1 of 6 | South Korean actor Song Kang-ho (R) and Hong Kong star Chow Yun-fat (L) pose for a photo on the red carpet during the opening ceremony of the Busan International Film Festival on Wednesday. Photo by Yonhap
BUSAN, South Korea, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- After a troubled year that saw a shakeup of its top leadership, the 28th Busan International Film Festival kicked off Wednesday with cheering crowds and stars walking the red carpet at a packed opening ceremony.
Asia's largest international film festival runs through Oct. 14 and will screen 209 films from 69 countries, including 80 world premieres.
The festival opened with Jang Kun-jae's Because I Hate Korea, a drama that takes a nuanced and piercing look at the challenges today's young Koreans face. The closing film is Chinese director Ning Hao's industry satire The Movie Emperor, featuring Hong Kong star Andy Lau.
Wednesday's opening ceremony, held in the outdoor theater of the Busan Cinema Center, was hosted by Park Eun-bin, star of last year's hit Netflix drama Extraordinary Attorney Woo. Among the luminaries on hand was Hong Kong legend Chow Yun-fat, who was honored with the Asian Filmmaker of the Year award for his contributions to the Asian film industry.
This year's festival has already seen more than its share of drama off-screen after a power struggle in May that led to the resignations of artistic director Huh Moon-yung and BIFF chairman Lee Yong-kwan. Around the same time, Huh was also hit with allegations of sexual harassment, which remain under investigation.
Managing director Cho Jong-kook was removed by the BIFF board in June and a fourth top figure, Oh Seok-geun, director of Busan's Asian Contents & Film Market, also stepped down later that month.
The turmoil scared off sponsors, interim festival director Nam Dong-chul said in September, leading to a slightly pared-down selection of films compared to last year and the cancellation of the BIFF Forum conference section.
However, the show has managed to go on, and organizers are touting a strong selection of content drawn from the festival's traditional strengths of Asian cinema and emerging directors.
"Of course, we had a lot of difficulties with this festival ... but I believe we really prepared well," Nam said during a press conference for the opening film on Wednesday. "Now we're going to embark on a 10-day journey. There may have been some room to improve, but we did our best to make this festival successful."
Highlights of this year's BIFF include the two main competition sections, New Currents and Jiseok, as well as special programs focusing on the booming Indonesian film industry and Korean diaspora directors working in Hollywood.
Recent films by big-name international festival favorites will also be screened, including Hirokazu Kore-eda's Monster; Han Shuai's Green Night; Hamaguchi Rysuke's Evil Does Not Exist; David Fincher's The Killer; Justine Triet's Cannes Palme d'Or-winning Anatomy of a Fall; and Wim Wenders' Anselm.
South Korean streaming titles, many of which have been global blockbusters on Netflix and other platforms, are returning in the festival's On Screen section, now in its third year.
The selection includes five Korean language originals, including the Disney+ revenge action thriller Vigilante, as well as an upcoming Netflix series from Indonesia, Cigarette Girl.