American Film Market 2003

FEATURE by Harriet Robbins

LOS ANGELES -- I have attended the American Film Market ever since its inception 23 years ago. As the world turns so does the market, held annually in a beachfront hotel in Santa Monica.

It's the place where the business of film is treated seriously. This year more than 7,000 film and TV distributors, producers, buyers, agents and performers from 70 countries attended the market, award show, various seminars and screenings.

Among the recently showcased feature films available for world-wide distribution are a number of South Korean films.

The Korean film business is on the rise. Last year 107 million tickets were sold in Korea, the most in thirty years. The number of screens has jumped from 500 in 1997 to 900 today.

The boom is a result of the Korean government's quota policy on domestic films. Newly elected president Roh Moo-Hyun has backed the policy, which requires movie-houses to screen Korean-made features for a minimum of 106-146 days a year. There are also plans to invite Canada and France to form a cultural production group.

U.S. film companies have objected to this protectionist policy, but there is no question that it has been a boon for the native film industry.

The result has been an outpouring of excellent features, many of which were on tap at AFM 2003. The Kangjegyu Co., for example, introduced BLUE, the first marine action film to receive the full support of the Korean navy. It tells the story of three friends on a mission to rescue a sunken submarine.

Cinema Service Co. promoted SASSY GIRL, a romantic comedy that shifts between 1960 and the present.

C.J. Entertainment offered RESURRECTION OF THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL, Korea's most expensive film production to date. Directed by Jang Sun-Woo, it's a sci-fi action tale in which a computer game genius enters a fantastical world to save "the freezing little match girl."

K M Culture had a variety of films ranging from action to mystery, and Mirovision offered animation, drama and horror films. There were numerous other Korean vendors as well. Business was brisk at the AFM for the Republic of South Korean.