Asia's highest-profile film event, the Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) is launching intoits second decade with characteristic energy. Its 11th edition is showcasing nofewer than 245 films from 63 countries - a record 64 of which are worldpremieres.

"In the past 10years, PIFF has grown to become the most important Asian film festival and oneof the most dynamic in the world,' says festival director Kim Dong-ho.

The festival opensthis year with the world premiere of Kim Dai-seung'smelodrama Traces Of Love, starring YooJi-tae (Old Boy), and closes with the internationalpremiere of Crazy Stone by Ning Hao,a low-budget mainland China sleeper hit about a jade heist produced byAndy Lau's Focus Films.

'PIFF is hereto play a role supporting Asian cinema - the cultural aspects and theindustry-related aspects,' says Kim Ji-seok,head Asian cinema programmer.

'We look tocultivate future talent and showcase films that are far from the mainstream,like the documentaries you see here. It would be a problem if we wereone-sided, but we also take interest in films with mass appeal, as can be seenwith our opening and closing films.'

The competitive NewCurrents section, for up-and-coming Asian directors, has nine world andinternational premieres out of 10 selections including LesteChen's Eternal Summer from Taiwan and Tai-sik Kimwith his Driving WithMy Wife's Lover.

The jury is headedby Academy Award-winning Hungarian director Istvan Szabo.

The Windows On Asian Cinema section, meanwhile, aims to shine aspotlight on up-and-coming territories this year.

Establisheddirectors like Tsai Ming-Liang, MohsenMakhmalbaf, and Garin Nugroho are joined in the Window on Asia section by young directors like James Leefrom Malaysia with his Before We Fall In Love Again.

'[The section]highlights a trend in Southeast Asia, whereformerly inactive film industries have been getting governmental boosts in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia,' says Kim. 'Independentdirectors are now growing into mainstream power.'

To handle thediverse output of Korean cinema, PIFF has programmed local films into threedifferent sections this year. Films of note that have already been released,like Yu Ha's ADirty Carnival, will unspool in the Panoramasection, and low-budget independents like Dong-ilShin's My Friend AndHis Wife play in the Vision section. The Special Premiere section willshowcase unreleased films like Im Sang-soo's The President'sLast Bang, which will be screened for the first time in its entirety aftercourt battles over its subject matter - the night president Park Chung-hee was assassinated.

Credited withcontributing to the growth of Korean film-making, PIFF'sWorld Cinema section has traditionally programmed high-profile films from theyear's festivals, with an aim of bringing Cannes, Venice, Berlin and others' best films home to young cinephileswho cannot travel far.

This year is seeingmore international and world premieres in the section as well, including one ofWorld Cinema programmer Jay Jeon's personal favourites- Comrades InDreams, directed by Uli Gaulke.

The Germandocumentary follows the lives of four projectionists living in South India,Burkina Faso, the US mid-west, and North Korea.

The independentfilm showcase Wide Angle section, featuring shorts, animation anddocumentaries, will have world premieres of such films as Korean Don Quixote, Lee Hise, which wasawarded the Unikorea Fund at last year's PIFF.

A special programmeon Contemporary French Auteurs will commemorate 120years of Korea-France relations. Other special programs also include 'Remappingof Asian Auteur Cinema' and the AniAsia programhighlighting development feature animation.

A retrospective on1930s and 1940s Korean films from the Japanese occupation will be joined by anHD screening of the long-lost Shin Sang-ok film Bound By Chastity Rule.

This year's guestsinclude Lou Ye, the mainland Chinese director, Hong Kong actor and producerAndy Lau - in attendance to pick up the Asian Film-maker of the Year award, TsaiMing-Liang, Shinya Tsukamoto, Patrick Tam and severalEuropean actresses including the award-winning MirjanaKaranovic, the star of the Swiss film Fraulein.

As for buyers andsellers, among the 95 registered sales companies, major Korean sales agentswill be joined by companies like Arclight Films, Thailand's SahamongkolfilmInternational and Taiwan's Three Dots/Serenity International.

Buyers from around200 companies include MK2, Lions Gate, Amuse Entertainment, and Beijing Polybona Film. Tom Quinn, head of acquisition at MagnoliaPictures, which picked up Bong Joon-ho's The Host in Cannes, says 'Korea's market is one of the most interestingbecause it's vibrant and self-sufficient - it operates and exists on its ownterms. Pusan is a good opportunity to see premieres and get the jump on thecompetition.'