Officials and guests attend the lighting ceremony at the BIFF village in Busan
Stars of Asian cinema gathered in the South Korean port city of Busan Thursday as the region?s biggest film festival geared up for its gala opening. Showcasing Asian cinema at a time when box office takings in the region are growing faster
than in North America, the 18th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) will open with the world premiere of Bhutanese musical drama \"Vara: A Blessing\".
While the film?s director -- lama Khyentse Norbu -- chose to miss the festival in favour of a silent mountain retreat, stars of Asian film will be attending, including Academy Award-nominated Japanese actor Ken Watanabe, director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Chinese director Jia Zhangke as well as Hong Kong actor Aaron Kwok and South Korean actress Kang Soo-yeon.
?Audiences will see and experience the rise and growth of Asian cinema,\" festival director Lee Yong-Kwan told AFP.
Busan will also \"look into the future of Korean cinema as well as the cooperation we have with non-Asian regions,? he said.
The Busan event aims to showcase new Asian talent, with more than 300 films to be screened over 10 days, including 95 world premieres
Its New Currents competition offers two prizes of US$30,000 for first- or second-time Asian directors from a shortlist of 12 productions.
Busan\'s Asian Filmmaker of the Year, will go to Cambodian director Rithy Panh for preserving his country\'s films and audio-visual materials.
The director, who lost his family in a refugee camp during the Khmer Rouge regime, won the Un Certain Regard prize at this year\'s Cannes Film Festival with \"The Missing Picture\", in which he retold the history of Cambodia with elaborate dioramas.
Representing the international film world will be Oscar-winner Neil Jordan (\"The Crying Game\") and six-time Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan (\"In the Name of the Father\") who are attending the festival in support of a segment on Irish cinema.
The city?s Haeundae beachfront will host events giving fans the chance to interact with stars including Watanabe, along with the veteran Hong Kong actor Jimmy Wang, in Busan for a screening of his martial arts classic \"The One-Armed Swordsman\" (1967).
Buzz has built around the first screenings of maverick South Korean director Kim Ki-Duk?s ultra-violent and dialogue-free \"Moebius\", as well as Bong Joon-Ho?s English language sci-fi thriller \"Snowpiercer\", starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, which is yet to be screened overseas.
The festival closes on October 12 with the world premiere of the Kim Dong-hyun drama \"The Dinner\".