BiFan 2015 – Korean Feature Films Part 1

BiFan 2015From July 16th~26th, the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BiFan) will commence its 19th edition.

Asia’s biggest genre film extravaganza, BiFan (previously called PiFan) boasts a larger scale than ever before which is sure to please cineastes. Out of the 235 films due to be screened, 62 are world premieres while 61 will receive their Asian debut.

BiFan 2015 hosts an incredible range of programmes including staples such as Bucheon Choice and World Fantastic Cinema, in conjunction with more specialised categories that honour particular filmmakers and creative output as with I’m (not) Sono Sion, Mexican Genre Film Showcase, and Excellent Actor, Nice Guy Simon Yam.

Amongst all the international films to be screened, Korea will also make its presence known through a variety of genre offerings, as well as closing the festival as has occurred in previous years with The Terror Live and My Ordinary Love Story.

To see the Korean films being featured at BiFan, please see below.

For PART 2 of our BiFan profile, please click here.

Closing Film

The Chosen: Forbidden Cave (퇴마: 무녀굴) – director Kim Hui (김휘)

A psychologist must discover a secret to perform an exorcism

A psychologist must discover a secret to perform an exorcism

BiFan 2015 will close with a horror/thriller, based on Shin Jin-oh’s 201- novel ‘Moonyeogool.’ The film follows exorcist/psychologist Jin-myeong as he works on a case to free a client from a potentially dangerous spirit, yet to do so he must uncover a powerful secret. The Chosen is directed by Kim Hui, whose previous work includes Horror Stories 2 and Neighbours, and early buzz is particularly strong.

Bucheon Choice: Feature

Coin Locker Girl (차이나타운) – director Han Jun-hee (한준희)

The matriarch of a criminal empire has big plans

The matriarch of a criminal empire has big plans

Urban crime drama Coin Locker Girl was a surprise hit upon release in April, grossing over $10 million. The film is visually impressive and features a wonderfully transformative performance by Kim Hye-su, as she adopts the role of a crime boss matriarch who turns on an enforcer (Kim Go-eun), and as such finds itself in competition at BiFan. You can read the review here.

Tattooist (타투이스트) – director Lee Seo (이서)

Soo-na notices something strange about a client's tattoo

Soo-na notices something strange about a client’s tattoo

The second Korean film in competition is thriller Tattooist. Soo-na, a beautiful yet somewhat disturbed tattoo artist, is asked to design the mythical character Medusa on a new client’s back. Yet she begins to notice a correlation between the ink and a murder case involving young girls. Tattooist features renowned TV drama actors Yoon Jun-hee and Song Il-gook.

World Fantastic Cinema

Boy From Wonderland (앨리스: 원더랜드에서 온 소년) – director Huh Eun-hee (허은희)

Hye is haunted by nightmares and seeks the truth

Hye is haunted by nightmares and seeks the truth

Appearing to amalgamate fantasy, horror and thriller conventions, Boy From Wonderland depicts nightmare sufferer Hye-joong (Jung So-min) whose dreams have become so severe that they threaten her very life. To find the source of her terrors she travels to a lodge she visited 24 years prior and meets the mysterious Hwan (Hong Jong-hyun).

Malice (멜리스) – director Kim Yong-woon (김용운)

Ga-in's jealousy becomes out of control

Ga-in’s jealousy becomes out of control

Ripley’s Syndrome informs the central premise of director Kim Yong-woon’s thriller, as a young woman becomes obsessed with her best friend’s life and begins to try and assume her very identity, including seducing her husband and stealing her child. Malice stars glamorous actress Hong Soo-ah as the psychologically unstable Ga-in.

Super Origin (시발, 놈 – 인류의 시작) – director Baek Seung-gi (백승기)

Unique beings arise 40,000 years ago

Unique beings arise 40,000 years ago

Director Baek Seung-gi made a name for himself with comedy-fantasy Super Virgin, and he returns with another quirky offering in the form of Super Origin. 40,000 years ago a light appeared in the sky and as a result strange beings appeared in the land, and start to form a civilisation, the likes of which has never been seen before.

The Masters

Angry Painter: Director’s Cut (성난 화가 디렉터스 컷) – director Jeon Kyu-hwan (전규환)

Passion, love and anger inform th epainter's world

Passion, love and anger inform the painter’s world

A co-production between Korea and Estonia, Angry Painter tells the tale of two men who operate as violent bounty hunters. When a US soldier kills one of the men and his girlfriend, the remaining partner goes on a violent rampage for justice that takes him into the heart of Europe. Starring Yun Jun-sang.

For PART 2 of our BiFan profile, please click here.

For the full BiFan screening schedule, please follow the link here.

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Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (제 19회 부천국제판타스틱영화제) Festival News Korean Film Festivals 2015
The 18th Busan International Film Festival

BIFF 2013: Korean Cinema Today – Panorama

The 18th Busan International Film Festival

The 18th Busan International Film Festival

For exciting new Korean films, the Korean Cinema Today program at the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) highlights some of the best and latest productions emerging from the industry.

Korean Cinema Today is separated into two sub-categories – Panorama and Vision. While Vision explores the latest independent films and exciting new filmmaking talent, Panorama showcases some of the big domestic and internationally acclaimed films, as well as more high profile world premieres.

The 14 films in Panorama 2013 contains some of the biggest names working in the industry today. For arthouse fans, Kim Ki-duk’s highly controversial Moebius, as well as two Hong Sang-soo films – Nobody’s Daughter Haewon and Our Sunhi – make appearances. Two directorial debuts are included in the form of superstar Ha Jeong-woo’s Fasten Your Seatbelt, and veteran actor Park Joong-hoon’s Top Star. King of Pigs director Yeon Sang-ho’s latest animation The Fake is featured. There are also exciting new projects that involve crowdfunding, human rights issues, and the debut of K-pop idol Lee Joon from MBLAQ in a lead role.

For the lowdown on all the films within the sub-category, please see below.

Korean Cinema Today – Panorama

Abbi (애비)

Abbi (Twisted Daddy) (애비)

Abbi (Twisted Daddy) (애비)

Director: Jang Hyun-soo (장현수)

Synopsis: Abbi – or rather, Twisted Daddy – is a drama about a father whose dedication to his son becomes out of hand. Working hard to ensure his son can study law and become successful, the aging father risks everything.

Another Family (또 하나의 가족)

Another Family (또 하나의 가족)

Another Family (또 하나의 가족)

Director: Kim Tae-yun (김태윤)

Synopsis: Crowdfunding was sourced to produce this real life legal drama about a woman who contracts leukemia while working at a Samsung factory. The film follows the family’s efforts overcome the disease as well as the corporation responsible.

The Berlin File (베를린)

The Berlin File (베를린)

The Berlin File (베를린)

Director: Ryoo Seung-wan (류승완)

Synopsis: The Berlin File was a big hit upon release earlier his year. With an all-star cast including Ha Jeong-woo and Jeon Ji-hyeon, the action-thriller showcased director Ryoo’s style like never before. For the full review, please click here.

The Fake (사이비)

The Fake (사이비)

The Fake (사이비)

Director: Yeon Sang-ho (연상호)

Synopsis: Following on from his hugely successful film King of Pigs, director Yeon Sang-ho employs his biting cultural critique stylisation to explore corrupted religious officials who are holding a small town to ransom.

Fasten Your Seatbelt (롤러코스터)

Fasten Your Seatbelt (롤러코스터)

Fasten Your Seatbelt (롤러코스터)

Director: Ha Jeong-woo (하정우)

Synopsis: Fasten Your Seatbelt – or ‘Rollercoaster‘ in Korean – marks superstar Ha Jeong-woo’s directorial debut. The comedy sees mismatched characters collide when their plane encounters a typhoon.

God's Eye View (시선)

God’s Eye View (시선)

God’s Eye View (시선)

Director: Lee Jang-ho (이장호)

Synopsis: Lee Jang-ho was a prominent director during the 1970s and ’80s, and after an 18 year hiatus has re-entered filmmaking with God’s Eye View. The film explores a group of missionaries whose faith wanes after abduction by Islamic rebels.

Genome Hazard (무명인)

Genome Hazard (무명인)

Genome Hazard (무명인)

Director: Kim Sung-su (김성수)

Synopsis: A co-production between Korea and Japan, sci-fi Genome Hazard depicts a man seemingly losing his sanity following the apparent death of his wife. Director Kim previously worked with Park Chan-wook and Son Il-gon.

If You Were Me 6 (어떤 시선)

If You Were Me 6 (어떤 시선)

If You Were Me 6 (어떤 시선)

Directors: Min Yong-keun (민용근), Lee Sang-cheol (이상철), Shin A-ga (신아가), Park Jung-bum (박정범)

Synopsis: Produced by the National Human Rights Commission, this omnibus film represents radically different stories about people living on the fringes of society, and the hardships they endure.

Moebius (뫼비우스)

Moebius (뫼비우스)

Moebius (뫼비우스)

Director: Kim Ki-duk (김기덕)

Synopsis: Moebius was marred by controversy before it was released.  Kim Ki-duk’s psychosexual thriller examines a family torn apart by adultery, penis dismemberment, and incest.

My Boy (마이보이)

My Boy (마이보이)

My Boy (마이보이)

Director: Jeon Kyu-hwan (전규환)

Synopsis: Town trilogy and The Weight director Jeon Kyu-hwan explores the life of an impulse disorder patient and his long-suffering family in My Boy. cultural attitudes towards mental health and the medical system are examined.

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (누구의 딸도 아닌 해원)

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (누구의 딸도 아닌 해원)

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (누구의 딸도 아닌 해원)

Director: Hong Sang-soo (홍상수)

Synopsis: University student Haewon feels lonely following her mother’s departure for Canada, and contacts married lover – and professor – Seong-joon. A story of a young woman’s quest for identity.

Our Sunhi (우리 순희)

Our Sunhi (우리 순희)

Our Sunhi (우리 순희)

Director: Hong Sang-soo (홍상수)

Synopsis: Sunhi is a film student who, wishing to continue her studies in America, seeks a recommendation letter from her professor. Yet in doing so, she unwittingly allows 3 different men attempt to advise her over her future.

Rough Play (배우는 배우다)

Rough Play (배우는 배우다)

Rough Play (배우는 배우다)

Director: Shin Yeon-shick (신연식)

Synopsis: A sequel of sorts to Rough Cut, Rough Play is concerned with a rising film star who becomes involved with gangsters, leading to a downward spiral. Based on an idea by Kim Ki-duk, the film features K-pop idol Lee Joon from MBLAQ in the lead role.

Top Star (톱스타)

Top Star (톱스타)

Top Star (톱스타)

Director: Park Joong-hoon (박중훈)

Synopsis: Veteran actor Park Joong-hoon makes his debut with Top Star, a film about a talent manager who suddenly becomes a superstar. Yet as his popularity increase, so does his arrogance and determination to stay at the top.

 

Busan International Film Festival (제18회 부산국제영화제) Festival News Korean Festivals 2013
Jung-rim must visit the docks to escape her country

Dance Town (댄스 타운) – ★★★★☆

Dance Town (댄스타운)

Dance Town (댄스타운)

Dance Town (댄스 타운), the third installment in a trilogy preceded by Mozart Town (모차르트 타운, 2008) and Animal Town (애니멀 타운, 2009), is an exploration of life in a big city. Screenwriter/director Jeon Kyu-hwan (전규환) is indeed intrigued by the lives of ordinary folk and their daily lives, employing social-realist and humanist stylings akin to directors such as Mike Leigh. However, in his latest take on living in a metropolis, Jeon Kyu-hwan incorporates more political and ideological sensibilities as his central protagonist is a North Korean defector.

Lee Jung-rim (Ra Mi-ran 라미란) and her husband live in Pyongyang, North Korea. As a businessman, her husband regularly visits China and obtains ‘illegal’ items such as face creams and adult films from the south, which they enjoy together. That is, until a neighbour decides to report them to the authorities and the couple’s lives are plunged into danger. It has been arranged for Jung-rim to take a boat that will go to South Korea with her husband to follow shortly after, where they can live their lives afresh. Yet while Jung-rim arrives at the docks, her husband does not. Left with no other choice, she boards the vessel with hopes that her spouse will follow soon, waiting for word when they can be reunited.

Jung-rim must visit the docks to escape her country

Jung-rim must visit the docks to escape her country

Jung-rim’s loneliness and isolation is expertly emphasised by the director, as he continually frames his central protagonist in doorways and large empty rooms that cannot help but draw audience empathy. Additionally, her clothes are incredibly well thought out as the colour often matches the walls which serves to convey her shyness and her chameleonic immigrant status as she blends into the backgrounds. When in the streets, Jung-rim wears a heavily padded ski jacket, her protection from the new environment in which she now resides. The mise-en-scene is vital in conveying and understanding Jung-rim’s character as her gentle nature and shyness is almost crippling, revealing little through dialogue. The one time that Jung-rim relaxes and sheds her (protective) clothing is the time that she is taken horrendous advantage of, and conveys Seoul as a relentless and unforgiving city.

 Jung-rim meets police officer Seong-tae

Jung-rim meets police officer Seong-tae

The representation of the metropolis, and the people within it, is bleak and damning. Jung-rim’s caretaker may seem nice and friendly, but she is secretly spying on her charge with CCTV cameras fitted throughout her apartment. At the community centre, Christians are intent on converting Jung-rim despite her clear reservations. As well as their attempts at manipulation, the Christian missionaries also coerce Jung-rim  into charity work. This line of work serves to highlight the social injustices in Korean society, as the elderly and handicapped are unable to find accommodation, are divorced due to disability and forgotten. Worse still, police officer Oh Seong-tae (Oh Seong-tae 오성태) may initially seem to be a ‘comrade’, but hides a much darker, brutal side of his personality. While everyone is watching everyone else, the one true innocent of the film is left alone and vulnerable.

Director Jeon Kyu-hwan frames Jung-rim as alone and isolated

Director Jeon Kyu-hwan frames Jung-rim as alone and isolated

Verdict:

Dance Town is a bleak and disturbing character study, one that reveals city life as cruel and barbaric. Furthermore, the film is politically charged as Jung-rim’s life in Pyongyang is represented far better than the supposedly ‘great’ life offered by the capitalist South. However, the problem with Dance Town is that director Jeon Kyu-hwan tries to incorporate too much social commentary within and as such, certain themes that could have been probed further are given marginal fragments of screen time which ultimately detracts from the impact of the film. And yet, Dance Town is so raw, and Jung-rim’s journey so poignant, that the film will stay with audiences long after the finale and encourage those living in cities to ponder their own existence.

★★★★☆

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