit himself to a medical procedure that would save the life of an elder citizen. And finally, Han Kyuong-ja, Korea`s first female president, is faced with having to overcome a disintegrating marriage.
There has been tremendous buzz surrounding Hirokazu Kore-eda`s seventh feature film.
Kore-eda is of course the Japanese filmmaker who has been compared to cinematic masters like Yasujiro Ozu, who has brought us such contemporary masterpieces as 1995`s "Maborosi," 1998`s "After Life" and 2004`s "Nobody Knows."
In "Air Doll" Hideo has an unappreciated existence as a waiter in a tacky restaurant chain where his boss dislikes him and his customers mistreat him.
Lonely and utterly unsociable, Hideo has a faithful "woman" at home. This woman is Nozomi, a sex doll.
She is everything he would want in a woman. She doesn`t judge, she`s quiet, she listens and she`s beautiful (and also available, sexually).
But through magic, Nozomi comes to life, and the now sentient and mobile former sex doll begins to live as a mortal - deciding to only get up and explore the human world when Hideo is at work.
"I Come with the Rain"
Kline, played by Josh Hartnett, is a former Los Angeles police officer turned private detective.
He is hired by a powerful head of a pharmaceutical conglomerate to investigate the disappearance of his son in Asia.
Kline finds out the head of the Hong Kong underworld, Su Dongpo (Lee Byung-hun), is also searching for Shitao.
He seeks him as he believes he has mysterious powers to cure the sick and can heal his terminally ill wife.
Shot in HD and featuring music by Radiohead and Gustavo Santaolalla, this modern thriller plunges viewers into an exotic urban underworld with seedy characters in every corner.
"A Little Pond"
Based on the harrowing true story of the Nogun-ri massacre that shook the nation, "A Little Pond," chronicles the tragic event in a fictitious account.
On July of the year 1950, the country is being ravaged from the on-going Korean War.
In the small village of Bawigol - a rural village in the mountainous region of Yongdong County in North Chungcheong Province - life for its resident go on as normal.
But as the tide of war turns against the south and its allies, the people of Bawigol are forced to evacuate and seek refuge as legions of platoons surge into their tiny village.
In the midst of confusion and paranoia, retreating American soldiers massacre villagers trying to escape advancing North Korean forces by crossing U.S. military lines.
The American soldiers, under the command of General Hobart R. Gray, fear they are North Korean soldiers in disguise, and open fire, killing 400 South Korean refugees.
After 7-years missing in action "Paju" marks the return of one of Korea`s heralded new filmmakers in Park Chan-ok.
After studying the masculinity of Korean society in her debut feature "Jealousy Is My Middle Name," director Park gives us a psychological thriller and drama about a girl living with her deceased sister`s husband.
Though she believes he killed her sister, she grows to love him regardless. The stronger the feelings grow for him, the more at odds she is with herself.
A suburban city an hour north of Seoul, Paju is portrayed in the film as a place full of such contradictions, inhabited by the aimless.
By Song Woong-ki