The London Korean Film Festival 2012

The 2012 installment of the London Korean Film Festival begins this coming weekend, opening on the 1st of November and continuing through to the 11th in the capital before taking the show on the road to Glasgow, Bristol and Bournemouth. This year has been incredible for Korean cinema and the quality of films produced is reflected in the stellar line-up.

The opening gala, to be held at he high profile Odeon West End, will feature the most successful film in Korean cinematic history – The Thieves (도둑들). Following the screening will be a Q&A session with director Choi Dong-hoon (최동훈) and actor Kim Yoon-seok (김윤석), who has appeared in such prolific films including The Chaser (추격자), The Yellow Sea (황해), and Punch (완득이). Bookending the festival on the 10th of November will be the hugely – and still currently – successful film Masquerade (광해, 왕이 된 남자), also featuring an Q&A with director Choo Chang-min (추창민) and superstar Lee Byeong-Heon (이병헌), who is in London filming action film Red 2.

The festival will also highlight several other of the notable films produced in Korea this year, including science-fiction disease thriller Deranged (연가시) about a new form of parasite that spreads chaos across Korea, comedy-drama Dancing Queen (댄싱퀸) involving a middle-aged woman who attempts to realize her life-long ambitions, and poetically romantic Eungyo (AKA A Muse) (은교) which explores the love that develops between an aging poet and a 17 year old girl. Also present are All About My Wife (내 아내의 모든 것), a comedy about a man desperately trying to divorce his nagging other half, table tennis drama As One (코리아) which is based on the true events of the Northern and Southern teams forced to play together at the 1991 Championships, and Top Gun-inspired action film R2B: Return to Base (R2B: 리턴투베이스).

The Thieves (도둑들)

The Thieves (도둑들) will open the festival

Animated films are ably represented in the form of stark, poignant drama King of Pigs (돼지의 왕) about a reunion of school friends that forces old secrets to light, and indie hit Padak (파닥파닥) involving a fish attempting to escape his fate at a sushi restaurant and return to the ocean. Katuri – A Story of a Mother Bird (엄마 까투리), will also feature.

To honour director Choi Dong-hoon (최동훈), as well as opening the festival with his latest success The Thieves there will also be a retrospective of his work including The Big Swindle (범죄의 재구성), Tazza: The High Rollers (타짜), and Jeon Woo-chi : The Taoist Wizard (전우치).

For the full line-up and to purchase tickets for the event, please head over to the official London Korean Film Festival website, or alternatively visit Hangul Celluloid who first broke news of the line up and sports a host of reviews and interviews with those within the industry.

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Sistar performed some of their hits and dance routines to an adoring crowd

The 17th Busan International Film Festival

BIFF 2012 at Haeundae (해운대) Beach

BIFF 2012 at Haeundae (해운대) Beach

While most film festivals promote themselves as bigger and better every year, the 17th installment of the Busan International Film Festival is certainly living up to the hype. With the first non-Korean hosting the opening ceremony in the form of Chinese actress Tang Wei, with the festival spread out across 10 days (as opposed to 9 in 2011), and with 132 world and international premieres, BIFF 2012 has done an incredible job in cementing itself as one of the key film festivals throughout Asia. The popularity of this years installment is acutely visible, as online tickets sold out rapidly whilst the 20% allocation at the event disappeared by mid-morning.

There were a lot of events to be had during the opening weekend of BIFF 2012. While Haeundae Beach was the host for several interviews and performances, the screenings themselves also often sported Q & A sessions with directors, producers and/or the stars themselves to an unprecedented degree in BIFF’s history. It was also common to walk into or past coffee shops and see film-makers meeting and conversing, creating a very relaxed atmosphere with their approachable demeanor.

On Friday the 5th, a private party was held for those that work within the film industry as well as journalists, while the cast of Kim Ki-duk‘s latest feature, the incredibly successful Pieta (피에타), were also in attendance.

Actress Jo Yeo-jeong co-hosts the Lotte Red Secret Party

Actress Jo Yeo-jeong co-hosts the Lotte Red Secret Party

Saturday the 6th saw two events take place. The Lotte Night Party – Red Secret was hosted by The Servant (방자전) actress Jo Yeo-Jeong and gave awards to those who had contributed significantly over the past year. Among those receiving awards were notable screenwriters and actors, including host Jo Yeo-Jeong and A Muse (은교) actress Kim Go-eun (김고은). Also in attendance were actor/director Yoo Ji-tae (유지태) and his wife, as well as Ahn Seong-gi (안성기), and former BIFF director Kim Dong-ho (김동호). Yet the most memorable event at the Red Secret party was the arrival of now-global-megastar Psy, who performed several of his hits as well as the groundbreaking Gangnam Style to a rapturous crowd.

Psy performs for the emphatic crowd

Psy performs for the emphatic crowd

The second party of the night was held by CJ Entertainment, and the style was markedly different.

Sistar performed some of their hits and dance routines to an adoring crowd

Sistar performed some of their hits and dance routines to an adoring crowd

In terms of performers parody group The Wonderboys were amazing fun as well as providing some great music to warm up the crowd for the main act – Kpop superstars Sistar. The quartet sang some of their most famous hits accompanied by their signature dance moves that had the crowd chanting their names. In attendance were a variety of people involved in the film industry including REALies president Kim Ho-seong and renowned editor Lee Sang-min. There were also a whole host of film and television stars, including the cast of period drama-comedy Masquerade (광해, 왕이 된 남자) – Lee Byeong-heon (이병헌), Ryoo Seung-ryong (류승룡) and Jang Gwang (장광) – as well as TV star Kim Min-jong (김민종) and As One (코리아 ) actor Lee Jong-suk (이종석).

Actress Go A-ra was a delight

Actress Go A-ra was a delight

However a genuine highlight of the night was actress Go Ah-ra (고아라) (star of Pacemaker (페이스메이커) and Papa (파파)), who was incredibly kind, courteous and humble, giving genuine insight into the differences in working in the Korean film and television industries.

Sunday night saw the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) event, which saw fellow The Good, The Bad, The Weird (좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈) actors Song Kang-ho (송강호) and Jeong Woo-seong (정우성) attending, in addition to a myriad of other stars and members of the film industry.

And so ended the first weekend of the 2012 Busan International Film Festival. With the incredible selection of films, variety of events in which the public could have access to members of the film industry, and unprecedented popularity, it is difficult to imagine how BIFF will grow and improve in with future installments but one thing is for certain – the BIFF team will undoubtedly find a way.

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PiFan 2012

PiFan 2012 – Opening Ceremony

PiFan 2012

PiFan 2012

On Thursday, 19th of July the opening ceremony of the Bucheon Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) got underway in glamorous style.

Luckily the torrential rain held off for the red carpet event, which saw an interesting mixture of  up-and-coming stars like PiFan Lady Park Ha-seon, and A-listers, such as Ha Ji-won, Ahn Seong-gi and Ha Jeong-woo. All the stars in attendance looked stunning in their various gowns and suits, making fans squeal with delight. Having been to the film festivals in both Busan and Jeonju, I was unsure of how Bucheon would carve out a unique identity against such heavyweights, and it interestingly seems to occupy somewhat of a middle ground between the two – lavish, but not to the extremes of Busan, and intimate, though not in the independent manner of Jeonju.

PiFan Lady Park Ha-seon (박하선)

PiFan Lady Park Ha-seon (박하선)

Ahn Seong-gi (안성기)

Ahn Seong-gi (안성기)

Ha Ji-won (하지원)

Ha Ji-won (하지원)

Ha Jeong-woo (하정우)

Ha Jeong-woo (하정우)

After posing for cameras and conducting brief interviews, the stars all entered the Bucheon Gymnasium for a spectacular show and an awards ceremony, which was then followed by the premiere of Horror Stories (무서운 이야기). The film is highly appropriate given that the festival focuses on genre films, and generally seemed to go down well with the audience. Horror Stories (무서운 이야기) is an interesting take on the horror genre as four different directors have amalgamated their work into a coherent whole, as a young girl must tell horror stories to her kidnapper in a desperate attempt to save her life.

The PiFan awards ceremony and screening of 'Horror Stories'

The PiFan awards ceremony and screening of ‘Horror Stories’

After the screening there was a special dinner event for celebrities and press, where I was fortunate enough to (briefly) share a table and some makkoli with director Kim Han-min and Japanese actor Ryohei Otani, who were a delight. Still hot from their success on Arrow, the Ultimate Weapon (최종병기 활), they informed me that their new film, based on famed Admiral Yi-Sun-shin, was due to start filming this winter and will certainly be one to watch out for upon release.

For the full photo gallery, please visit the official facebook page here.

Festival News Festivals 2012