The 19th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) opened with a star-studded red carpet and a conciliatory anti-war undercurrent to proceedings, which included the world premiere of Doze Niu Chen-Zer’s Paradise In Service.
Set in the late 1960s, the coming-of-age film looks through a young Taiwanese army recruit’s eyes at people dispersed and marked by two wars – one with the Japanese following their occupation of much of Asia and one with mainland China’s Communists in a conflict that was continuing into the Cold War.
Played by Ethan Juan, the recruit starts out in an elite squad of frogmen, but is kicked out to work in Unit 831 or “Paradise in Service”, a military brothel teeming with drama.
Director Niu and his film’s stars were on the red carpet with prominent guests including: New Currents jury head Asgar Farhadi; this year’s Asian Film Academy dean Bela Tarr; veteran director Im Kwon-taek with his Revivre stars Kim Qyu-ri and Ahn Sung-ki; Cannes-awarded Leviathan director Andrey Zvyagintsev; Haemoo director Shim Sung-bo with star Han Ye-ri; Yukisada Isao with his Five Minutes To Tomorrow stars; Kim Sae-ron from A Girl At My Door; Kim Han-min and Otani Ryohei from local all-time hit Roaring Currents; BIFF honorary festival director Kim Dong-ho; Berlinale festival director Dieter Kosslick; and Youku founder and CEO Victor Koo.
The Asian Filmmaker of the Year award was presented to Hong Kong director Ann Hui who walked the red carpet with The Golden Era star Tang Wei, for whom the crowd of thousands went particularly wild. The Chinese actress, who also emceed the BIFF Opening ceremony in 2012, recently created a sensation when she married Korean director Kim Tae-yong. The two met working on his film Late Autumn.
This year’s emcees - Korean actress Moon So-ri and Japanese actor Ken Watanabe - commented on her being from Busan and his in-laws originally coming from the port city as well.
Well-known Japanese songstress Rimi Natsukawa sang an Okinawan song set in sugarcane fields touched with the tragedy of war accompanied by the haegeum, a traditional Korean instrument.
With rising geopolitical tensions in Asia, Watanabe and Moon commented on their hopes that films could help inspire peace.
Watanabe wrapped up by saying: “I want to add that, in my career, I’ve had the opportunity to make many films with people from different countries. We were born in different lands, grew up eating different foods, and told stories about love in different languages.
“The way we think, and what we value, are sometimes different. And by celebrating our differences, our world expands, our minds and hearts grow. I believe this film festival is a window of opportunity for that to happen. We really hope you truly enjoy 10 exciting days at the festival.”