Kazakh film opens Asian International Film Festival

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Central Asia On line and wire services

2008-10-17

PUSAN, Oct. 13—It is 1949. The Soviet Union is forcing minority groups to move to Central Asia. Sashka, a Jewish child, boards a train to Kazakhstan with his grandfather. The grandfather dies on the journey, leaving Sashka to accompany the body as it is taken off the train at a small village. An old man, Kasym, befriends the boy.

Then tragedy strikes in Rustem Abdrashev's film, The Gift to Stalin, the first Kazakh film to open South Korea's Pusan International Film Festival. Tickets for the screening sold out within 90 seconds on the festival’s website.

PIFF, as the festival is known, has built a reputation for introducing new directors and up-and-coming moviemakers in Asia and elsewhere. It has also become a vital forum for Asian filmmakers to meet financial backers.

“We're trying to offer filmmakers some encouragement, show them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel,'' Kim Ji Seok, chief programmer for the festival, said at a press conference.

PIFF, which ran Oct. 2-12 in South Korea's largest port city, now officially called Busan, showed 315 movies from 60 countries. The festival marked its 13th anniversary by screening world premieres of 85 films, the most in its history, and provided another 48 films with their first international screenings.

The festival also honoured Kazakh producer Gulnara Sarsenova as ”Asian Filmmaker of the Year,” for Schizo, the story of a troubled 15-year old boy who learns responsibility amid hard times and finds a reason to hope.

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