Director Hong's father always seemed to be on a journey, even in death

My Father’s Emails (아버지의 이메일) – ★★★☆☆

My Father's Emails (아버지의 이메일)

My Father’s Emails (아버지의 이메일)

My Father’s Emails (아버지의 이메일) is a lovingly told documentary with an incredible premise. Following her estranged father’s death, director Hong Jae-hee (홍재희) finally decides to read the 43 emails he had sent shortly before he passed away. Initially director Hong had ignored the emails; after years experiencing her father’s alcoholism and domestic abuse, there was little reason to open them. Yet the emails were intriguing, not only as her father was a far cry from being technologically competent but also as she was the only family member to receive them. The contents of the emails were of enormous surprise for the director as her previously reclusive father had written an autobiography of sorts, articulating startling events that forged him into the man she knew.

Fascinated about the father she once despised, director Hong begins exploring his past and his decisions so inherently tied to Korean history. Yet in her quest to understand she is also forced to confront the family trauma that still proves extremely raw for her mother and siblings.

Director Hong's father often worked abroad in a bid to achieve his dreams

Director Hong’s father often worked abroad in a bid to achieve his dreams

One of the great strengths of My Father’s Emails lies in the way director Hong’s father made his life choices in conjunction with pivotal events in recent Korean history. In portraying his formative years and the national issues that influenced him, the documentary therefore becomes not only a personal and intimate portrait of a man struggling to find his way in the world but also takes on an historical significance. Hong combines her startling realisations from the emails about a man she barely knew with interviews of those close to him, old photographs, and occasional reconstructions, all of which bring her father’s journey vividly to life. His arduous migration from North Korea as a penniless teenager through to the successes and failures of his business ventures both domestic and abroad paint a fascinating portrait of the era, and the soul-destroying difficulties endured by those attempting to create a better life. Indeed, there is such a wealth of intriguing information regarding this period that the incredibly fast pace Hong employs to such scenes is puzzling and a tad frustrating. Events are rapidly introduced before moving on to the next, and a slower pace with greater depth would have made the connection with her father – and Korean history – much stronger.

Director Hong does however slow things down when exploring the family trauma left in her father’s wake. The frank interviews with her long-suffering mother as they discuss his alcoholism and domestic abuse is moving and intimate, while the anger displayed by Hong’s siblings clearly articulate the legacy he constructed due to his addiction. Yet what makes these scenes so interesting is that Hong continues to probe for answers as to the cause of her father’s depression and behaviour, refusing to simply judge and desperate to finally understand the man whom she had previously hated for most of her life. It’s a powerful message, and one that Hong captures with sincerity.

Director Hong's father always seemed to be on a journey, even in death

Director Hong’s father always seemed to be on a journey, even in death

My Father’s Emails (아버지의 이메일) is an intimate documentary with a fascinating premise. In exploring the 43 emails sent by her father after his death, director Hong Jae-hee (홍재희) attempts to understand her estranged parental figure. The film is a great examination not only of her father but of recent Korean history, to which his decisions, successes and failures were so inherently tied to, and which in turn formed the basis for tragic family trauma. While it has pacing issues and is somewhat of a documentary of two halves, My Father’s Emails is a moving and sincere account of Hong’s desire to better understand a man she barely knew.

★★★☆☆

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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