The 17th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) opened today with a star-studded red carpet, fireworks and Hong Kong crime action thriller Cold War.

Chinese actress Tang Wei of Lust, Caution fame became the first non-Korean in BIFF history to host an opening ceremony. She spoke in English and mostly Mandarin while her co-host Ahn Sung-ki, known as Korea’s “national actor” spoke in Korean.

The ceremony took place in front of the Busan Cinema Center’s huge outdoor screen with an audience of 5,500. The festival reports online tickets for the event sold out in 94 seconds.

Tang commented Busan was a “city of beautiful memories” for her from the last time she was here promoting her film and was met with a wave of cheers and applause when she said: “If given the opportunity, I would like to make a film in Busan.”

Ahn quipped he would like to join her in such an endeavor, but “not as father-daughter or that kind of thing”.

Other stars on the red carpet included Cold War leads Aaron Kwok and Tony Leung Ka-fai, Lee Byung-hun, Moon So-ri, Agnes Jaoui, Cecilia Cheung, BIFF retrospective star Shin Young-kyun and Jung Woo-sung.

Jung and fellow New Currents jury members Naomi Kawase and David Gilmour joined jury head Bela Tarr onstage to greet the audience. Flash Forward jury members Cameron Bailey, Byun Young-joo, Haden Guest and Sergei Loznitsa did so as well; with their jury head Arturo Ripstein declaring, “Long live the movies!”

Mayor of Busan and chairman of the BIFF Organizing Committee, Hur Nam-sik presented Japanese director Wakamatsu Koji with the Asian Filmmaker of the Year award.

Wakamatsu said, “It’s been 50 years since I started making films. I’ve been to many film festivals but it is an honour to be here at such a big festival, screening three films. I hope you can come see them.”

BIFF is showing 304 films from 75 countries over ten days. It will close Oct 13 with awards and closing film Television, directed by Bangladesh’s Mostofa Farooki.

With South Korea’s upcoming elections in December, presidential candidates Park Geun-hye and Moon Jae-in made appearances on the red carpet, but were not allowed any speech time in accordance with BIFF’s careful tradition of remaining politically neutral.