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AFM closes up

Busan’s Asian Film Market continued to grow this year, organisers claiming a 20% increase on 2013 numbers at the opening of the market and 23% growth when the doors closed late Wednesday (NZ time).

Aspiring to challenge Hong Kong’s FILMART, Busan’s AFM still has a long way to go. On its opening organisers claimed 195 companies from 24 countries were exhibiting at AFM, with 1,566 attendees. In March, FILMART’s drew 772 exhibitors from 32 countries, with 6,750 attendees.

Canny programming of accompanying events paid off with the panel discussion Producing Blockbusters: 10 Korean Producers of Record-Breaking Hits delivering strong attendance on the final (and traditionally least—attended) day of the market.

Elsewhere in the conference programme the Star Casting Market forum addressed the increasing opportunities of promoting stars from one territory into others via a range of international film and TV projects. As the Chinese government announces bans for a number of actors recently caught up in a crackdown on prostitution, the idea might have some appeal for mainland actors suddenly unable to ply their trade at home.

Tang Wei

Tang Wei in Lust Caution

The most successful example in Busan of both benefitting from a mainland ban and raising international profile had nothing to do with planning. Chinese actress Tang Wei, banned on the mainland following her turn in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, is presently being much-feted by the Korean media on the back of here recent marriage to Korean director Kim Tae Yong.

Tang was also attending the festival to support director Ann Hui, in whose The Golden Era Tang stars. Hui was presented with Busan’s Asian filmmaker of the Year award as part of the festival’s opening event. The Golden Era, Hong Kong’s foreign language Oscar submission, opens in NZ next Thursday (16 October) in Event Cinemas’ CinemaAsia programme.

At AFM, reasons offered for the market’s increasing numbers varied.

Some reports claimed the attraction centred around the timing of the event, citing little other market activity in the region during the second half of the year, although Busan has not changed its dates, the Tokyo International Film Festival also runs its market at the end of October; and the region’s major TV market, the Asia TV Forum, runs in Singapore in December.

Other reports optimistically cited an increase in international interest in Korean fare on the back of Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer. It seemed unlikely that interest would extend much beyond the usual festival-friendly suspects, although Australia-US sales company Arclight did announce in Busan a joint venture with Korean distributor Joyncontents create a Korea-focused company.

The increased value of sales into the region was also claimed as a driver. VOD deals in Asia are worth more than they were a few years ago, although the same is also true elsewhere. The value of TV sales into the region has been reasonably static over the last two-three years, despite a small increase in the number of channels broadcasting.

There’s evidence that both pan-regional and national broadcasters are pursuing strategies that rely more heavily on production than acquisition, including localised versions of an increasing number of Asian TV formats which are more in tune with regional sensibilities and censorship than many American and European-originated formats.

The DVD market was declared dead and buried in Korea some years ago, the victim of high-speed internet, although it struggles on in other parts of Asia in varying degrees of health.

AFM ran 5 – 8 October. The Busan IFF runs 4 – 14 October.

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