Director Im Kwon-taek (임권택) has long been recognised as one of the most significant contributors within the Korean film industry, helming 101 films since his career began in 1936. At this year’s 18th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), director Im is due to be honoured with a special hand-printing ceremony and a staggering retrospective that includes 71 of his films.
Fly High, Run Far: The Making of Korean Master Im Kwon-taek is a special program dedicated to the master director. In an unprecedented move and to accommodate so many films, the retrospective will begin on September 23rd – a full 10 days before BIFF officially begins.
The screenings are due to take place at the futuristic Busan Cinema Center, with the retrospective opening with 1981’s Mandala (만다라), often cited as director Im’s breakthrough film. From his early black and white work in the 1960s through to his more recent output in 2010 the celebration chronicles the director’s career, however as some films have either been lost or suffered decay unfortunately not all 101 films can be showcased. The event will also feature a number of special guest visits from high profile filmmakers, actors and academics at selective showings. The retrospective is co-hosted by the Korean Film Archive, Busan International Film Festival, Dongseo University Im Kwon Taek Film Archive, and Busan Cinema Center. For the full listing of the program, please see the official Busan Cinema Center website here (Korean).
During the festival itself 9 of director Im’s films will be screened. Guest visits by film professionals including Lee Chang-dong, Hong Sang-soo Kim Tae-yong and more will also occur during BIFF. Please see below for a profile of each film.
Fly High, Run Far: The Making of Korean Master Im Kwon-taek
Chunhyang (춘향뎐) – (2000)
Based on the classic Korean tale (most recently made as erotic drama The Servant (방자전)), director Im infuses his version with traditional Korean pansori (folk performance). The story depicts lovers Chunhyang and Mongryong who are separated, yet when Chunhyang is tortured by a corrupt official, Mongryong comes back for revenge.
Come, Come, Come Upward (아제아제 바라아제) – (1989)
The different paths taken by two Buddhist nuns on their quest for enlightenment are the subject of this 1989 classic. While one nun seeks it through inner practices, the other searches amongst other people, with both enduring hardships on their journeys.
Fly High, Run Far (개벽) – (1991)
Set during the Joseon Dynasty in the mid-19th century, Fly High, Run Far depicts a land in turmoil as the new religion of Donghak is embraced by the people yet rejected by the aristocracy. Following the execution of Donghak’s founder a new leader emerges, yet he quickly discovers the hardships of his new position within the royal court.
The General’s Son (장군의 아들) – (1990)
A rare action film by director Im. The story explores the ramifications of a fight between Korean theater worker Doo-han and a Japanese student during 1930s occupied Korea. When Doo-han becomes something of a national hero after his victory, consequences emerge.
Mismatched Nose (짝코) – (1980)
In this 1980 classic, director Im blurs the boundaries between societal notions of good and bad. When a former police officer finds himself in difficult times and is forced to become a tramp, he discovers a criminal he pursued is also in the same situation when they meet at a homeless shelter.
Seize the Precious Sword (삼국대협) – (1972)
The oldest film in the retrospective, the film depicts a swordsman who travels to Japan with his two warrior friends on a singular mission – to find and return a Korean national treasure.
Seopyeonje (서편제) – (1993)
One of director Im’s most famous films, Seopyeonje employs traditional Korean pansori in his melodrama about a reunited brother and sister, and the tragedies that befall a Korean community. Set against a backdrop of beautiful landscapes the film is an enduring classic and was a huge box office success, even gaining an invitation to the Cannes Film Festival.
Ticket (티켓) – (1986)
In this somewhat controversial film, director Im explores the lives of coffee girls who work in a seaside town. As well as coffee the women provide extra sexual services euphemistically called ‘a ticket.’ The shocking and occasionally brutal treatment the women endure exposes one of the darker areas of Korean society.
Village in the Mist (안개마을) – (1982)
Sexuality and desire are explored in director Im’s Village in the Mist. The film tells the story of Seoulite Soo-ock who travels to the countryside to teach at an elementary school. Yet she is shocked to discover a sexual connection between the local vagabond and the women in the village, even though all the men claim he is impotent.