The 13th Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) opened tonight (Oct 2) at the Outdoor Theatre of the Haeundae Yachting Center with fireworks and fanfare, a star-studded red carpet, opening film Gift To Stalin and an announcement of a death and an absence.

The death was of much-beloved local actress Choi Jin-shil (The Letter) who was found dead in her Seoul apartment earlier today. Festival director Kim Dong-ho, who was visibly disturbed, made the announcement at the end of the ceremony, apologising for dampening the event.

The absence was of New Currents jury member Samira Makhmalbaf, who was reportedly rushed to the hospital right before boarding her plane.

The other jury members, actress/filmmakers Anna Karina and Lee Hwa-si, director Santosh Sivan and producer Karl Baumgartner were all on hand.

The ceremony was emceed by King And The Clown co-star Jung Jin-young and Forever The Moment co-star Kim Jung-eun. Ironically, Kim's microphone failed to work from the start, no doubt to the embarrassment of the organisers who have been swearing that this year's events would be better prepared than last year's.

Jung managed to smooth it over saying it was a sign of 'an auspicious event', and quickly sharing his mike with his co-host who quipped ' Pusan is all about innovation!'

Festival chairman and Busan city mayor Hur Nam-shik greeted guests with festival co-director Kim and deputy co-director Ahn Sung-ki.

Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Yu In-chon was in attendance, as was veteran director Yu Hyun-mok (Aimless Bullet) and a raft of stars including Jang Dong-gun, Kang Soo-yeon, Park Hae-il and Kang Hye-jung.

PIFF's red carpet is proving the place to be seen, with fans travelling from across the country and abroad to see their favourite stars in evening dress, and internet bookings for the outdoor Opening film sold out in a record 1 minute 30 seconds.

Director Abdrashev and his stars, veteran actor Nurjuman Ikhtimbayev and child actor Dalen Shintemirov, were on hand to present the first Kazakh film to open PIFF.

Capturing the audience's attention and somewhat soothing the excitement and sorrow mixed into the event, opera singer Shin Young-ok performed her renditions of Ennio Morricone's Nella Fantasia and Bizet's Habenera from the opera Carmen.

The fest runs Oct 2-10 with a record 133 world and international premieres. The Asian Film Market runs parallel Oct 3-6, in the rapidly growing port city of Busan.