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September 22, 2017

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Festival to Busan puts Asian film in spotlight

HONG KONG--Asia's largest film festival rolls out the red carpet in South Korea on Thursday, offering a window into the region's cinema landscape and a rare screening of a North Korean film.

Organizers of the 17th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) have stressed the importance of the event in terms of promoting Asia's film industry, within which South Korea's booming domestic market is a current bright spot.

Much attention is expected to be focused on North Korea's romantic comedy "Comrade Kim Goes Flying," with its filmmakers having been invited to the screening.

It is the first time such an invitation has been extended to the North and Busan organizers say they are awaiting a reply.

"We are proud to say that we have played our part in the cultural exchange between North and South Korea," festival director Lee Yong-kwan told AFP.

Lee said one of the main aims of the event was to support and introduce to a wider audience lesser-known works and those of smaller production companies from across Asia.

"The likeliness of these films being presented at other internationally prestigious film festivals is low," he said, highlighting the importance of the Busan festival.

To that end, the 10-day event will close with the world premiere of Bangladeshi director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki's humor-laced drama "Television."

Farooki said the attention his film would attract after being screened at this year's festival would draw global attention to his country's nascent film industry. Last year's event welcomed more than 182,000 film fans.

This year Busan will showcase a special sidebar devoted to Afghani films saved from the Taliban by the Afghanistan National Film Archive, while the Window on Asian Cinema section features 49 films from 11 countries across the region, including 13 world premieres.

The festival, which has previously featured international stars and Academy Award winners including director Oliver Stone and French actress Juliette Binoche, will this year put Asian talent in the spotlight, with Chinese actresses Zhang Ziyi and Tang Wei making appearances.

Forming the backdrop to a festival screening 304 movies from 75 countries is a domestic industry enjoying unprecedented box office returns in what has so far been a stellar year for Korean productions.

The Korean Film Council recently announced around 120 million cinema tickets had been sold across the country by the end of August, a year-on-year rise of around 20 percent.

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