Jeon Chan-il (전찬일) introduces Dance Town (댄스 타운)

LKFF Day 3 – Mise-en-scene 1, Detective K (조선명탐정: 각시투구꽃의 비밀) and Dance Town (댄스 타운)

Protestors stand up to police at Trafalgar Square

Protestors stand up to police at Trafalgar Square

Day 3 of the London Korean Film Festival was based solely at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), with a backdrop of anti-capitalist protests through the Trafalgar Square and the Westminster area. Except for the film screenings themselves, it was a fairly uneventful day.

First was a showing entitled ‘Mise-en-scene’, which comprised of short films including Park Chan-kyong‘s (박찬경) and Park Chan-wook‘s (박찬욱) Night Fishing (파란만장), Negligence of Duty (Social Service Agent), PromiseHideout and City. 

Detective K (조선명탐정: 각시투구꽃의 비밀) was the second screening, a comedy set during the Joseon Dynasty about corrupt government officials.

Jeon Chan-il (전찬일) introduces Dance Town (댄스 타운)

Jeon Chan-il (전찬일) introduces Dance Town (댄스 타운)

Lastly was festival favorite Dance Town (댄스 타운), but before it began, film critic and festival programmer Jeon Chan-il (전찬일) introduced the film. He informed the audience that Dance Town was the third film in a trilogy, preceded by Mozart Town (모차르트 타운, 2008) and Animal Town (애니멀 타운, 2009). The films examine city life in a low-budget, social realist aesthetic for which director Jeon Kyu-hwan (전규환) has become renowned. Dance Town is something of a festival darling, as the film has been invited to several notable international festivals and received plenty of awards and critical acclaim. Jeon Chan-il explained that he and the director are friends, and that Jeon Kyu-hwan wishes for audiences to form opinions of Dance Town in a non-political fashion, and to focus on the characters and situations that arise. This is/was easier said than done, as the film is extremely critical in its examination of the society/culture in Seoul and the governmental treatment of refugees.

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Festival News Festivals 2011
The Korean Cinema Forum debates the industry

LKFF Day 2 – Korean Cinema Forum, Sunny (써니), and The Front Line (고지전)

The Korean Cultural Centre in London

The Korean Cultural Centre in London

Day 2 of the London Korean Film Festival kicked off at the Korean Cultural Centre, which is just around the corner from Trafalgar Square.

The Korean Cinema Forum was chaired by Tony Rayns, and he was joined by director Kim Han-min (김한민), lecturer and author Dr. Choi Jin-hee (최진희), and film critic and festival programmer Jeon Chan-il (전찬일). The forum was an interesting discussion about the Korean film industry, however it was severely hampered by time constraints so that only 2 questions from the audience were taken. The main points from the forum were:

  • Dr. Choi Jin-hee claimed she believes Korean cinema is not going through a ‘Korean New Wave’, as the ‘Korean Wave’ generally refers to the period in the 1990s (and perhaps the early 2000s). Instead, she posited that this period is more likely a ‘Korean Renaissance.’ However, Jeon Chan-il slightly disagreed with this term, as while he acknowledged the output was changing, he felt it wasn’t a radical enough change to warrant a label of such magnitude. Kim Han-min diplomatically straddled both arguments, claiming that Korean films are constantly changing due to the nature of the industry as it is constantly redefining and restructuring itself.
The Korean Cinema Forum debates the industry

The Korean Cinema Forum debates the industry

  • At this point chairman Tony Rayns provided a context for the discussion, asserting that it’s important to be aware of how Korean history has shaped the industry. He pointed to 1993 as a pivotal year as the military government, which highly regulated and censored media production, changed into a democratic ‘people’s government’, when the regulations were dropped. Yet even with this new freedom, Korean producers didn’t have the skills and experience to make films, and so the industry floundered somewhat until it had been restructured. Jeon Chan-il slightly disagreed on the date, stating 1992 was actually the beginning of change in the industry.
  • A member of the audience asked why the Korean film industry was so fixated on producing ‘blockbusters’, as it was often the mid-level budgeted films that were so successful. The questions took 25 minutes (!) to answer, but generally the panel agreed that companies that tried to produce blockbusters often went bankrupt, while low/mid-level budget films were often sleeper hits, including Kim Han-min’s Arrow, The Ultimate Weapon (최종병기 활) and Sunny (써니 ). Kim Han-min also claimed that sometimes Korean audiences were fickle and unpredictable, so it is difficult to determine what will be a successful/profitable film. Dr. Choi Jin-hee referred to the power of word-of-mouth, which is one of the main reasons why films such as Silenced (도가니) and Sunny were so popular.
  • A final question from the audience asked how a fledging director/producer could get the funding for a project in Korea. Kim Han-min stated that there are various routes, including self-finance, internships, and scholarships amongst others. Dr. Choi Jin-hee also pointed out that screen writing competitions are a good way of entering the industry, as auteur Kim Jee-woon (김지운) found success via this avenue.

    Dr. Daniel Martin introduces the 'North and South' debate

    Dr. Daniel Martin introduces the ‘North and South’ debate

Next was the option to either stay at the centre to watch Kim Han-min’s Hand Phone (핸드폰), or to travel to the Institute of Contemporary Arts to view Sunny (써니 ). I opted for the latter. The cinema screen/room was quite small, but helped to create an intimate atmosphere. The film was incredibly well received by the audience, who were very vocal in their praise of the film and applauded during the final credits.

Following this, was a screening of Korean war film The Front Line (고지전). Prior to the screening, Dr. Daniel Martin gave a brief but informative introduction to the ways in which the North and South of Korea have been represented in Korean cinema. He pointed out that not all Korean films deal with these issues as many non-Koreans believe, but that the films that are produced are of high quality. Dr. Martin highlighted that the representation of the north has changed, as the vilification ceased a long time ago even as far back as 1954. Instead, films often posit that very little separates the people of each country, and that themes of ‘brotherhood’ or common goals are emphasised.

Dr. Martin then introduced The Front Line which also proved popular with the audience, with some members visibly wiping away tears as they left the cinema.

Festival News Festivals 2011
LKFF Day 1 - SHINee fans show their devotion

LKFF Day 1 – SHINee, War of the Arrows, and Q + A with Kim Han-min (김한민)

The London Korean Film Festival began today on a rather overcast and wet Thursday in Leceister Square.

LKFF Day 1 - SHINee fans show their devotion

LKFF Day 1 – SHINee fans show their devotion

The festivities began with a concert by Kpop sensations SHINee. As you may have heard, the furore surrounding the group resulted in the Odeon website crashing due to demand, and even despite this the tickets were still sold out within an hour. The fans were in high spirits, dancing and singing while they queued for hours. Also noteworthy was that so many people from different cultural backgrounds attended the concert, which is a testament to not only SHINee’s appeal and the influence of the Korean Wave, but London’s multiculturalism as well.

SHINee fans perform for the crowd

SHINee fans perform for the crowd

After the concert, the opening gala (and European premiere) commenced. But before Arrow, The Ultimate Weapon (최종병기 활) began, SHINee joined the audience (leading to most of the girls being told to remain in their seats), and director Kim Han-min (김한민) humbly introduced his film and stated he would stay after the credits for an audience Q +A. Arrow is an action/adventure film set during the era of the Manchurian invasions of Korea. When the Manchurians attack a village and steal a bride on her wedding day, it’s up to her brother and husband-to-be to track down the soldiers and retrieve her. The film was incredibly well-received by the audience, judging by the laughter/gasps during the film and the thanks given to the director directly after.

Tony Rayns poses questions for director Kim Han-min

Tony Rayns poses questions for director Kim Han-min

Next was the Q + A session with director Kim Han-min, who was very humble and polite throughout. During the event, the following interesting pieces of news were revealed:

  • Arrow, The Ultimate Weapon (최종병기 활) is intended as the 1st in a trilogy of tales set in the 16th century.
  • Park Hae-il (박해일) initially rejected the role of Nam-i (남이); but with persuasion from director Kim Han-min, he signed on to the film. Kim Han-min joked that thanks to his influence, Park Hae Il is now rich and famous.
  • Kim Han-min is keen on sports, and regularly does yoga and cycling.
  • He shot Arrow, The Ultimate Weapon (최종병기 활) within 4 months, and it debuted in Korea a month later – quite an astonishingly short time span.
  • He admitted that he is often quite a controlling director, but with Arrow he had a wonderful team and was less so; he also plans to work with the same team again on future projects.
  • American film production companies are interested in buying the rights to Arrow, The Ultimate Weapon (최종병기 활) and re-making it set in Europe – Kim Han-min expressed his dislike of this idea, and vowed to fight it as much as he can.
Festival News Festivals 2011
Stockholm International Film Festival 2011

Stockholm International Film Festival to Screen 6 Korean Films

From the 9-20th of November, the Stockholm International Film Festival (SIFF) will showcase over 170 films from 44 different countries.

Stockholm International Film Festival 2011

Stockholm International Film Festival 2011

According to the official press release, festival director Git Scheynius claimed the 22nd edition of the event,

“is the meeting point for next generation’s film creators. Our 22nd program is fully loaded with strong titles and fresh newcomers and this year we are happy to present more female directors than ever.”

As part of the ‘Asian Images’ category, 4 films will represent the Korean industry. Kim Ki Duk‘s Arirang (아리랑), which won the ‘Un Certain Regard’ at Cannes earlier this year, will be screened alongside Dance Town (댄스 타운), The Day He Arrives (북촌 방향), and The Yellow Sea (황해). All 4 of these films have been touring the international festival circuit this year, and are being well received by audiences and critics alike.

In the ‘Twilight Zone’ category, tongue-in-cheek B-movie Invasion of the Alien Bikini (에일리언 비키니) will be screened, as well as action/comedy Bloody Fight in Iron Rock Valley (철암계곡의 혈투).

Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy will open the festival, while Pedro Almodóvar‘s The Skin I Live In will close it.

Isabelle Huppert will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award alongside her new film, and Alejandro González Iñárritu will claim the Visionary Award.

For more information, visit the official site (here), the facebook page (here), and the official Kobiz report (here).

For a cheeky bit of fun, see below for the trailer of Invasion of Alien Bikini.

Festival News Festivals 2011
Cork Film Festival

Cork Film Festival 2011 to screen 2 Korean Films

Cork Film Festival

Poster for the Cork Film Festival, designed by Jimmy Lawlor

From November 6-13th, the Corona Cork Film Festival (CFF) will get underway, celebrating Irish filmmakers and also showcasing international films.

The festival opening gala will be Like Crazy (USA, 2011) which received the Grand Jury prize at Sundance Film Festival, while Toomelah (Australia, 2011, Official Selection Un Certain Regard at Cannes) will close the event. Highlights will also include a focus on Romanian Short Films, an exploration of the Japanese Film Festival 2011, and a retrospective on Portuguese filmmaker Edgar Pera.

As for the offers from Korea, CFF will screen  Jeon Kyu Hwan‘s (전규환Dance Town (댄스 타운) and Hong Sang Soo‘s (홍상수)  The Day He Arrives (북촌 방향). Both films have been making waves internationally through festivals during the past few months.

See here for the incredibly designed interactive festival programme.

Also, as a taster for the CFF, see below for trailer of The Day He Arrives.

Festival News Festivals 2011
TIFF Tokyo 2011

Tokyo International Film Festival 2011 to Show Variety of Korean Films

TIFF Tokyo 2011

TIFF Tokyo 2011

The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF), which runs from the 22nd – 30th of October, will play host to a variety of Korean films.

Monster movie Sector 7 (7광구) featuring Ha Ji Won (하지원) will be screened, as will international favorite The Yellow Sea (황해). In addition, sci-fi drama Two Rabbits in Osaka and romantic-drama One Shining Day (눈부신 하루) will also be showcased in the ‘Winds of Asia-Middle East – SUGINO Kiki: Muse of the Asian Indie Cinema’ category. This section will be a celebration of actress Sugino Kiki.

As part of the ‘Winds of Asia-Middle East – Discovering Asian Cinema: Film History A La Carte’, the newly restored Kim Ki Young 1961 classic Hyeon-hae-tan Knows (현해탄은 알고 있다 ) will be screened.

For the full Kobiz report, please visit here.

Festival News Festivals 2011
LKFF Day 1 - Fans queue for SHINee

SHINee (샤이니) fans crash Odeon server for London Korean Film Festival 2011

The London Korean Film Festival is due to commence November 3rd

When the London Korean Film Festival announced that SHINee (샤이니) would be opening the 2011 event, fans clamored for information about purchasing tickets. The official facebook page quickly became awash with fans desperate for information. However, after it was announced that the tickets were on sale, the Odeon server crashed due to the unprecedented demand. Both the LKFF and Odeon have said that once the server is up and running again, tickets will be available to purchase (here).

SHINee at LKFF 2011

SHINee have also made a short greeting film about visiting the festival, and how they are excited to meet British fans (here). After the concert, it has been reported that the group will then watch the opening film  War of the Arrows (최종병기 활) (aka Arrow: The Ultimate Weapon).

The LKFF runs from November 3rd – November 17th, and will showcase some of the latest blockbusters and classic films from Korea. There will also be competitions for fans to enter and win prizes. For more information, visit the official LKFF page, the LKFF facebook page, and Hanguk Yeonghwa’s reports (here and here).

Festival News Festivals 2011