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Pusan Supersizes with 355 Films; "Good Morning President" to Open

By Brian Brooks | Indiewire September 8, 2009 at 7:27AM

Korea's giant 14th Pusan International Film Festival is set for its October event with a whopping 355 films hitting the screens on the island resort just off the southern city of Busan. The line up includes 143 world and international premieres of which 72 features will screen as world debuts.
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Korea's giant 14th Pusan International Film Festival is set for its October event with a whopping 355 films hitting the screens on the island resort just off the southern city of Busan. The line up includes 143 world and international premieres of which 72 features will screen as world debuts.

Opening the festival, which takes place October 8 - 16, is the world premiere of Jang Jin's "Good Morning President," described by the festival as "an abridged version of the politics and life of three different Korean heads of state. The three arethe older President Kim Jung Ho at the end of his term, the young President Cha Ji Wook, a skillful manipulator of foreign policy and with great determination, and a female President Han Kyoung Ja. They are distressed over the choices they have to make between politics and ethics.

The international debut of "The Message" by Gao Qunshu and Chen Kuo-fu will close Pusan. Set in China in 1942, the film is a spy drama is described as an "intense psychological warfare" between five agents and intelligence officers in which a freindshis is tested against the "moral duty to sacrifice oneself for the country."

Seven films are screening in Pusan's Gala Presentations section, with three hailing from Asia. "Chengdu, I Love You" recalls the tragedy of the great earthquake at Chengdu, China in 2008 and transcends it into a message of hope. Matsumoto Hitoshi’s novel film, "Symbol" and Tran Ahn Hung’s latest film in eight years, "I Come with the Rain" is also among the line up, with actors from the U.S., Korea, and Japan.

The Official selection list with descriptions and commentary provided by the Pusan International Film Festival:

"Symbol," directed by Matsumoto Hitoshi - Japan
A washed-up, middle aged professional wrestler, Escargoman, is having breakfast with his wife, two kids and father. Every morning Escargoman enjoys reading the newspaper over coffee, the happiest time of his day and the only moment of peace before tackling a physically and emotionally challenging job. But this morning, his wife notices something different about him. She somehow knows this is not because of her husband's upcoming fight against a notoriously aggressive young fighter, Tequila Joe. Meanwhile, a man wakes up and mysteriously finds himself trapped in an empty, white rectangular room, wearing clownish bright yellow polka dot pajamas. He has no idea how he got into this predicament. He looks to find that he is surrounded by a bunch of phallic-like symbols sticking out of the walls! Desperately trying to find his way out, he touches them, and suddenly, starts experiencing one strange phenomena after another.

"A Little Pond," directed by Lee Saang Woo - Korea
July, 1950. The country is astir with the Korean War, but things in Ba-wui-gol, a small mountain village, go on as normal. Once in a while they hear news about the war through people who go into town. But, as the US army gets defeated and retreats south, the people of Ba-wui-gol are forced to evacuate and seek refuge. [A Little Pond], which is based on the Nogunri incident follows how ‘ignorant’ people who did not know anything about the realities of war were sacrificed. Rather than dealing this situation from a set ideological viewpoint, Lee captures the people as a whole, within a community in the big picture. Also, this film is the late Park Gwang-jung’s last film. It is another tribute to his final performance as an actor.

"In My End is My Beginning," directed by Min Kyu-dong - Korea
When Jung-ha loses her husband in an accident, Naru, her husband’s secret lover, comes to her. Naru begs Jung-ha that she will do anything if only she will let her stay at her house. Jung-ha denies her at first, but eventually, their odd cohabiting begins. Short parts of In My End is My [Beginning] were introduced by the omnibus film, [Five Senses of Eros], as one of its episodes. But the feature length version of the film shows the ‘real end’ of the relationship driving into catastrophe. Uhm Jung-hwa and Kim Hyo-jin, the top actresses of the time, well expressed the extreme characters through their great performance. The two character’s entanglement with love and lust expand into a lesbian like relationship and leads to a new way of life at the end of the relationship.

"I Come with the Rain," directed by Tran Anh Hung - France/U.S.
In Los Angeles, Kline (Josh Hartnett), a young ex-cop, is struggling with the psychological trauma of his last case: tracking down and slaying a serial killer. Turning to private detective work, Kline is hired by a rich Chinese businessman to fly to Asia on a mission to find Shitao (Kimura Takuya), his missing son. Kline finds out that the king of the Hong Kong mafia, Su Dongpo (Lee Byung Hun), is also searching for Shitao, because this vagrant, who has mysterious powers to cure the sick, took in a wounded Lili, the beautiful wife of Su Dongpo. Shot on state-of-the-art HD and featuring music by Radiohead and Gustavo Santaolalla ["Babel"], ["Brokeback Mountain"], this modern thriller plunges us into an exotic urban world of gritty realism and sensual beauty.

"I Am Love," directed by Luca Guadagnino - Italy
Emma, from Russia, gets married into the rich, upper class Recchi family of Milano. On her father-in-law’s birthday, her son, Edoardo, and her husband, Tancredi, are both announced as co-heirs to the family fortune. As a crack begins to slowly form in the family, Emma starts to fall for her son’s friend, Antonio, who is a chef. The film shows the fall of a high class Italian family, and the passion and emotion that challenges the past and tradition with outstanding style. Suitable casting shows the ‘noble, rich people’ who pursue aristocratic lives and luxurious, extravagant images to capture their lifestyles are all breathtaking. As the wave of the lavishness and moderate double side of the family grows, the tension also heightens. Tilda Swinton’s starring performance is impeccable.

"The Fair Love," directed by Sin Yeon-Shick - Korea
An unstoppable romance between an old bachelor in his 50s and a college girl in her 20s. Despite the twenty-six year age difference and the fact that he is dating his friend’s daughter, the old bachelor and the young woman become closer and closer. The 50 year-old bachelor even runs the 100m dash for the first time in twenty years to propose to his love. Director Shin Yeon-Shick takes what may seem like a very conventional melodrama and freely releases the drama of ‘fortuity’ and probes into the universal emotions of this era in a more comic way. Just as its title, [The Fair Love], it tries to tell how ‘fairness’ or ‘salvation’ can be introduced. Actors AHN Sung-ki and LEE Ha-na’s performances in their leading roles are outstanding. It is sure to be one of the most lovable films of the year.

"Chengdu, I Love You," directed by Fruit Chan and Cui Jian - China
On May 12, 2008, an earthquake measuring 8.0 Richter scale hit Wenchuan. The earthquake left Chengdu in great damage. Over 70% of the famous historical sites were destroyed. The beauty of Chengdu never faded because of the earthquake. Zonbo Media invited three Asian directors to make this film. Through different styles and angles, the directors show kinship, love, and friendship and tell stories of the aftermath of the earthquake. Each director made a thirty-minute film which has all been combined into a feature film. This is a film full of love, joy, and surprise. By means of a film, the three directors from different territories in Asia shall, from their own perspective, tell the stories of Chengdu and record the feelings and emotions of those who were affected by the earthquake. That is the overall theme of the film, and it's also a benefit film meant to comfort people.

[For more information including the line up from the festival's other sections, visit their website.]

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