The inconsistencies at this year's Pusan International Film Festival and the Pusan Promotion Plan (PPP) reflect the uneven progress of the growing Asian film industry.
The festival and productions markets were hampered by growing pains, most notably the decision to locate in two different districts of Pusan which are an hour apart. This meant that delegates were forced to split into separate camps, one with film screening facilities, talent and consumer press; the other with high tech facilities for the projects and location markets, which was peopled by executives, financiers and film trade press.
Much of the problem should be fixed by next year when more of the festival moves to the Haeun-dae area, where the PPP was located this year for the first time. New screening facilities are due to come on stream in 2003 and yet more in 2004.
Additionally, the market side of the event will become more consistent next year thanks to a merger between location services market BIFCOM and PPP. Bolstered by an enlarged budget the PPP-BIFCOM venture will be able to underwrite more visitors.
Ironing out the wrinkles and expanding the festival, already the most powerful in the region, is likely to be given a high priority as it appears on the election promises of all the major candidates in next month's mayoral elections.
At the two-thirds point, the festival had thrown up few very strong buzz films. Almost inevitably, 'bad boy'director Kim Ki-Duk's (pictured) Coastguard has divided the critics, visiting festival selectors and audiences alike.
Many feel that the contemporary picture about soldiers sent mad by the hair-trigger atmosphere of guarding the volatile North-South border between the two Koreas, is superbly well executed, but that it still bears the violent and misogynist hallmarks of much of his earlier work. Kim is widely rated as a director with a great international future, but that this film was not right for the opening night, nor is it his passport to big time commercial success.
Other stand-outs included documentary The Border Patrol by local director Hong Hyung-sook, Chinese director Zhang Yuan's I Love You, and two Korean relationship dramas Ardor by female director Byun Young-joo and Park Chan-Ok's Jealousy Is My Middle Name.
Foreign attendees also seemed more enthusiastic about Jang Sun-woo's computer game fantasy Resurrection Of The Little Match Girl, which died at the local box office. The festival selection was felt to be lower in major premieres than last year's selection and buyers grumbled that much of what was on offer had already been seen at Mifed or Venice and Toronto.
Among buyers, remakes were a particularly popular theme with Cinema Services' Break Out announced as likely to get the US studio re-make treatment before stepping on to the world stage.
The PPP claims to have organised over five hundred project meetings for the 21 film projects presented during the three days between Monday Wednesday (For the full list of the 21 projects, see below).
The eventual winners of the $20,000 Pusan award were "Fifth Project" by local directing star Hong Sang Soo and The Best Of Our Times by a collective of four Taiwanese co-directors. The Hubert Bals fund award for best international project went to GIE by Riri Riza from Indonesia.
Most typifying the 'getting there' status of the Asian dream was the announcement of the Asian Film Industry Network (AFIN), a teaming together of national film commissions, government offices and projects markets announced this week.
Goodwill was certainly present at the debut plenary meeting, but establishing concrete, unified measures is going to be hard in a region where some countries' film sectors enjoy nearly 50% domestic market shares (Korea and Japan) and others such as Taiwan, where locally made pictures last year achieved only 0.1% if their home market.
Taiwan's best known director, Hou Hsiao-hsien applauded growing government support for a local industry on its knees. From Hong Kong, a tarnished former capital of Asian film, however, director Fruit Chan argued that "the solutions are in the hands of film-makers ourselves." Some blamed systemic issues such as piracy, opportunities for young film-makers and distribution structures, others said that the quality of pictures is what most needs to be improved.
Allan Fung, co-founder of one of the region's most internationally-minded producers, Applause Pictures, said: "doing co-productions is ten times harder than what we expected two and a half years ago. But we have to continue, and maybe include European partners from now on."
PPP 2002 Official Projects (a total of 21 projects)
(Director / Project Title / Country)
1. Sedigh Barmak / Rainbow / Afgan-Iran
2. U-Wei Bin HajiSaari / Sax Dan Talipon / Malaysia
3. Peter Ho-sun Chan / Drift / Hong Kong
4. CheeK / Leap Of Love / Singapore
5. Hong Sangsoo / Fifth Project (tentative title) / Korea
6. Hou Hsiao-Hsien & 3 Others / The Best Of Our Times / Taiwan
7. Ryutaro Ishimori / 5-10 / Japan
8. Carol Lai / The Floating Landscape / Hong Kong
9. Lee Sung Gang / Texture Of Skin / Korea
10. Li Yu / Dam Street / China
11. Min Kyu Dong / Solongos / Korea
12. Mayu Nakamura / Fever / Japan
13. Riri Riza / GIE / Indonesia
14. Wisit Sasanatieng / Hot Chili Sauce / Thailand
15. Partho Sen Gupta / Let The Wind Blow / India
16. Sidharth Srinivasan / Are You Happy' / India
17. Patrick Tam / We Three / Malaysia
18. Wang Chao / Coalmine / China
19. Apichatpong Weerasethakul / Ecstasy Garden / Thailand
20. John Williams / Starfish Hotel / Japan
21. Hassan Yektapanah / Story Undone / Iran