Thursday, October 11, 2007

Spiffy PIFFy Wrap Up

Sorry (again) for not updating the site over the past week. This year's Pusan International Film Festival was even crazier than usual (at least for me) thanks to the dailies The Hollywood Reporter published.

In addition to the THR Dailies, though, this year's PIFF seemed different for several reasons:
- More attention from the West
- A typhoon
- Ridiculous complaining by the local press (especially the online variety)


Important news first -- I got to meet Grace Park. Yes, that Grace Park, of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA fame. She was in town promoting her new film (CJ Entertainment's WEST 32ND) and participating in the Asia Pacific Actors Network.

No, she was not dressed like that when I met her. She had this 1970s hair thing going on (feathered), but she looked good. Okay, we did not talk very much, just brief chitchat at some loud party, but my inner-geek was pleased.

By the way, random observation -- Yes, Grace Park is an attractive woman... but doesn't she look like Astro Boy?

Anyhow, due to the Asia Pacific Actors Network starting this year and the Star Summit Asia (now in its second year), there were more celebrities than I remember seeing before at PIFF. Daniel Dae Kim was there, Jason Scott Lee, John Cho (also in WEST 32ND).

Gore Verbinski (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN) and Michelle Yeoh also attended. Peter Greenaway, too, but I missed his events, which had me a little annoyed with myself. Sure, his movies are crazy pretentious, but I rather like them. Plenty of agents and other business people walking around, too.

No shortage of regional celebrities, either, and they were easily the most popular and recognizable stars for Busan film fans. Takuya Kimura and some guy from Super Junior were especially popular with the 13-year-old girls, who turned out in force this year. They were nutty.

While in general I am not a big fan of actors (nothing particularly wrong with the job, but usually I find the writers and directors to be more interesting), I was very pleased to have met Kong Hyo-jin. What a charming young woman. She and Hong Suk-chon were goofing around and being pretty amusing at the APAN party. Good times.


PIFF has generally enjoyed pretty good press since it started in 1996. But this year, the complaining and crying by the press was pretty amazing, especially by the Internet press (and by the English-language local media -- you can read a representative whine here)

There were three major complaints/accusations about this year's PIFF:
1) Ennio Morricone was treated poorly and left in a huff
2) The PIFF Pavilion leaked rain badly
3) The M press conference was a mess

Okay, the truth about Morricone, as far as I know. Morricone led a concert in Seoul on Wednesday (Oct. 3) night. He flew down to Busan on Thursday and, despite feeling ill (the dude is 80), he agreed to show up to the opening ceremonies, at least briefly. Morricone was picked up at the airport by one of PIFF's programmers (sadly, without a translator) and driven to his hotel.

Then he was taken to the opening ceremonies. There was a little disorganization backstage for a few minutes because of the politicians who wanted to attend (particularly Lee Myung-bak, who was quite late). PIFF organizers said it was about 5 minutes, while another person I talked to estimated it was longer. Morricone and his wife were then introduced and led to their seats.

After a few minutes, because he was feeling ill, Morricone went back to his hotel and skipped the opening party. He left early the next day, as scheduled.

No idea where the rumor started that he felt mistreated by PIFF. After all, he did the hand printing. If he was so angry, why would he have done that? There is absolutely no proof that anything bad happened (besides the delay at the opening ceremonies). Just a lot of silly gossip.

As for the leaking PIFF Pavilion, well, yeah, it leaked. But there was a tropical depression (the remnants of Supertyphoon Krosa) sweeping through.

I think a lot of the bad press stemmed from the press conference for Lee Myung-se's new movie, M. It was really overcrowded (again, thanks to the Internet press, whose numbers are as legion as their credentials are not). Thanks to the chaos, Lee talked for only 20 minutes, not the scheduled hour.

Obviously PIFF has to work out its policy toward the press and online press by next year. But I think this is where PIFF's problems really began. The bad event put a lot of journalists (and "journalists") into a bad mood. And once the Internet turns on you, the griping just keeps on piling up. Really pretty petty, at least in my book. Some people need to grow up.


This was the first PIFF ever in its 12 fine years to get major rain on opening night. Although it did stop the moment the opening movie, ASSEMBLY, started.

But a couple of days later, the remnants of supertyphoon Krosa hit Korea. There was not much left after it hit Taiwan and China badly, but it was still impressively rainy and windy. Best of all, the waves at Haeundae Beach were incredible. I went out swimming a little on Tuesday, when they were at their peak, and it was wonderfully scary (especially since Haeundae has a mean undertow). Good stuff.

Despite the weather, it looks like attendance was still pretty good this year. Something over 190,000 is the early estimate.


Jonathan Landreth, the Asia Editor of The Hollywood Reporter, snagged the scoop that Korean-American director John H. Lee will remake John Woo's THE KILLER. Jonathan and I sat down with Lee and had a great talk about his plans for the film and his other work and I was pleasantly surprised (you can read the interview in the Day 7 PDF file, or go here).

Like a lot of people, I was rather surprised when I heard about the remake. Especially since Lee's last film, the melodrama A MOMENT TO REMEMBER, was pretty far from the guns-ablazing style of Woo. But Lee had a lot of interesting ideas for his version. He definitely is not just transplanting the same story from Hong Kong to Los Angeles. He has a bunch of cool ideas.

But more than THE KILLER remake, Lee has a bunch of other great projects in the works.

Other fun movie stuff... I met the music director for the coming Korean film GO-GO SEVENTIES, which I am really looking forward to seeing. And Jonathan also interviewed Yi Ling, the director of YASUKUNI, a really interesting documentary about the controversial shrine (THR's review here).

Sadly, the only movie I was able to see was the opener, ASSEMBLY. ASSEMBLY is about the Chinese civil war, and hte film is most notable for using the special effects team from TAEGUKGI for the (long) battle scenes. The movie was okay to look at, but the big battles in the first half went on and on and on, and the second hour was mostly a lot of histrionics and Communist Party history. I found it boring.


It was the first time THR printed dailies, and for several reasons we decided to team up with Korea's CINE 21 and publish dailies together. After all, CINE 21 has been publishing their own dailies at PIFF for years (since the beginning?), and rather than try to reinvent the wheel, we decided to work together. Luckily, the cool cats at CINE 21 thought it was a good idea, too, and so a fun partnership was formed.

Cool things about working together with CINE 21:
- Great distribution. The publish around 15,000 copies of each issue, so we were really everywhere.
- Good format. Usually CINE 21's dailies are just a simple matt-finish, basic magazine. So imagine our surprise when we received the first issue on Thursday and it was printed on great, shiny stock. No one told us they were going to change. No one even told CINE 21's dailies editor.
- Another format point -- THR and CINE 21 are almost the exact same size anyway, so it was natural for our publications to fit together (the other international trade magazines are all printed on larger paper).
- Again, good people. A very helpful and fun crew.

If you are interested, you can see PDF versions of all eight dailies at

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