We Will Be Ok (그들이 죽었다) – ★★☆☆☆

We Will Be Ok (그들이 죽었다)

We Will Be Ok (그들이 죽었다)

In late 2012, three wannabe actors decide that they’ve had enough of living a squalid existence while waiting for stardom to arrive, and plan to collaborate together on an independent film. Their expectations and excitement are initially high, yet complications occur during the course of filming that serve to create problems between them. Meanwhile, hysteria involving the end of the world is gathering as the end of the year draws nigh, forcing the trio to consider their final night on Earth.

The rookie director ponders his existence

The rookie director ponders his existence

At recent Korean film festivals a project always seems to arrive that attempts to explore the difficulties and frustrations of independent filmmaking. Each time it becomes increasingly problematic for the production to approach the issues from a new and interesting angle, as well as to make the audience root for the underdogs to succeed, and ultimately, to stand out in an overcrowded arena.

Director Baek Jae-ho (백재호) opts for a familiar approach in We Will Be Ok, choosing to focus on a group of down-on-their-luck aspiring stars, yet underscores the entire film with the 2012 anxieties of armageddon which is a refreshing perspective. The intention is clearly to force the protagonists to confront their mortality and thus spur them into (filmmaking) action, yet while the idea is solid enough it is difficult to really engage and care about whether the actors achieve their dreams of making it big.

Lazy wannabe filmmaker Sang-seok meanders through life

Lazy wannabe filmmaker Sang-seok meanders through life

Primarily this is due to the lack of characterization and a narrative that tends to meander. Main protagonist Sang-seok, as well as friends Tae-hee and Jae-ho (also the director), aren’t compelling characters as they convey a sense of laziness and selfishness rather than determination. Similar approaches appeared in Director’s CUT, and worked well to a certain extent in 2013’s Cheer Up, Mr. Lee due to the comedy underpinning it, yet in We Will Be Ok such wit is absent. The film is occasionally funny however, particularly when the trio attempt to shoot their own indie as they clearly have no idea how to make a film, simply pointing an iPhone and shouting “Action!” without having prepared a storyboard or, for that matter, anything else.

Strangely, after the story trudges along without any real conviction, in the final act We Will Be Ok suddenly becomes an engaging road movie with a situation to invest in, as Sang-seok and karaoke bar girl/friend Lee Hwa take a trip to the coast to enjoy the last sunrise before the end of the world. Their discussions are poignant and revealing, particularly when referring to people who fall through the cracks of society and having a reason to live. It’s a real shame that director Baek didn’t focus his entire film on the great ideas generated within the final act, for as it stands We Will Be Ok is mediocre offering.

We Will Be Ok becomes an interesting road movie in the final act

We Will Be Ok becomes an interesting road movie in the final act

Verdict:

Director Baek Jae-ho’s We Will Be Ok is yet another independent film attempting to explore the difficulties of making it big in the industry, and while it treads familiar ground it offers a refreshing angle by incorporating 2012 anxieties of armageddon. However as the narrative meanders coupled with a distinct lack of character development the film is hard to invest in, yet We Will Be Ok is saved by an engaging road movie-esque final act.

★★☆☆☆

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Busan International Film Festival (제19회 부산국제영화제) Festival News Korean Festivals 2014 Reviews

BIFF 2014 – Gala Presentation, Open Cinema, New Currents, and Documentary Showcase

The 19th Busan International Film Festival

The 19th Busan International Film Festival

It’s almost time for the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) to begin, and as such it’s a great time to check out the Korean productions due to be screened.

While programs such as Korean Cinema Today – Panorama/Vision and Korean Cinema Retrospective: Reminiscing the Timeless Filmmaker, Jung Jin-woo conveniently brings together films from the peninsula for fans to browse, there are also other categories within which Korean films appear, and are well worth seeking out.

Below are some of the exciting new projects from Korean filmmakers being screened at BIFF 2014, handily gathered together for your convenience.

Gala Presentation

Revivre (화장) – director Im Kwon-taek (임권택)

Revivre (화장)

Revivre (화장)

After a 4 year hiatus, film maestro Im Kwon-taek returns with Revivre, his 102nd feature film. The film received very positive responses following its premiere at Toronto, with many critics praising not only a return to form for director Im but also lauding screen legend Ahn Seong-gi for his powerful performance.

Revivre explores the life of senior salaryman (Ahn) whose wife (Kim Ho-jeong) is dying of cancer. However the arrival of a beautiful young new office worker (Kim Gyoo-ri) in his department challenges him for his affections, causing a huge strain on his personal life.

Open Cinema

Cart (카트) – director Boo Ji-young (부지영)

Cart (카트)

Cart (카트)

Cart is the second feature by director Boo Ji-young, and is a timely examination of corporate abuse and the power of protest in contemporary Korea. Featuring an incredible cast including Yeom Jeong-ah, Moon Jeong-hee, Cheon Woo-hee and Kpop star Do Kyeong-soo, Cart was also widely praised at its Toronto premiere for its unflinching take on exploitation and sexism in the Korean workplace.

Mother of two Sun-hee works alongside single mum Hae-mee as cashiers, and are friends with janitor Soon-rae and manager Dong-joon, the only only male representative for the union. When a series of lay-offs begin, the friends band together with the other workers and fight the unfair dismissals.

New Currents

We Will Be Ok (그들이 죽었다) – director Baek Jae-ho (백재호)

We Will Be Ok (그들이 죽었다)

We Will Be Ok (그들이 죽었다)

We Will Be Ok is an independent film following the lives of wannabe filmmakers as they attempt to fulfill their ambitions. It will be interesting to see how director Baek Jae-ho differentiates his film from the other recent examples that have emerged, such as Director’s CUT at JIFF, that also explore the problems of indie filmmaking.

End of Winter (철원기행) – director Kim Dae-hwan (김대환)

End of Winter (철원기행)

End of Winter (철원기행)

Director Kim Dae-hwan’s family drama explores the tensions that exist between relatives following the shock announcement that the father, who is retiring, wants to divorce his wife. Due to heavy snowfall the family must stay together for a few days, and despite all the negative feelings are forced to confront the issues that beset them.

Documentary Showcase

My Fair Wedding (마이 페어 웨딩) – director Jang Hee-seon (장희선)

My Fair Wedding (마이 페어 웨딩)

My Fair Wedding (마이 페어 웨딩)

With gay issues unfortunately still very much taboo in Korea, the wedding of two prominent CEO’s caused plenty of controversy when they tied the knot in 2013. In her third documentary director Jang follows the celebrations and conflicts, as well as the very vocal discrimination, that arise from having a gay wedding in contemporary Korea.

The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol (다이빙벨) – directors Lee Sang-ho (이상호) and Ahn Hye-ryong (안해령)

The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol (다이빙벨)

The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol (다이빙벨)

Aka Diving Bell, the film explores the largely failed recovery effort involved in the Sewol tragedy. Co-directed by journalist Lee and documentary filmmaker Ahn, they approach the controversies in an interrogative manner, and are particularly brave to do so given the clamp down on information and prosecution of those who attempt to uncover the truth.

Little Pond in Main Street (거리 속 작은 연못) – director Lee Kang-gil (이강길)

Little Pond in Main Street (거리 속 작은 연못)

Little Pond in Main Street (거리 속 작은 연못)

Street vendors in Korea are almost like a national institution, they are so widespread and relied upon. In Little Pond in Main Street a group of vendors band together to create a community radio station but come into conflict with other groups,as well as the government trying to shut them down.

Parallel (우리는 썰먜를 탄다) – director Kim Kay (김경만)

Parallel (우리는 썰먜를 탄다)

Parallel (우리는 썰먜를 탄다)

In production for 3 years, Parallel explores the lives of the Korean Paralympic ice hockey team. Despite the country having very little awareness that the team even exists, the athletes continue to train, work hard, and compete against other sporting nations. The film follows their turbulent lives as they strive to live their dreams.

Busan International Film Festival (제19회 부산국제영화제) Festival News Korean Festivals 2014