`M Sets Busan Film Festival on Fire
By Lee Hyo-won
BUSAN _ Korea's acclaimed director Lee Myung-se's latest work ``M,'' starring popular actors Gang Dong-won and Kong Hyo-jin, stole the limelight at the 12th Pusan (Busan) International Film Festival (PIFF). But the press conference for the much anticipated movie on Saturday exploded into a chaotic mess as conflict escalated between the media and organizers of the event, pointing to doubts about the overall quality of Asia's largest film event.
Domestic and foreign press lined up outside the press conference venue an hour beforehand, with a swarm of female fans buzzing in the hallway, anxiously waiting to breathe the same air _ even for a split second _ as heartthrob Gang Dong-won.
Yet, when doors opened 30 minutes prior to the start of the presentation, mayhem ensued as close to 100 or so reporters, photographers and camera crews poured into a shockingly small room. For about 50 minutes, heated arguments between the media personnel and organizers ensued, with festival director Kim Dong-ho also intervening helplessly to resolve the situation.
After exploring several options, including canceling the event or switching venues, it was decided that the photo session would take place first so that photographers could make way for camera crew and reporters. The press conference finally commenced 40 minutes late, and the fiery air finally cooled down a bit as the stars of the movie filed into the room.
After apologizing for the disorganization, festival director Kim Dong-ho introduced the director and cast, saying Gang Dong-won is the ``principle offender'' responsible for the horde of people, drawing laughs from the room.
``I am very honored to have been chosen for the Gala Presentation at PIFF. I am a timid blood type A (urban legend says that A types are fainthearted), so I'm nervous that reporters are in a sour mood,'' chuckled the director.
Lee, the director of contemporary classic ``Nowhere to Hide,'' re-teamed with Gang Dong-won, the male lead from his last film ``The Duelist'' for ``M.'' The film is among the four works featured in PIFF's newly added Gala Presentation section, which spotlights the most-talked-about films du jour by master cineastes.
In addition to ``M,'' this year's Gala Presentation spotlights Im Kwon-taek's latest work ``Beyond the Years,'' Hou Hsiao Hsien's ``Flight of the Red Balloon'' from Taiwan and Royston Tan's ``881'' from Singapore.
``M'' is a melange of the remembrances and imagination of a best-selling writer (Gang Dong-won), who, just before getting married to his fiancee (Kong Hyo-jin) and under a pressing deadline, looks back to his long deceased first love (Lee Yeon-hee).
``It's been a year since I last made a public appearance, but the atmosphere…'' said Gang, trailing off, appearing slightly nervous at first but easing down as the atmosphere softened.
Media from Hong Kong and Japan focused mainly on the actor, who explained that he did not particularly try to feign an act for playing the role of an intellectual writer. ``I think it's important to just pour your heart into the role, and it comes naturally,'' he said.
The tall and lean model-turned-actor explained that it was convenient to play opposite the two female leads Kong Hyo-jin and Lee Yeon-hee because they are both tall.
When asked by a member of the press what it was like to star opposite such a hot and handsome man, Kong said, ``He's really good-looking, isn't he? But in person he's really easygoing, down to earth and humble. It made me think, `wow, so he is human,''' drawing laughter from the room.
Rising starlet Lee said ``To be frank, I was really overwhelmed when I first met him. It's hard to explain in words.'' But once she got to know him better, the 19-year-old actress said she was able to shoot the film with ease.
Press conferences for domestic films always draw a sizeable crowd, and it seems nonsensical that the 12-year-old festival did not have the foresight to choose a larger venue _ especially given that the movie is one of the highlighted programs of this year's festival and sure to attract not only domestic but international press.
The explosive pressroom was not only a matter of inconvenience for the busy press, which works on a tight schedule trying to catch as many of the myriad of ongoing events _ it may have easily led to accidents as large cameras had to be hitched up to the ceiling, hovering overhead in a dangerous fashion.
PIFF has enjoyed an amazing growth, becoming the largest cinematic celebration in Asia and a prominent international movie feast. PIFF may have gotten larger with a more diversified program and larger selection of works, but it still needs to fine-tune its organizational structure, as well as security measures.
The slack ID checking at the door also had enabled some of the fanatical fans to slip into the venue, as the same happened during the press conference for Kimura Takuya's film ``Hero,'' Friday.