As South Korea's Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) passes its midpoint, the overall impression is of an event that is rapidly maturing, but still experiencing a few growing pains.
Signs of the festival's burgeoning status in the Asian film industry abound. It secured a major international premiere for its opening film in Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Doppelganger, which elicited a subdued but largely positive reception from festival guests.
PIFF has also taken the initiative of launching an Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award, which will be presented on October 8 to Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, in attendance with his daughter Hana. The award honors an individual who has contributed to the overall development of Asian cinema in the past year.
Korean film companies have taken advantage of the local and international press convergence to release footage of major upcoming productions such as National Flag (Taegukgi), director Kang Je-gyu's follow-up to his 1999 smash Shiri.
A $13m Korean war epic, the project has drawn frenzied press attention for the casting of Jang Dong-gun and Won Bin, two actors with large fan followings in Korea and -- crucially for the film's hopes to break even -- Japan.
Major studio Cinema Service is countering with Silmido, a $7m action drama based on the true story of a North Korean spy incursion and a revolt among trained South Korean assassins in the early 1970s.
Directed by Cinema Service founder Kang Woo-suk, the star-studded production is scheduled for a December release and is aiming for an international debut at a major festival.
As both the festival proper and its associated industry events such as the Pusan Promotion Plan (PPP) and the Busan International Film Commission Showcase (BIFCOM) continue to grow, a large number of foreign guests have crowded the event.
Nonetheless the festival has had trouble accommodating the influx, as an insufficient number of seats were reserved for festival guests, resulting in a severe ticket shortage.
The resulting scramble for tickets has left many guests angry and festival organisers searching for ways to provide additional screenings. Among new film offerings, no titles have generated universal buzz, however recent local release Untold Scandal received a warm reception.
The world premiere of another local film, horror title Acacia, is set to close the festival on October 10.
Meanwhile, cash awards for the PPP, the festival's project market for Asian directors, were announced on Wednesday evening, with Kiyoshi Kurosawa picking up the Pusan Award for thriller Loft. "This is the first time I've won an award for a film I haven't made yet, but I hope to put this to good use," said Kurosawa in accepting the award.