The first Bangkok Film Market (BFM) - organised as part of the 2004 Bangkok International Film Festival - kicked off in the Thai capital on Tuesday (Jan 27) with more than 60 companies taking rooms at the Shangri-La Hotel.

In total, about 120 companies from 23 countries have registered to take part in the three-day event. The sellers include a broad mix of international sales agents such as Australia's Arclight Films, the UK's BBC Films, Spain's KWA and Hong Kong and Netherlands-based Fortissimo Film Sales.

The US is also well represented with companies such as Artisan Entertainment, Kathy Morgan International and Franchise Pictures, while world-renowned producers Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna are also drawing attention to the inaugural event. But buyers on the first day of the market hadn't travelled as far - most came from South-East Asia.

Organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the festival and market are seen as a way to promote Thailand as a film-making hub - and perhaps eventually - also as a centre of international sales and distribution. "Bangkok, as the hub of South-East Asia, is an ideal location to do business," says BFM director Christine Rush. "There's growing interest both in this region, and in South-East Asian movies, so Thailand is the perfect place to make this happen."

Meanwhile, the festival opened last Thursday (Jan 22) with a rousing ceremony and a screening of Thai time-travelling epic, The Siam Renaissance. More than 150 films from around 30 countries are screening in various sections including the International Competition, ASEAN Competition and Thai Panorama.

However, so far the event has not been as star-studded as organisers were hoping and several of the most eagerly-awaited films - including 21 Grams, Cold Mountain and Lost In Translation - have been pulled from the schedule.

Timing has not helped the festival in its attempts to lure Hollywood films and talent, as it clashes with the Sundance Film Festival and the Golden Globes and takes place just before Berlin.

Among the stars that have made the trip are Rachael Leigh Cook, Bai Ling and Hong Kong's Michelle Yeoh and Leon Lai.

The festival runs until Feb 2 and includes a Cinematographers Day - featuring a tribute to Christopher Doyle - and the Golden Kinnaree awards gala at which Oliver Stone will receive a career achievement award.