Actress Gong Hyo-jin is wonderfully charismatic as Yeong-hee

WFFIS 2013: Quick Fire Reviews 1

The first in a series of quick-fire reviews from the 15th Seoul Women’s Film Festival, 2013:

You Are More Than Beautiful (그녀의 연기)

You Are More Than Beautiful (그녀의 연기)

You Are More Than Beautiful (그녀의 연기) – 8/10

Director Kim Tae-yong’s (김태용) You Are More Than Beautiful is a wonderfully charismatic short film, due wholly to the performance of Gong Hyo-jin (공효진). The story involves Jeju Islander – and singleton – Cheol-su, who returns to the island upon hearing that his elderly father is seriously ill. To ease his father’s suffering Cheol-su hires actress Young-hee (Gong) to play the role of his fiancee, so that he may leave this world without worrying about his son. While it certainly sounds like weighty subject matter, Gong’s charisma and grace elevate the film into a heartfelt comedy-drama as her playful personality turns all forms of negativity into keen optimism. Indeed, her rendition of traditional Korean opera is poignantly moving and uplifting, emphasising her caliber as an actress.  As one of the few directors in contemporary Korea cinema featuring women in prominent roles, Kim Tae-yong does incredibly well in simply allowing Gong to act, while his vision captures the Jeju scenery beautifully. A lovely short film.

My Place (마이 플레이스)

My Place (마이 플레이스)

My Place (마이 플레이스) – 9/10

Having already seen My Place at the Jeonju International Film Festival, could director Park Moon-chil’s (박문칠) documentary have the same resonance on a repeated viewing? Absolutely. Experiencing director Park’s evolving perspective on his family is consistently compelling and entertaining, as he changes from a man worried about his sister’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy to a man who comes to admire her strength of character. The personal family trauma that he places on screen is sincere and poignant, and director Park never shies away from the more difficult – and defining – periods from their history. He balances the representation of each family member incredibly well, simultaneously caring yet objective, allowing for each person to openly convey their psychology. An excellent documentary about family hardship and the desire to set things right.

Pluto (명왕성)

Pluto (명왕성)

Pluto (명왕성) – 9/10

Pluto is, quite simply, an excellent film. Director Shin Su-won’s (신수원) second feature length film is a brilliant exploration of the enormous pressure students experience within the Korean education system, and how the competitive nature to join a prestigious university forges a psychologically unbalanced generation. Director Shin’s vision shines throughout with some truly wonderful shots and compositions, articulating the fragile mental states of the protagonists by featuring superb use of the mise-en-scene. Some critics took issue with manner in which the film changes tone from high school drama to cop thriller, yet while the point is valid the evolving aesthetics and conventions do nothing to dampen the power of the story. In fact in doing so, the potency of the drama is elevated as adult institutions are held accountable, while the inclusion of thriller conventions should guarantee a more mainstream appeal. A powerful drama with an important social message, Pluto is certainly one of the best films of the year and it will very interesting to see audience reaction when it’s released nationwide in July.

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Festival News International Women's Film Festival in Seoul (서울국제여성영화제) Korean Festivals 2013 Reviews
The 15th International Women's Film Festival in Seoul

WFFIS 2013: Asian Short Film and Video Competition

The 15th International Women's Film Festival in Seoul

The 15th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul

With so many exciting films centered around the representation of women in cinema and women’s issues, the International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul is gearing up to be a strong event for its 15th installment. Previously, the Korean offerings that have been explored here at Hanguk Yeonghwa emphasise the many and varied roles occupied by women in cinema, in New CurrentsThe Coming of Age in Asian Women Filmmaking and Violence Against Women, and Actress, Muse With A Movie Camera and Queer Rainbow: Queer x Feminism. Each of these categories serve to place a spotlight on the talented female filmmakers that exist within Korea, and their explorations of the great many contemporary challenges they face.

However every great film festival needs a competition, and WFFIS is no different. Here the Korean entries in the Asian Short Film and Video Competition are profiled, with an incredibly broad range of topics featured. From adolescent tales of puberty to desiring a first kiss, from a secret relationship with a foreigner to feminist figures, the short film competition has something strikes a chord with just about every age group.

Asian Short Film and Video Competition

The Bathhouse (목욕탕)

The Bathhouse (목욕탕)

The Bathhouse (목욕탕)

Director: Kim Ji-su (김지수)

Synopsis: This 7 minute animated film explores the sauna culture within Korea, where people soak themselves in pools of different temperatures. The style conveys something of a celebration of women’s bodies.

Beast Is My Middle Name (맹수는 나의 것)

Beast Is My Middle Name (맹수는 나의 것)

Beast Is My Middle Name (맹수는 나의 것)

Director: Kim Bo-ra (김보라)

Synopsis: Female sexuality is explored in this drama as student Ji-ran develops a fascination for Yu-jin’s thighs, and thoughts and fantasies begin to emerge.

BRA (브라자)

BRA (브라자)

BRA (브라자)

Director: Won Jan-di (원잔디)

Synopsis: BRA follows a young girl called Da-young, whose love for a man across the street leads her to desiring a bra like her friend wears. But will it provide confidence?

Chunjung (춘정)

Chunjung (춘정)

Chunjung (춘정)

Director: Lee Mi-rang (이미랑)

Synopsis: Drama Chunjung explores the life of a woman living in contemporary Korea, and her desire to create a home. Her work and relationships are also featured.

The Confession (못 다한 이야기)

The Confession (못 다한 이야기)

The Confession (못 다한 이야기)

Director: Kim Bo-mi (김보미)

Synopsis: This documentary is a heartfelt entry as the narrator explores the pain and loneliness of her separation from her ex-boyfriend.

Dictee-An Homage to Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (딕테-차학경 오마주)

Dictee-An Homage to Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (딕테-차학경 오마주)

Dictee-An Homage to Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (딕테-차학경 오마주)

Director: Mi-young (미영)

Synopsis: Murdered Korean-American artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s life is the subject of this film, as her origins from the Korean War to her immigration to San Francisco to her death.

Fitting Room (피팅룸)

Fitting Room (피팅룸)

Fitting Room (피팅룸)

Director: Oh Jung-mi (오정미)

Synopsis: This 9 minute short portrays the relationship between a mother and her young daughter, how they argue and compromise, and bond through preparation.

Iron Age (철의 시대)

Iron Age (철의 시대)

Iron Age (철의 시대)

Director: Jung Ji-yoon (정지윤)

Synopsis: Documentary Iron Age appears quite symbolic in nature as the film depicts a woman who has a hole in her heart. The film examines the nature of her personality.

Island in Island: More Oceans Inside, and More Islands Inside (섬 안의 섬, 그 안의 더 많은 바다, 그리고 그 안의 더 많은 섬들)

Island in Island: More Oceans Inside, and More Islands Inside (섬 안의 섬, 그 안의 더 많은 바다, 그리고 그 안의 더 많은 섬들)

Island in Island: More Oceans Inside, and More Islands Inside (섬 안의 섬, 그 안의 더 많은 바다, 그리고 그 안의 더 많은 섬들)

Director: Kim Ji-yeong (김지영)

Synopsis: This experimental drama explores the concept of memory.

Mija (미자)

Mija (미자)

Mija (미자)

Director: Jeon Hyo-jeong (전효정)

Synopsis: A secret love with a foreign man is the subject of this drama, as a middle aged woman attempts to go abroad with her lover but encounters problems.

Mira's Will (미라의 의지)

Mira’s Will (미라의 의지)

Mira’s Will (미라의 의지)

Director: Lee Eun-jeong (이은정)

Synopsis: A young woman named Mira decides to work on her sex appeal in order to finally succeed in getting her first kiss, but she takes things a little far.

The Room of Drink (살롱 드 보아)

The Room of Drink (살롱 드 보아)

The Room of Drink (살롱 드 보아)

Director: Sohn Hae-sook (손해숙)

Synopsis: Office worker Joo-hyun is forced to visit a hostess bar when her boss asks for documents, which forces her into an uncomfortable situation.

Sewing Woman (바느질 하는 여자)

Sewing Woman (바느질 하는 여자)

Sewing Woman (바느질 하는 여자)

Director: Woo Jin (우진)

Synopsis: This 3 minute animated short is about a woman who never stops sewing. The aesthetics and stylisation look very interesting.

Festival News International Women's Film Festival in Seoul (서울국제여성영화제) Korean Festivals 2013
The 15th International Women's Film Festival in Seoul

WFFIS 2013: Muse With A Movie Camera and Queer Rainbow

The 15th International Women's Film Festival in Seoul

The 15th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul

With a focus on exploring female issues through cinema, the Women’s Film Festival in Seoul has constructed several different categories in which to emphasise the concerns women face in contemporary society. Previously the New Currents, as well as The Coming of Age in Asian Women Filmmaking and Violence Against Women have been discussed, yet within this feature three different areas are explored. Actress, Muse With A Movie Camera is, as the title suggests, regarding women who have chosen to go behind the camera and direct. The 3 Korean films within this area feature quite diverse work, from high-budget thriller to low-budget short. Queer cinema is acknowledged in Queer Rainbow: Queer x Feminism, although unfortunately there’s only one Korean film exploring such gender and sexuality issues. Finally, Open Cinema is concerned with male directors who explore or represent women’s rights or interests, expanding the representation of women on screen. While there’s just one Korean film in this category, it’s a sublime documentary and one that eloquently fits the goal of broadening women’s issues in cinema.

Actress, Muse With A Movie Camera

The Knitting (뜨개질)

The Knitting (뜨개질)

The Knitting (뜨개질)

Director: Yoon Eun-hye (윤은혜)

Synopsis: Superstar actress Yoon Eun-hye helms short film The Knitting, a drama about a woman struggling to cope following a break-up. Seeking solace through knitting, the memories of the past love prove hard to erase.

The Peach Tree (복숭아 나무)

The Peach Tree (복숭아 나무)

The Peach Tree (복숭아 나무)

Director: Ku Hye-sun (구혜선)

Synopsis: Released in 2012 after receiving its premiere at the Busan Film Festival in 2011, The Peach Tree tells the story of two twin brothers who fall in love with the same woman. While it might initially sound cliched, the narrative takes on a new twist as the twins were born conjoined, sharing the same body, yet have quite different personalities. With lots of symbolism involving the nature of family and the titular peach tree, the romantic drama resonates strongly. See below for the trailer:

Perfect Number (용의자 X)

Perfect Number (용의자 X)

Perfect Number (용의자 X)

Director: Pang Eun-jin (방은진)

Synopsis: Based on Japanese author Keigo Higashino’s novel The Devotion of Suspect X, Perfect Number is the second film by actress-turned-director Pang Eun-jin following Princess Aurora. The thriller depicts a woman who kills her ex-husband following a violent assault, and the gifted mathematician living next door who helps her conceal the crime from the authorities. The film was quite successful when released last year. See below for the trailer:

Queer Rainbow: Queer x Feminism

To Become 1 (2의 증명)

To Become 2 (2의 증명)

To Become 2 (2의 증명)

Directors: Sui (스이), Kay (케이)

Synopsis: The only queer entry in the category explores the life of a middle-aged woman preparing to undergo gender correction treatment. Yet she continually faces obstacles by those around her.

Open Cinema

My Place (마이 플레이스)

My Place (마이 플레이스)

My Place (마이 플레이스)

Director: Emmanuel Moonchil Park (박문칠)

Synopsis:  Winning the Audience Award at the 2013 Jeonju Film Festival, My Place is a wonderful documentary that explores notions of family and women’s rights. Director Park has crafted a loving film based around his sister’s pregnancy. Recommended.

You Are More Than Beautiful (그녀의 연기)

You Are More Than Beautiful (그녀의 연기)

You Are More Than Beautiful (그녀의 연기)

Director: Kim Tae-yong (김태용)

Synopsis: This Korean/Hong Kong co-production by director Kim Tae-yong involves a mysterious meeting.

Festival News International Women's Film Festival in Seoul (서울국제여성영화제) Korean Festivals 2013
The 15th International Women's Film Festival in Seoul

WFFIS 2013: Coming of Age and Violence Against Women

The 15th International Women's Film Festival in Seoul

The 15th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul

In the previous feature on the upcoming 15th Women’s Film Festival in Seoul, the films in the ‘New Currents’ category were discussed and profiled. The films display the festival’s desire to tackle a range of issues related to women from documentaries about pivotal figures, animations involving sexual relations, and more traditional dramatic fare concerning relationships and peer/societal pressure.

Yet other areas of the program also emphasize WFFIS’s ability to give women filmmakers a platform in which to share their perspective on society, and to ‘see the world through women’s eyes.’ In this article two such categories are covered. The ‘Asian Spectrum: The Coming of Age in Asian Women Filmmaking’ focuses on young female visionaries who portray the issues young Asian women face. Meanwhile, ‘Polemics: The Constellation of the Violence Against Women’ explores the different forms of pressure and assaults that women are threatened with and/or experience, and examinations the structures of (gendered) power so often inherent in such debates.

Asian Spectrum: The Coming of Age in Asian Women Filmmaking

Give Me Back My Cat (고양이를 돌려줘)

Give Me Back My Cat (고양이를 돌려줘)

Give Me Back My Cat (고양이를 돌려줘)

Director: Jung Jae-eun (정재은)

Synopsis: When a couple are forced to give their cat Kuma up for adoption,  they are devastated. Luckily their friend is Kuma’s new owner, yet when she refuses to hand the feline back drama ensues.

Polemics: The Constellation of the Violence Against Women

Bad Scene (배드신)

Bad Scene (배드신)

Bad Scene (배드신)

Director: Jeon Go-woon (전고운)

Synopsis: The 18 minute short depicts an unknown actress who lands a role in a film. The catch is that a bed scene is required, and the aspiring performer is conflicted over playing the part well.

Deviation (도착)

Deviation (도착)

Deviation (도착)

Director: Lee Min-beh (이민배)

Synopsis: On the subway Su-jin overhears a celebrity scandal involving a sex-tape. Yet she is also surprised to see her boyfriend being arrested and decides to follow him.

My, No Mercy Home (잔인한 나의, 홈)

My, No Mercy Home (잔인한 나의, 홈)

My, No Mercy Home (잔인한 나의, 홈)

Director: Aori (아오리)

Synopsis: The documentary explores the life of a woman who was sexually abused by her father. When no-one believed her, she ran away and sued him to spare her siblings, with shocking results.

Festival News International Women's Film Festival in Seoul (서울국제여성영화제) Korean Festivals 2013
The 15th International Women's Film Festival in Seoul

WFFIS 2013: The 15th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul – New Currents

The 15th International Women's Film Festival in Seoul

The 15th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul

The 15th installment of the International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul (WFFIS) is due to commence from May the 24th to the 30th, in the trendy Sinchon district of the capital. With the catchphrase, “see the world through women’s eyes!”, the festival celebrates the achievements of female filmmakers throughout the world by screening an eclectic selection of films that focus on women’s issues.

The festival will launch with American director Sally Potter’s Ginger and Rosa, a film that explores the early days of feminism in 1960s London through the experiences of two teenage girls. From there, films from around the world will be shown that will promote and explore a variety of discourses.

For the full list of films you can visit the official website here, but for an in-depth look specifically at the Korean films in the festival – as well as the official WFFIS trailer – please see below.

New Currents Category

Grape Candy (청포도 사탕: 17년 전의 약속)

Grape Candy (청포도 사탕: 17년 전의 약속)

Grape Candy (청포도 사탕: 17년 전의 약속)

Director: Kim Hee-jung (김희정)

Synopsis: Released in 2012, director Kim Hee-jung’s independent drama Grape Candy explores the life of Sun-joo who is busy making preparations for her upcoming wedding. When her fiance is involved in an accident, she bumps into estranged middle school friend So-ra at the hospital and discovers the two are due to embark on a business trip together. Filled with jealousy, Sun-joo joins the trip but in doing so suppressed memories from the past begin to surface. See below for the trailer:

Love Games (연애놀이)

Love Games (연애놀이)

Love Games (연애놀이)

Director: Joung Yu-mi (정유미)

Synopsis: This animated 16 minute short film portrays the different kinds of games that couples play to bring them closer together, from mundane picnic events to more exciting endeavours.

Modern Family (가족시네마 )

Modern Family (가족시네마 )

Modern Family (가족시네마 )

Directors: Shin Su-won (신수원), Lee Soo-yeon (이수연), Kim Seong-ho (김성호), Hong Ji-young (홍지영)

Synopsis: Omnibus film Modern Family is comprised of 4 shorts that examine the family unit. In Circle Line, director Shin Su-won depicts the life of an unemployed middle-aged man. Director Lee Soo-yeon depicts the possible future of motherhood in E.D.571, involving a woman in 2030 who sold her eggs to repay student loans. In Good Company is about pregnant women in the workplace by director Kim Seong-ho. Finally director Hong Ji-young explores family trauma in Star-shaped Stain.

Circle Line (순환선)

Circle Line (순환선)

E.D.571

E.D.571

In Good Company (인 굿 컴퍼니 )

In Good Company (인 굿 컴퍼니 )

Star-shaped Stain (별 모양의 얼룩)

Star-shaped Stain (별 모양의 얼룩)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Father's Emails (아버지의 이메일)

My Father’s Emails (아버지의 이메일)

 My Father’s Emails (아버지의 이메일)

Director: Hong Jae-hee (홍재희)

Synopsis: My Father’s Emails is an autobiographical documentary based on the life of director Hong’s father, who wrote an email detailing his experiences through periods of Korean history.

Nora Noh (노라노)

Nora Noh (노라노)

Nora Noh (노라노)

Director: Kim Sung-hee (김성희)

Synopsis: Fashion designer Nora Noh is the subject of this documentary. Her importance in the world of fashion as the first person in Korea to hold a fashion show, as well as her other contributions, are explored and profiled.

Pluto (명왕성)

Pluto (명왕성)

Pluto (명왕성)

Director: Shin Su-won (신수원)

Synopsis: Festival favourite Pluto has garnered a lot of positive critical response since its premiere at the Busan Film Festival in 2012. The film explores the incredible pressure and bullying that transpires in Korean high schools, as well as the power wielded – and abused – by elite students. While several films have tackled the challenging subject matter, Pluto‘s originality and powerful resonance has led to invitations to international festivals including Hong Kong and Berlin. See the trailer below:

Tour of Duty (거미의 땅)

Tour of Duty (거미의 땅)

Tour of Duty (거미의 땅)

Director: Kim Dong-ryung (김동령), Park Kyoung-tae (박경태)

Synopsis: Documentary Tour of Duty examines a dilapidated camp town that once hosted the US military. Directors Kim and Park follow 3 women, and reveal their secrets and memories.

You Were So Precious (너무 소중했던, 당신)

You Were So Precious (너무 소중했던, 당신)

You Were So Precious (너무 소중했던, 당신)

Director: Baek Mi-young (백미영)

Synopsis: This animated co-production with France portrays an underground world where forgotten things dwell. When a child monk decides to return one to its owner, events are set in motion.

Festival News International Women's Film Festival in Seoul (서울국제여성영화제) Korean Festivals 2013