The 10th PuchonInternational Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) opened yesterday amid signs thatit's winning back industry support.

This year's new festivalhead and programming team have been working for reconciliation with the localfilm industry after the ninth edition was widely boycotted over festivalpolitics. Festival director Lee Jang-ho said that being able to open thefestival successfully was like "stepping into the sunlight after a fever".

Minister of Culture andTourism Kim Myung-gon appeared onstage at the opening night ceremony anddeclared a commitment of support to the festival that had "contributed to theunprecedented growth of the Korean film industry".

During the opening ceremony,the festival handed out meritous service awards to four of the event's formerchairmen and reached out to the local film industry with the new Shin Sang-okaward, in honour of the late filmmaker, sponsored by investor/distributorCinema Service.

The festival opened with Midnight Ballad For Ghost Theatre,directed by Jeon Gye-soo, the first Korean musical in recent years. Althoughthe film is aiming for Rocky HorrorPicture Show cult status, the general audience reaction was that, althoughamusing in parts, the film lacked the dramatic strength necessary to fullyengage.

The 10-day event in the cityof Bucheon, a satellite city of Seoul, will present 251 films from 25countries, with nine special sections including the Korean Directors' Cut andretrospectives of Japanese "king of cult" Ishii Teruo, early Asian action starJimmy Wang and the recently deceased Shin Sang-ok.

Seminars, including oneheaded by Richard Taylor and his team from the Weta Workshop, also commemoratePiFan's 10th anniversary.

Filmmaker Lamberto Bavaheads the Puchon Choice jury, which includes veteran actress Yoon Jung-hee, CannesDirectors' Fortnight programmer Jeremy Segay and Cannes-awarded directorMasahiro Kobayashi.

Meanwhile, the filmindustry's Screen Quota protestors have been joining farmers, students, andlabour workers in protest against the second round of free trade agreementtalks between the US and Korea, which as of today have reportedly stalled.