The 18th Busan International Film Festival opened its 10-day run on Thursday with a screening of "Vara: A Blessing" by Bhutanese filmmaker and monk Khyentse Norbu.
Some 300 film industry figures and 4,000 spectators attended the opening ceremony at the outdoor theater of Busan Cinema Center in Haeundae in the evening. Actress Kang Soo-yeon and Hong Kong Chinese actor Aaron Kwok hosted the event.
Among a firmament of stars, actor Park Joon-hoon visited the southern port city with his directorial debut "Top Star." Ha Jung-woo, another actor who is also showing his directorial debut at the festival, could not attend the opener, but the cast of his film "Roller Coaster" strolled along the red carpet to loud cheers from the crowd.
Charles Tesson, who has served as the artistic director of Critic's Week at the Cannes International Film Festival since 2012, received the Korean Cinema Award for his contributions to promote Korean movies around the world. Cambodian director Rithy Panh received the Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award.
The curtain-raising film was an unusual choice for a festival of this magnitude as Norbu is largely unknown in Korea and it stars mostly Indian actors. Before it was announced, the festival's programmers said, "This year's opening film will reflect the identity of BIFF, which aims to discover new Asian directors and promote the diversity of Asian cinema."
While the leading actors and producer Nanette Nelms came to Busan, Norbu couldn't attend the festival due to his religious commitments back home, the movie production company said, adding that he is temporarily living the life of an ascetic monk in a cave.
A total of 301 films from 70 countries will be shown on 35 screens at seven theaters during the festival.