AFP

BUSAN, S Korea

The 19th Busan International Film Festival opened Thursday with a parade of stars on the red carpet and the screening of a controversial Taiwanese film set against a backdrop of tension with China.

Director Doze Niu fell foul of authorities in Taiwan last year when shooting coming-of-age Cold War drama “Paradise in Service” after he was accused of attempting to smuggle a Chinese national on to a militarily sensitive site.

Niu and Chinese cinematographer Cao Yu have been indicted for the offence and await further action from authorities.

Niu has remained tight-lipped about the incident but told AFP it was “a great honour” to have his film - which follows the story of a boy undertaking military service in preparation for a possible war - selected to open Asia’s biggest film festival.

“There has been a lot of despair and pain in history and I think Chinese people and Korean people share this kind of history and can recognise this part of our history best,” said Niu, speaking before taking to the red carpet. “The Chinese people on the mainland and in Taiwan are one and the same and I hope this film will help pave the way for us to find ways to work for a better future.” Festival director Lee Yong-kwan said he hoped the film might lead to “reconciliation in Asia.”

Two of the film’s stars - Chen Yi-han and Wan Qian - arrived in Busan to learn they had both been nominated in the best supporting actress category at November’s Golden Horse Awards, considered to be Chinese cinema’s version of the Oscars. The film was screened in front of a star-studded opening night crowd that featured Asian A-listers Ken Watanabe, Tang Wei (“Lust, Caution”), Zhang Yimou (“Hero”) and Tadanobu Asano, as well as Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation”) and fellow art-house favourites Bela Tarr and Mohsen Makhmalbaf.