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Film industry turns its attention towards Pusan

The Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) bills itself as Asia's most important film gathering and at least in terms of premieres - and stars -  it looks to this year again be living up to that boast.

Set in the South Korean port city of Busan this year's 15th edition of the festival (http://www.piff.org) will run October 7-15 and will feature 308 productions from 67 countries.

Special programs have been arranged to focus on the cinema industries of Spain and the Czech Republic as well as one which will take a look at Kurdish cinema and its "destiny of a struggle for identity.'' There are also retrospectives on Korean cinema and tribute to its stars.

And organizers are this year claiming they have a record 103 world premieres at the festival and 52 "international premieres.''

A lineup of international stars and filmmakers has also been promised, with Hollywood's Willem Dafoe and Bollywood beauty Aishwarya Rai the latest to join a list that includes American director Oliver Stone, French actress Binoche and up-and-coming Chinese star Tang Wei.

Legendary Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami will head the festival's Asian Film Academy which runs a training program for 16 young filmmakers.

The main competition section at PIFF is the New Currents award for first- or second-time Asian filmmakers and the jury to decide the prize will be led by Japanese costume designer Wada Emi, who won an Oscar for her work on Akira Kurosawa Akira's Ran (1986).

The festival will be opened by Chinese director Zhang Yimou's Under the Hawthorn Tree, a return to drama for the man who staged the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

15th Pusan International Film Festival
October 7-15
Various venues
Pusan, South Korea