Jeonju Film Festival 2016 – Hot Picks

JIFF 2016

JIFF 2016

As Korea’s primary showcase for independent cinema, the Jeonju International Film Festival always has a surprise or two waiting for cineastes in the film line-up.

Running from April 28th ~ May 7th, and now in its 17th year, JIFF’s priority in debuting new filmmaking talent from the peninsula is simultaneously exciting as well as difficult to pin down emerging talent, making discoveries of potential break out stars even more thrilling to uncover.

While it’s certainly challenging to select possible highlights at such an early stage, there are a few clues and rumours that point to potentially memorable cinematic works.

Here are Hanguk Yeonghwa’s hot picks for JIFF 2016.

Spy Nation (자백) – director Choi Seungho (최승호)

Spy Nation

Spy Nation

Spy Nation is without a doubt one of the most controversial films to appear at JIFF this year. Directed by former professional journalist Choi Seungho, the documentary explores alleged corruption in the upper echelons of the Korean government and the national spy agency, accusations that the mainstream media has largely ignored. Spy Nation has the potential to cause outcry on a similar scale as the Sewol documentary at Busan Film Festival in 2014, and is a must-see for those with an interest in Korean culture and K-cinema.

Seven Years – Journalism without Journalist (7년-그들이 없는 언론) – director Kim Jinhyuk (김진혁)

Seven Years

Seven Years

JIFF’s other highly controversial documentary, Seven Years examines the situations that have led to the firing of 17 journalists since former President Lee Myung-bak’s time in office began. Director Kim Jinhyuk details their fight to expose the activities of big corporations and press censorship in Korea, as well as the future of investigative journalism in the peninsula.

Worst Woman (최악의 여자) – director Kim Jongkwan (김종관)

Worst Woman

Worst Woman

It’s always a gamble to select films from the Korean Competition as they are from first time filmmakers, however Worst Woman stands out for one reason – Han Ye-ri. Han Ye-ri is a highly talented actress as her turn in Sea Fog can attest, and her decision to star in this film as a woman in considerable trouble who befriends a sensitive author is reason enough to check it out.

A Stray Goat (눈발) – director Cho Jaemin (조재민)

Stray Goats

A Stray Goat

One of the Jeonju Project films (the other is below), A Stray Goat has already garnered attention in Korea due to Got7’s Junior (real name Park Jinyoung) starring role. Alongside Ji-woo (Cart, Fists of Legend), the duo portray youngsters who form a deep bond due to the verbal and physical abuse they suffer, in a world that shuns them into the margins of society.

Woo-Joo’s Christmas (우주의 크리스마스) – director Kim Kyunghyung (김경형)

Woo-joo's Christmas

Woo-joo’s Christmas

Director Kim Kyunghyung, known for his wit in hit films My Tutor Friend (2003) and Liar (2004) returns to the big screen with Woo-joo’s Christmas. The story follows Woo-joo and her daughter who move to a small town to open a cafe, where they experience odd coincidences with the women who already live there. As modern cinema is so dominated by male-centered stories, Woo-joo’s Christmas has the potential to be a genuinely refreshing experience.

Old Days (올드 데이즈) – director Han Sun-hee (한선희)

Old Boy

Old Boy

Another documentary makes the list, this time in the form of celebrating arguably the most internationally recognised Korean film of all time – Park Chan-wook’s Old Boy. Director Han Sun-hee compiles footage of the film’s enormous success alongside interviews with director Park, the cast, and crew, as they recount the phenomenal achievements Old Boy amassed and why the film stands the test of time. A must for Korean film fans.

Great Patrioteers (우리 손자 베스트) – director Kim Soohyun (김수현)

Great Patrioteers

Great Patrioteers

The second K-film in the Jeonju Cinema Project is by director Kim Soohyun, the talent behind queer film Life is Peachy (aka Ashamed) and So Cute. He returns with black comedy Great Patrioteers, about a wayward young ‘keyboard warrior’ and a right-wing senior citizen who form an unlikely relationship under odd circumstances.

Curtain Call (커튼콜) – director Ryu Hoon (류훈)

Curtain Call

Curtain Call

Curtain Call is another gamble for this list, as it’s a K-competition film from debut director Ryu Hoon. However the premise, in which a once aspiring director who now makes erotic plays gets a second chance to create something of artistic merit, combined with a cast of reliable and experienced Korean actors, could result in a surprisingly entertaining comedy-drama.

Kai (카이: 거울 호수의 전설) – director Lee Sung-gang (이성강)

Kai

Kai

Korean animation has been making great gains in recent years, and director Lee Sung-gang’s Kai looks set to continue the trend as the stills look absolutely gorgeous. The film follows Kai, a youngster who is tasked with saving his village from Snow Queen Hattan who has covered the area in ice. Parallels to Disney’s Frozen are likely, but the images released indicate that Kai will be a uniquely Korean offering and possibly one of the more popular outdoor screening events.

For more information, please visit the official Jeonju Film Festival website here.

17th Jeonju International Film Festival (제17회 전주국제영화제) Festival News Korean Film Festivals 2016

17th Jeonju Film Festival Unveils K-Competition Line-up

JIFF Official 2016 Poster

JIFF Official 2016 Poster

The 17th Jeonju International Film Festival is due to take place from April 28th ~ May 7th.

Now in its 17th edition, the city has become synonymous not only for the best bibimbap in Korea and delightful hanok village, but as the launchpad of Korean independent cinema.

Several K-films that debuted last year at JIFF have gone on to great success on both the festival and commercials circuits, notably Korean Film Competition Grand Prize winner Alice in Earnestland.

2016 is sure to feature further break-out productions from the industry, and while information is still currently thin on the ground JIFF recently unveiled the K-film titles in both the Korean Film Competition and Korean Short Film Competition.

Please see below for the films to be screened alongside select stills. For further information, please follow the link at the end of the article.

Korean Film Competition

1. No Preparation for Old Age (노후 대책 없다) – Director Lee Dong-woo (이동우) | 101min

Delta Boys

Delta Boys

2. Delta Boys (델타 보이즈) – Director Go Bong-su (고봉수) | 126min

3. B Mrs.B. A North Korean Woman (마담) – Director Yoon Jae-jo (윤재호) | 72min

4. Breathing Underwater (물숨) – Director Go Hee-yeong (고희영) | 91min

Our Love Story

Our Love Story

5. Our Love Story (연애담) – Director Lee Hyeon-ju (이현주) | 99min

6. With or Without You (우리 연애의 이력) – Director Jo Seong-eun (조성은) | 99min

7. A Field Day (운동회) – Director Kim Jin-tae (김진태) | 75min

Worst Woman

Worst Woman

8. Worst Woman (최악의 여자) – Director Kim Jong-gwan (김종관) | 94min

9. Curtain Call (커튼콜) – Director Ryu Hoon (류훈) | 100min

10. Press (프레스) – Director Choi Jeong-min (최정민) | 95min

Korean Short Film Competition

1) Knocking on the Door of Your Heart (가슴의 문을 두드려도) – Director Choi Yoon-tae (최윤태) | 28min

2) May Okay (날 좋은 날) – Director Jeong Tae-wan (정태완) | 10min

3) Joke (농담) – Director Jeong Ji-yeong (정지영) | 12min

Zoo

Zoo

4) Zoo (동물원) – Director Kim Sae-hyeon (김세현) | 21min

5) The Game of All (모두의 게임) – Director Jo Ye-seul (조예슬) | 10min

6) Body and Soul (몸과 마음) – Director Jang Eun-ju (장은주) | 11min

7) Soar (비상) – Director Hong Sang-yu (홍상유) | 10min

8) Alone in the Rain (빗속을 혼자서) – Director Kim Ga-ryeong (김가령) | 18min

9) Deer Flower (사슴꽃) – Director Kim Gang-min (김강민) | 8min

10) Silent Boy (사일런트 보이) – Director Bak Geun-yeong (박근영) | 29min

11) Cyclical Night (순환하는 밤) – Director Baek Jong-gwan (백종관) | 15min

12) See You Tomorrow (씨유투머로우) – Byeon Seung-min (변승민) | 22min

Before I Grow Up

Before I Grow Up

13) Before I Grow Up (어른이 되기 전에) – Director Lee Joon-seub (이준섭) | 25min

14) Summer Night (여름밤) – Director Lee Ji-won (이지원) | 25min

15) The Astronauts (우주비행사들) – Director Son Gyeong-soo (손경수) | 14min

16) A Landscape between Past and Future (적막의 경관) – Director Oh Min-wook (오민욱) | 20min

17) Breathless (질식) – Director Bak Joon-seok (박준석) | 14min

18) A Tent (천막) – Director Lee Ran-hee (이란희) | 30min

Fly

Fly

19) Fly (플라이) – Director Im Yeon-jeong (임연정) | 28min

20) Hamster (햄스터) – Director Kim Sae-in (김세인) | 29min

21) The Woman Who was Planted in a Pot (화분에 심어진 여자) – Director Lee Jeong-woo (이정우) | 18min

For more information, please follow the link here.

Festival News

Jeonju Int. Film Festival Unveils ‘Korean Short Film Competition’ Finalists

The 16th Jeonju Int. Film Festival

The 16th Jeonju Int. Film Festival

The 16th edition of the Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) has unveiled the finalists for the ‘Korean Competition for Shorts.’

The 20 films have been selected from a staggering 609 entries, with a focus on originality, experimentalism, and controversial themes. The finalists will compete against each other for a selection of prizes, including the Grand Prize, Best Director Award, and Special Jury Award, respectively.

JIFF’s ‘competition for shorts’ program serves as a launching pad for new talent, with films often finding success on the international stage. Director Na Young-kil’s Hosanna, which premiered at JIFF last year, went on to receive the Golden Bear for Short Film at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival. Premiering at JIFF 2013, director Han Eun-young’s Breathe Me later appeared at the Cannes Film Festival – Critics Week in the same year.

For the full line-up of short films within the competition, as well as select stills that have been released, please see below.

1) The Emotional Society on Stage (Directors Kim Sookhyun, Jo Hyejeong) [2014 / 23min]

2) A Lonely Bird (Director Seojeong Shinwoo) [2015 / 18min]

3) Mind Control (Director Lee Nakyung) [2015 / 16min]

4) The Messenger (Director Son Kyungsoo) [2014 / 13min]

Heels over Head

Heels over Head

5) Heels over Head (Director Shim Hyejeong) [2015 / 26min]

6) Uninvited Guest (Director Kang Minseok) [2014 / 31min]

7) Super-critical Flow (Directors Shin Booyeon, Yoon Sangjeong) [2015 / 28min]

Ah Ah Ah

Ah Ah Ah

8) STAY! (Director Shin Jemin) [2015 / 15min]

9) Mirror in Mind (Director Kim Seunghee) [2014 / 2min]

10) Ah Ah Ah (Director Noh Youngmi) [2015 / 15min]

11) The Haze of Summer (Director Park Jiyoon) [2015 / 25min]

Summer's Tale

Summer’s Tale

12) Summer‘s Tale (Directors Kwak Saemi, Park Yongjae) [2015 / 39min]

13) Open Society and Its Enemies (Director Kwon Hyukjoon) [2014 / 33min]

14) Beneath the Wheel (Director Kwak Eun-mi) [2015 / 21min]

Beneath the Wheel

Beneath the Wheel

15) This Planet What We Chose (Director Kim Jeongeun) [2014 / 27min]

16) The Fruits of the Earth (Director Kim Hwara) [2015 / 15min]

17) Emergency Leave (Director Kang Jinyeop) [2014 / 15min]

18) The Exploration (Director Park Yongseok) [2014 / 11min]

19) Blossom (Director Han In-mi) [2015 / 27min]

20) A Crevice of Violence (Director Lim Chul) [2015 / 27min]

The 16th Jeonju International Film Festival runs from April 30th to May 9th.

16th Jeonju International Film Festival (제16회 전주국제영화제) Festival News Korean Film Festivals 2015

Dear Dolphin (환상속의 그대) – ★★★☆☆

Dear Dolphin (환상속의 그대)

Dear Dolphin (환상속의 그대)

Dear Dolphin (환상속의 그대) was one of the big winners at the 14th Jeonju International Film Festival, scoring the CGV Movie COLLAGE Prize which includes 2 weeks of commercial release, a great boon for any independent film. The reasons for the victory are quite clear, as director Kang Jina (강진아) employs some truly lovely visual aesthetics in her exploration life, love and grief while utilising more traditional melodramatic conventions. Interestingly director Kang never lets the film become too ‘dark’ despite such weighty material, and as such it’s popularity with Korean audiences is entirely understandable. Yet Dear Dolphin is not perfect, featuring a haphazard narrative structure that creates distance between the audience and the central protagonists, while the creation of subplots that are later dropped is a source of frustration. However the story does well in examining the illogical sense of grief following the death of a loved one, and is a thought-provoking, attractive film.

Unable to come to terms with the death of his girlfriend Cha-kyeong (Han Ye-ri (한예리), physiotherapist Hyeok-geun (Lee Hee-joon (이희준) develops insomnia. Unable to work or function properly his life begins to fall apart, while his mental stability becomes strained due to hallucinations.  His grief and sense of guilt are also shared by Gi-ok (Lee Yeong-jin (이영진), Cha-kyeong’s best friend, who simultaneously hates herself for her involvement in the accident and also for secretly coveting Hyeok-geun. As their grief becomes ever greater, and reality and fantasy become difficult to separate, Gi-ok and Hyeok-geun must learn to overcome their emotional trauma lest it consumes them.

Hyeok-geun' begins to hallucinate due to his uncontrollable grief and insomnia

Hyeok-geun begins to hallucinate due to his uncontrollable grief and insomnia

Dear Dolphin excels when dealing with the subject matter of grief, and the variety of forms which it takes. The emotion is a problematic one to portray, yet director Kang succeeds in capturing the different complexity of each protagonist. Hyeok-geun’s internal strife is articulated through his continual self admonishment and his self-imposed alienation, while the insomnia inspired hallucinations of Cha-kyeong reveal his inability to accept her death. Gi-ok meanwhile cannot cope with the loneliness of her best friend’s passing, heightened by her guilt over desiring Hyeok-geun. Both characters blame themselves for not doing something – anything – to change the past, while Cha-kyeong’s family resent them for much the same reason. The emotional complexity of everyone involved is compelling throughout, as each person commits irrational acts without fully understanding why.

To stop the film from sinking beneath the increasingly fraught emotional tension, director Kang employs a non-linear structure that harks back to when the threesome were happy. The technique certainly brings levity to the story, as well as further conveying the sense of loss through the contrast between the past and present. Indeed, the director utilises her wonderful sense of colour and composition during the flashback sequences that feature vibrant warm reds and yellows, in complete opposition to the washed-out palette following Cha-kyeong’s death. Yet it also serves to usurp the character development in the here and now, as plot threads that took time to establish are often dumped only to later reappear, or to never return at all. The confusion that arises as a result of narrative jumping through time frames results in a distancing between the characters and the audience as it becomes difficult to fully engage and empathise with their respective situations. This is ultimately Dear Dolphin‘s downfall, as in a bid to keep the film ‘light’ with traditional melodramatic conventions, the powerful emotional resonance of each character becomes lost.

Beautiful, cherished memories of the threesome become like poison

Beautiful, cherished memories of the threesome become like poison

As empathy becomes increasingly diluted, it therefore falls to the actors to keep the emotional intensity sharp in the present. In this respect it is Lee Yeong-jin who gives the standout performance as Gi-ok, as the actress appears evermore fraught with guilt, stress and grief. The anguish on Gi-ok’s face as she reaches out to Hyeok-geun for emotional and physical support is sincere, while the continual rejection of her advances become heartbreaking as she sinks lower and lower. Lee Hee-joon and Han Ye-ri give competent performances as Hyeok-geun and Cha-kyeong, but they are lacking the chemistry and passion that are sorely required when exploring the death of a loved one. As such the film quickly becomes Gi-ok’s story as it is her emotional distress that is the most fully developed, and is her resolution rather than Hyeok-geun’s fragile mental state that takes precedence.

Luckily director Kang also injects the film with some stunning cinematography in relation to scenes involving Cha-kyeong and Hyeok-geun, particularly when employing the water symbolism that is so inherent to the narrative. The scenes are absolutely gorgeous and appear more like a painting than a film. Ironically the surreal and otherworldly sequences further complicate the narrative, but when scenes are this beautiful it’s hard to complain. Often accompanied by an ethereal soundtrack, the conveyance of water as a source of life, death, and even purgatory are lovely to behold, and it is these scenes that resonate long after the film and provide thought-provoking moments on the nature of loss.

The potent water symbolism runs throughout the film

The potent water symbolism runs throughout the film

Verdict:

One of the big winners at JIFF 2013, Dear Dolphin is a very attractive film that deals with the issues of love, loss, and grief. Director Kang Jina explores such weighty topics well by constructing the fragility of each protagonist as unique according to their psychology, but the decision to employ non-linear techniques dilutes the emotional intensity of the story. Yet with a great performance by Lee Yeong-jin, as well as some truly beautiful sequences involving potent water symbolism, Dear Dolphin is a thought-provoking film on the nature of life, death, and spirituality.

★★★☆☆

Jeonju International Film Festival (제14회 전주국제영화제) Reviews
The otherworldly landscapes are beautifully realised

Lebanon Emotion (레바논 감정) – ★★★★☆

Lebanon Emotion (레바논 감정)

Lebanon Emotion (레바논 감정)

Receiving its world premiere at the 2013 14th Jeonju International Film Festival, Lebanon Emotion (레바논 감정) quickly began to earn praise amongst audiences and critics alike. Director Jung Young-heon’s (정영헌) poignant tale of a man unable to come to terms with his mother’s death and a woman on the run is a wonderful dramatic thriller, featuring sincere and moving performances as the complex lives of the characters within become evermore intertwined. The director’s history as a cinematographer is also readily apparent throughout as the film contains some genuinely gorgeous visuals, which also serve to be deeply symbolic of the main protagonists. While a few plot holes and structural imbalances stop it from being a perfect film, with Lebanon Emotion director Jung has established himself as a Korean filmmaker to watch.

The central protagonist attempts to accept his mother's death

The central protagonist attempts to accept his mother’s death

Seeking solace at a friend’s country home, a man plans his suicide due to his inability to cope with his mother’s death. Yet while taking a stroll in the mountains he hears the scream of a woman who has stepped on a deer trap, and takes her home to nurse her back to health. As they become more acquainted the unlikely couple start to realize they share several things in common, while the kindness they experience from each other is unprecedented. Yet little do either of them know that the woman’s past is catching up to them in the form of her brutal gangster ex-boyfriend, and he is far from happy.

One of the great strengths of Lebanon Emotion are the themes that it explores through the central protagonists. The grief inhabited by the man is palpable, with his depression and insular mannerisms acutely alluding to his turmoil. His reconstruction of his mother’s death is heartbreakingly poignant, as are his breakdowns when faced with the reality of the situation. Similarly issues of survival are inherent to the woman’s struggle. Fresh out of prison and with nowhere to go, the strength and resilience that she employs are wonderfully conveyed without ever becoming cliche. The contrast between the characters is also a delightful reversal of traditional gendered roles, where the emotional/homestead and physical/drifter realms are exchanged. Such work could be so easily undermined when placing the two characters together, but luckily contrivances are rejected and in its place a complex relationship develops through the slow and natural discovery of each other’s personalities.

The arrival of the woman begins a chain of unexpected events

The arrival of the woman begins a chain of unexpected events

The otherworldly landscapes further serve as potent symbolism for the man and woman. The winter environments are stunning and drained of colour, and director Jung makes effective use of locations in regard to each character. While the lack of colour heightens the depression and emotional distress of the man, the snow covered land becomes a challenge for survival for the woman. The area surrounding the country home is a construction site, a place that initially embodies the dismantling of a life yet through the relationship that develops comes to convey the construction of one. Director Jung wisely makes use of each area, adding further surrealism with the inclusion of dream sequences that add even greater insight to not only the protagonists, but also as a comment on the meaning of life.

Yet Lebanon Emotion is not solely concerned with deep, existential issues. The inclusion of the woman’s ex-boyfriend adds incredible tension to the proceedings as he gets ever closer to discovering her location, placing her relationship with the man on a timer. The suspense and tension generated whenever the gangster is on screen is quite chilling, while the brutality that occurs is highly effective due to the threat rather than the action. The danger and impact of such violence on the lives of those involved makes the story continually compelling and engaging, and acts as an interesting debate on the nature of masculinity.

The otherworldly landscapes are beautifully realised

The otherworldly landscapes are beautifully realised

Verdict:

Lebanon Emotion is certainly one of the best films to emerge from the 2013 Jeonju International Film Festival. With an engrossing story involving the nature of grief, the challenges of survival, and the threat of external violence, the film never ceases to be compelling as two seemingly disparate people come together through suffering. Director Jung Young-heon’s keen visual sensibilities are stunningly realised through the lovely cinematography, making for an attractive and insightful film.

★★★★☆

Jeonju International Film Festival (제14회 전주국제영화제) Korean Festivals 2013 Reviews
Breathe Me (울게 하소서)

JIFF 2013: Quick Fire Reviews 4

Further quick fire reviews from the 14th Jeonju International Film Festival.

Breathe Me (울게 하소서)

Breathe Me (울게 하소서)

Breathe Me (울게 하소서) – ★★★★☆

Far too often, scandalous headlines of teen pregnancy and mothers abandoning their children in horrific ways fill Korean media. It’s therefore quite brave of director Han Eun-young (한은영) to produce a film about both issues in this 20 minute short, particularly as it is staged from the perspective of the teens themselves. The result is an incredibly engaging and compelling film, one that is so enthralling that it feels more like 5 minutes than the actual running time. As high school girl A-young has her baby in secret, director Han effectively uses the dim lighting and locations very well in constructing the loneliness and isolation of the situation, contrasted well with the panic and adrenaline-induced scenes of her boyfriend as he attempts to find her. Rather than provide excuses, director Han conveys how the fear of the situation leads the teens to make illogical choices that jeopardize them all. While more information about the central protagonists, and a longer running time, would have made Breathe Me a stronger short, the film is a powerful piece and one that is timely.

Dear Dolphin (환상속의 그대)

Dear Dolphin (환상속의 그대)

Dear Dolphin (환상속의 그대) – ★★★☆☆

Director Kang Ji-na’s (강진아) Dear Dolphin examines the grief, and the illogical sense of guilt, that follows the death of a loved one. Such weighty subject matter is given a sense of surrealism with the inclusion of water symbolism and hallucinations brought on by insomnia, as the narrative conveys how loving memories and emotions can become poison through the refusal of acceptance. For the most part director Kang succeeds in capturing the psychological devastation and the difficulty in moving on, yet the narrative structure is also responsible for lessening the poignancy of the message. As the story often jumps between time frames without much notice, as well as the stylistic changes and the picking up and dropping of subplots at whim, it becomes difficult to fully connect with the central protagonists and to feel their trauma. Perhaps this is intentional in order to keep the film ‘light’ despite the complex subject matter, but the result is one that distances audiences from the raw emotional power that the film attempts yet never fully manages to conceive. A thought-provoking film.

Festival News Jeonju International Film Festival (제14회 전주국제영화제) Korean Festivals 2013
Shibata and Nagao (시바타와 나가오)

JIFF 2013: Quick Fire Reviews 3

More quick fire reviews from the 14th Jeonju International Film Festival.

Inertia

Inertia

Inertia – 6/10

This Mexican hospital drama has an extremely heartfelt script, as the nature of love and sacrifice are explored. Central protagonist Lucia accidently runs into her ex-boyfriend Felipe who, thanks to failing kidneys, has momentary lapses in coherence. As she decides to take care of him the two discover feelings that they thought were long gone, yet Felipe’s increasingly volatile state causes further heartache. Director Isabel Munoz Cota competently helms the drama, yet there is always a distance between the audience and the characters, a critical issue for such an emotional story. Similarly the acting is also adequate, but the roles demand much more skill and nuance than what is provided. Inertia is a well-made film that doesn’t quite manage to fulfill the potential of the script.

Burn, Release, Explode, The Invincible (연소, 석방, 폭발, 대적할 이가 없는)

Burn, Release, Explode, The Invincible (연소, 석방, 폭발, 대적할 이가 없는)

Burn, Release, Explode, The Invincible (연소, 석방, 폭발, 대적할 이가 없는) – 4/10

Director Kim Su-hyun  (김수현) blends a variety of generic conventions within Burn, Release, Explode, The Invincible, merging drama, documentary, and experimental forms. The result is an odd tale about a woman with an androgynistic voice, who is in high demand for voice over work due to her authoritative yet soft vocal style. Her gift is also her curse however as the pressures surrounding her impact her mental stability. In terms of technique it’s a well-made film, yet the story is difficult to follow and the central protagonist hard to empathize with given the disparate conventions and non-linear storytelling. The finale is also quite odd as traditional Korean performances are introduced to express freedom. An interesting film, but also one that’s difficult to become immersed in.

Shibata and Nagao (시바타와 나가오)

Shibata and Nagao (시바타와 나가오)

Shibata and Nagao (시바타와 나가오) – 6/10

While his last film Breathless was a mesmerizing exploration of social class and the nature of violence, director Yang Ik-june (양익준) opts for a very different approach with romantic drama Shibata and Nagao. Filmed in Japanese, the film explores ex-lovers who meet again following a later break-up. Director Yang’s style is soft and tender as he examines the feelings that still exist between them, but it is also frustratingly slow-paced as very little information about them is revealed. There are some lovely moments that arise, as well as comedic – they discuss if a loud, violent couple are Korean – and it is thought-provoking in regards to unresolved/unrequited emotions. There’s a sense that there is a larger story not shown which is a shame. A lovely, yet slow-paced film.

Festival News Jeonju International Film Festival (제14회 전주국제영화제) Korean Festivals 2013 Reviews
Mr. Vertigo (축지법과 비행술)

JIFF 2013: Quick Fire Reviews 2

Quick fire reviews from the 14th Jeonju International Film Festival.

Lebanon Emotion (레바논 감정)

Lebanon Emotion (레바논 감정)

Lebanon Emotion (레바논 감정) – 8/10

Lebanon Emotion is without a doubt one of the best films at the festival, and certainly a strong contender for best film in the Korean Film Competition category. Director Jung Young-heon (정영헌) has cemented his position as a film-making talent to watch, following his best director win for short film Hard Boiled Jesus at JIFF 2012. In Lebanon Emotion the director explores a great variety of themes throughout the drama/thriller narrative including suicide, guilt, survival, and purpose, against the backdrop of winter in the countryside. Director Jung’s prior history with cinematography is clearly apparent as the landscapes and settings are very attractive throughout. Yet what makes the film so powerful is the characterisation, and the wonderful performances given by the central cast who are continually poignant and compelling. Recommended viewing.

Mr. Vertigo (축지법과 비행술)

Mr. Vertigo (축지법과 비행술)

Mr. Vertigo (축지법과 비행술) – 5/10

Mr. Vertigo promised to be one of the more quirky offerings at the festival, yet only partially succeeds. This is wholly due to actor Oh Dal-su who performs the role of a roguish ‘air-walking’ master who takes on a new student. Oh Dal-su has played plenty of similar characters in the past and while he tries to squeeze as much out of the master as he can, there isn’t really enough material for him to do so. The main protagonist is actually his disciple, a frustrated bookish young man who seeks something new and fulfilling. Again however, director Lee Kyung-sub (이경섭) doesn’t provide much information or fully convey his anxieties, resulting in a lack of engagement. A mildly entertaining film that doesn’t capitalize on its premise.

Timing (타이밍)

Timing (타이밍)

 Timing (타이밍) – 5/10

As the title implies, Timing features some of the ironic features of life that tend to occur at the most inconvenient of moments. The narrative conveys the frustrations of a career woman recently diagnosed with cancer, and the events that transpire as a result. She explodes at her boss in a business meeting; an ex-lover appears out of concern; financial and health issues, and so forth. The film becomes quite episodic due to this approach, and as such it’s difficult to really align with the protagonist and feel the anguish she endures. The character is also not particularly likable due to her initial selfishness. However director Kim Ji-Yeon (김지연) manages to cram an awful lot of material into the 21 minute running and is quite insightful at times, although she could have benefitted much more by making it a feature.

The Woman (그 여자)

The Woman (그 여자)

The Woman (그 여자) – 5/10

With the transsexual experience vastly underrepresented in Korean cinema, The Woman had the potential to shine a light on important issues yet only partially succeeds. The narrative follows Yoon-hee as she goes about her daily life, until her older brother pays a visit to inform her of their mother’s illness. Unfortunately director Jo Mee-hye (조미혜) takes nearly all the running time just to get to this point, generally meandering as Yoon-hee delivers milk on her rounds. There is a wealth of material within the film that is just never explored – Yoon-hee’s status as an outsider, her obviously fraught relationship with her husband, the extremely strained familial history – and as such only scrapes the surface of the potential on offer. The Woman is an interesting yet superficial film, and a missed opportunity.

Echo of Dragon (용문)

Echo of Dragon (용문)

Echo of Dragon (용문) – 3/10

Fans of experimental and art house cinema will find much to love with director Lee Hyun-jung’s (이현정) Echo of Dragon, due to the highly symbolic features that run rampant throughout. For everyone else, the film is pretentious, self-indulgent and utterly absurd. The film does feature moments of beautiful cinematography although they are often sporadic, while narrative elements are started and dropped without any warning. Ironically it is a different director, Lee Sang-woo, who steals the show in his performance as a possibly mentally unhinged drifter. He provides much-needed levity and focus to the film, and is genuinely funny yet also hints at a greater depth that goes unexplored. The film is highly symbolic, but also frustratingly bizarre.

Garibong (가리봉)

Garibong (가리봉)

Garibong (가리봉) – 5/10

Director Park Ki-yong (박기용) has produced a documentary in the very literal sense of the word with Garibong, as he ‘documents’ areas within the titular district in which Chinese immigrants reside. The cinematography is superb, capturing the sense of dislocation of the area from the surrounding Seoul districts and the squalid, dilapidated buildings convey palpable depression. Often, he film evokes scenes from sci-fi classic Blade Runner. Yet despite the attractive visual prowess, the film is quite dull as there are no people or stories to follow, and therefore no opportunity to become fully engaged within the world of Garibong. The static camera is both a blessing and a curse, as while it captures the alleys and lifestyle there is always a distance between it and the residents. Ultimately the documentary is visually attractive, but lacking compulsion.

Festival News Jeonju International Film Festival (제14회 전주국제영화제) Korean Festivals 2013 Reviews
Cheer Up Mr. Lee (힘내세요, 병헌씨)

JIFF 2013: Quick Fire Reviews 1

With such a great variety films to see at the 14th Jeonju International Film Festival, and precious little time to write full reviews, here is the first in a series of ‘Quick Fire Reviews’ from the festival.

Groggy Summer (그로기 썸머)

Groggy Summer (그로기 썸머)

Groggy Summer (그로기 썸머) ★★☆☆☆

Groggy Summer depicts the life of frustrated teenage poet Min-joon, whose poverty-stricken lifestyle leads him to despair. Misunderstood by his parents, the young man finds solace with his friends who are similarly displaced social outcasts. The story is a very interesting one, and director Yun Su-ik (윤수익) initially does well in conveying the difficulties of being a creative person in Korean society.  As the film continues Min-joon is constantly beaten down by the trappings of capitalist society, where money is the solution at every turn. Yet the film doesn’t really explore any of the features in great detail, instead seeking to add more and more different challenges to Min-joon’s life, which results in a loss of focus and invites predictability. There are also intriguing parallels to be had with his artistic father, which unfortunately are not capitalised on. The major issues with Groggy Summer are the camerawork and editing. While the mixture of close-ups and extreme close-ups creates intimacy and provides a penetrating exploration of emotion, it also makes for uncomfortable viewing as the world in which Min-joon inhabits is not fully portrayed. The intensity of this style helps to convey frustration, but when used in conjunction with highly kinetic hand-held camera movement the result is dizziness and nausea. The editing also detracts from the story as it noticeably jumps in several areas. The story has a lot of potential and shows promise, yet the filmmaking techniques detract from the experience.

Cheer Up Mr. Lee (힘내세요, 병헌씨)

Cheer Up Mr. Lee (힘내세요, 병헌씨)

Cheer Up Mr. Lee (힘내세요, 병헌씨) – ★★★☆☆

A mockumentary about an aspiring but lazy director, Cheer Up Mr. Lee is a very funny examination of Korean dramas and documentaries. Based on the life of the director, Lee Byeong-hun (이병헌), the film wonderfully pokes fun at the contrived cinematic conventions to be seen in Korean media in a variety of ways. The central protagonist and his friends are very amusing as they are all losers who berate each other for fun instead of working hard to achieve their dreams, while the frustrations of the documentary team as the follow them are comedic. This postmodern sensibility extends to the awareness of filmic conventions, as Byeong-hun berates the film crew for employing techniques such as music during crises. Yet while the film begins strongly the narrative and comedy aren’t consistent, and as such the film often flits between fun and dull points as the focus is repeatedly found then lost. The second act suffers acutely in this regard, especially as the team travel to Busan. Luckily the film picks up towards the end, where the director pokes fun at short film and art film conventions, as he makes his debut in a very comedic manner. A fun film that often loses focus, yet very entertaining.

Karaoke Girl

Karaoke Girl

Karaoke Girl – ★★★☆☆

Thai director Visra Vichit Vadakan has produced a fascinating insight into the life of young Thai women who find themselves working in the seedy bars of Bangkok. The film explores the life of Sa, a 22 year old woman who moved from the country to the capital in order to find work and money, yet did so at the expense of her happiness. Karaoke Girl is not a depressing effort however, as while Sa is treated terribly by her on-again-off-again boyfriend director Vadakan portrays the young woman as strong and passionate, and that she understands she deserves more than what life has provided for her. Sa’s spirit drives the film, and the actress is talented and engaging throughout. The director also wisely steers clear of any sexual content that could have so easily been included and instead focuses on Sa’s journey as she becomes stronger. Yet Karaoke Girl suffers from the mixture of drama and documentary techniques that occur throughout, never managing to fully blend them into a coherent whole which ultimately detracts from the viewing experience. The film jumps from following Sa’s life, which is utterly engaging, to interviewing her family in the countryside, and draws the audience out of the film. This is a genuine shame as Sa is an intriguing character/real life subject.

Juvenile Offender (범죄소년)

Juvenile Offender (범죄소년)

Juvenile Offender (범죄소년) – ★★★★☆

With a story concerned with the abandonment of youth, Juvenile Offender is a highly poignant and engaging drama. Director Kang Yi-kwan (강이관) explores several very important and timely social issues within Korean society, including teenage pregnancy, parental abandonment, poor social care, unfair legal system, and misunderstood youth. The film follows Jin-gu, a teenage who lives with his elderly grandfather. Falling into the wrong crowd and with anger problems, Jin-gu quickly earns a criminal record and finds himself in a detention center. When his mother, who was thought to be dead, surfaces to take him in, their relationship is explored as the two struggle to overcome their own strife as well as to forge a relationship. Director Kang deftly sidesteps any melodrama and the film emerges the stronger for it, while the powerful performances by both Seo Yeong-joo (서영주) as Jin-gu and Lee Jeong-hyeon (이정현) as his mother are captivating. While it feels unfair to comment negatively on appearance, Lee Jeong-hyeon’s quite obvious plastic surgery detracts from her role as a teenage mother with a criminal past. The youthfulness of her face appears similar to her son, which invites some oedipal anxieties at certain points. The film also somewhat loses track as it draws to a close, seemingly unsure how to wrap up so many issues and ends rather abruptly, yet it is also quite fitting. A powerful and timely film.

Jeonju International Film Festival (제14회 전주국제영화제) Korean Festivals 2013 Reviews
JIFF 2013

JIFF 2013: Korean Short Film Competition – Part 2

JIFF 2013

JIFF 2013

In part 1 of the examination of the 14th Jeonju Film Festival’s Korean Short Film Competition, 10 of the shorts were profiled and discussed. There are an interesting range of shorts in competition this year, including some animated entries and some experimental filmmaking, although for most there appears to be a real social-realist heart at the core of most of the films, particularly in regards to youth. Contemporary issues including teenage pregnancy, young runaways, extreme shyness, disillusioned youth, and the political impact on young minds are prominent issues at this year’s festival, and it’s really interesting to see such a strong devotion to youth issues.

This second part of the feature on the Short Film Competition explores the final 10 shorts within the category. As with the first part, youth issues seem to be the primary focus alongside more experimental fare and looks to be a very interesting lineup.

No More No Less (더도 말고 덜도 말고)

No More No Less (더도 말고 덜도 말고)

No More No Less (더도 말고 덜도 말고)

Director: Lim Oh-jeong (임오정)

Synopsis: The film explores the lives of teenage girls in contemporary Korea through the theft of an ipod, which brings to light issues of trust, jealousy, and companionship. The highly competitive and stressful life of Korean high school girls is potent material, and this film could shine a new perspective on a timely subject.

Phase (상)

Phase (상)

Phase (상)

Director: Oh Min-wook (오민욱)

Synopsis: Another experimental addition to the lineup, Phase is concerned with ‘images that mutate’ by employing abstract images, footage from historical events, and phrases and mottos. The images that are circulating are quite attractive, and it will be interesting to see how director Oh uses them.

Road Movie (로드 무비)

Road Movie (로드 무비)

Road Movie (로드 무비)

Director: Jung Nam (정남)

Synopsis: Experimental film Road Movie ‘portrays the existential base of film’ by utilising cinematic conventions in exploring the medium. Light, shadow and motion are used in conjunction with editing techniques as the film moves along a course.

Sisibibi (시시비비)

Sisibibi (시시비비)

Sisibibi (시시비비)

Director: Jung Jee-hyung (정지형)

Synopsis: Sisibibi explores the notion of contemporary masculinity through two drunk central protagonists. Their discussion about what defines masculinity and what women are looking for, results into a competition. Contemporary Korean masculinity is complicated to say the least, so this could highlight some interesting issues.

Sweet Temptation (잘 먹고 잘 사는 법)

Sweet Temptation (잘 먹고 잘 사는 법)

Sweet Temptation (잘 먹고 잘 사는 법)

Director: Jeong Han-Jin (정한진)

Synopsis: This short has an intriguing premise, as a young boy who has only had a diet consisting of natural foods is suddenly introduced to chocolate. Themes of parental trust and ‘blind faith’ are explored as the boy becomes open to new possibilities. Symbolic and timely material due to the generation gap.

The Sound of Rain (빗소리)

The Sound of Rain (빗소리)

The Sound of Rain (빗소리)

Director: Kim Jin-hee (김진희)

Synopsis: Exploring the fragility and innocence of the very young, The Sound of Rain depicts the anxieties of a kindergarten girl who has gone to school without an umbrella on a rainy day. Parental responsibilities and maternal abandonment are key themes within the film, and emphasize a growing social problem.

The Wish (주희)

The Wish (주희)

The Wish (주희)

Director: Huh Jung (허정)

Synopsis: Another entry highlighting the social problems of teenage girls, The Wish explores the notion of popularity according to wealth in a middle school. When a supernatural ritual becomes fashionable at the school, jealousies and rivalries are examined.

Three Stories About Depth (깊이에의 강요)

Three Stories About Depth (깊이에의 강요)

Three Stories About Depth (깊이에의 강요)

Director: Choi Seung-chul (최승철)

Synopsis: This 9 minute short is divided into 3 ‘episodes’ that explore the cinematic techniques involving depth. Director Choi employs the theme of depth in a variety of ways, using the camera to penetrate different realms of distance, and could be potentially illuminating.

Trunk (트렁크)

Trunk (트렁크)

Trunk (트렁크)

Director: Kim Hyeon-cheol (김현철)

Synopsis: One of the more traditional genre entries, Trunk appear to be a short thriller that involves a woman too curious for her own good. When she takes a peek inside a car trunk that has been left open, there are ramifications to be had. It will be interesting to see if director Kim can fulfill the tension that the synopsis suggests.

Two Gentlemen (두 신사)

Two Gentlemen (두 신사)

Two Gentlemen (두 신사)

Director: Park Jae-ok (박재옥)

Synopsis: Only the second animated entry this year, director Park’s Two Gentleman is quite a departure from the distinctly Korean issues explored by his peers. The film examines the snobbish nature of two French art critics as they quarrel over a painting, uses satire to do so.

Festival News Jeonju International Film Festival (제14회 전주국제영화제) Korean Festivals 2013