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.

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Festival News
The 15th Jeonju International Film Festival

JIFF 2014: Korean Competition

The 15th Jeonju International Film Festival

The 15th Jeonju International Film Festival

The Korean Competition at the Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) always contains a selection of rare gems of independent cinema.

Last year the big winner of the competition was December which was honoured with the Grand Prize, while Dear Dolphin and Lebanon Emotion won the CGV Movie Collage Awards, respectively. The Audience Critics Prize went to documentary My Place. Interestingly, out of all of the winning films the most successful were Lebanon Emotion – which earned Jung Young-heon the Best Director prize at the Moscow International Film Festival as well as appearing in Vancouver and London – and My Place, which has earned several domestic accolades including the Jury Prize at the Seoul International Film Festival and was invited to the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival.

At JIFF 2014 there are eleven films vying for the coveted Grand Prize. Among the eight features and three documentaries are nine world premieres, which is certainly an impressive lineup. Below is the Korean Competition trailer which features highlights from all the entrants, before more detailed profiles of each film in the program.

Korean Competition

A Dream of Iron (철의 꿈)

Director Park (Kelvin) Kyung Kun (박경근)

A Dream of Iron

A Dream of Iron

A Dream of Iron

A Dream of Iron

Documentary A Dream of Iron arrives as the most celebrated film in the category following a premiere at Berlinale and being awarded the NETPAC prize (alongside Non-Fiction Diary). Unable to understand his partner’s decision to become a Buddhist monk, director Park begins searching for something tangible and awe-inspiring, leading him to Korea’s POSCO steelworks. Contrasting differing ideas of religion and majesty, A Dream of Iron contains stunning cinematography of the country’s struggle with modernity.

A Fresh Start (새출발)

Director Jang Woo-jin (장우진)

A Fresh Start

A Fresh Start

A Fresh Start

A Fresh Start

A Fresh Start marks director Jang Woo-jin’s  feature debut. The film depicts youngsters Ji-yeon and Hye-rin, two lonely individuals who meet regularly at a literature club. When their relationship unexpectedly turns sexual, everything is fine…until Hye-rin discovers that she is pregnant. With both of them already suffering from family-related problems, school issues and the all-too-common depression that afflicts Korean youth, Hye-rin and Ji-yeon struggle with what they should do in such a difficult situation. Furthermore their unsure feelings towards each other are forced into the spotlight as they struggle to find a solution.

Highway Stars (악사들)

Director Kim Ji-gon (김지곤)

Highway Stars

Highway Stars

Highway Stars

Highway Stars

Highway Stars is another documentary entry in the competition, following the life and times of Band Udambara. The ensemble are a fascinating group consisting of former nightclub performers and a Buddhist monk, and the film explores how they make a living by taking night gigs. Nightclubs, it should be noted, are different from clubs in Korea as they are extremely male orientated and often are fronts for illegal activity. Director Kim Ji-gon, whose documentary Grandma Cement-Garden appeared at JIFF last year, returns to explore more individuals forced to the margins of society.

Miss the Train (미성년)

Director Lee Kyung-sub (이경섭)

Miss the Train

Miss the Train

Miss the Train

Miss the Train

Director Lee Kyung-sub has previously helmed a number of short films including last year’s JIFF Cinemascape entry Mr. Vertigo, starring Oh Dal-su. With Miss the Train director Lee upgrades to feature length in depicting the story of So-jin, who grieves the death of her mother, a former shaman. When a strange man forces So-jin to help him find his missing child as he believes she is part of a prophecy, she desperately seeks an escape from the pressures in her life. Yet when she runs away to lie low in a warehouse, she encounters another odd man, and her grasp on reality becomes evermore tenuous as spirits seem to appear before her.

Monkeys (몽키즈)

Director Jung Byeong-sik (정병식)

Monkeys

Monkeys

Monkeys

Monkeys

Monkeys is Jung Byeong-sik’s directorial debut, after working on other films including 2012’s A Confession of Murder and Action Boys in 2006. Monkeys revolves around Gong-hyeok, a man who once had future ambitions of becoming renowned in the music and film industry. Yet now in his late twenties and in dire need to support his family, Gong-hyeok is still no closer to achieving his dreams. Yet when he reconnects with an old friend who has just debuted as a film director, Gong-hyeok cannot help himself and old quarrels suddenly start to reappear and drive a wedge between them. The film is in both colour and black and white.

One For All, All For One (60만번의 트라이)

Director s Park Sa-yu (박사유), Park Don-sa (박돈사)

One For All, All For One

One For All, All For One

One For All, All For One

One For All, All For One

Issues of discrimination are of paramount concern in rugby drama One For All, All For One. The sporting film depicts a Korean rugby team in Osaka who are very successful despite encountering prejudice from society at large. However their indomitable spirits and strong sense of camaraderie help them to overcome any discrimination that comes their way. Sporting dramas are often quite successful in Korea especially as they typically involve national pride, particularly when the opponents are Japanese. Director Park Don-sa is a third generation Korean living in Osaka, while director Park Sa-yu has focused on discrimination against Koreans in Japan in her previous work.

Pohang Harbor (포항)

Director Mo Hyun-shin (모현신)

Pohang Harbor

Pohang Harbor

Pohang Harbor

Pohang Harbor

Drama Pochang Harbor explores the notions of life and death, in conjunction with human development and behaviour, in what looks set to be the most experimental offering in the category. When his father mysteriously goes missing, a man returns to his hometown in order to find him. Yet the man also has alternative reasons for coming home. Following years of working dead-end labour jobs and not settling any roots, the man is searching for something more than the life he has forged. In her feature debut director Mo Hyun-shin employs a host of long shots and keen cinematography to examine the human condition.

Sookhee (숙희)

Director Yang Ji-eun (양지은)

Sookhee

Sookhee

Sookhee

Sookhee

Sookhee tells the story of a conservative, workaholic philosophy professor named Yoon. Unable to take the stress any longer Yoon suffers a stroke and, as his wife is unable to cope, a free-spirited caregiver named Sookhee nurses him to health. Yet her treatments are far from orthodox as she employs a mixture of kindness, fear, and sexual excitement to force Yoon on the road to recovery. Furthermore, the maternal instincts she employs enact a dramatic reversal of traditional gender roles, provoking extreme reactions from the once uptight philosophy professor. Sookhee is director Yang Ji-eun’s first feature film and due to the exploration of sexual issues is described as a ‘daring debut.’

The Wicked (마녀)

Director Yoo Young-seon (유영선)

The Wicked

The Wicked

The Wicked

The Wicked

The competition would be lacking without a new thriller, and luckily director Yoo Young-soon’s debut The Wicked fulfills the criteria. When Se-yeong begins working at a company, her senior I-seon quickly becomes concerned. Se-yeong’s threatening behaviour, as well as her fascination for sharp objects ranging from scissors to small knives, frightens I-seon…particularly as she learns more about her new colleagues unsavory past. Could Se-yeong truly be as wicked as she seems?

The Youth (레디 액션 청춘)

Directors Kim Jin-moo (김진무), Park Ga-hee (박가희), Ju Seong-su (주성수), Jung Won-sik (정원식)

The Youth - Wonderwall

The Youth – Wonderwall

The Youth - Play Girl

The Youth – Play Girl

The Youth is an omnibus of four short stories, each one exploring the lives of Korean youths. The segments are entitled The Rumor, Wonderwall, Enemies All Around, and Playgirl. Within each short film the directors examine the worlds of Korean youngsters as they struggle to discover their identities as well as retain their innocence and hope, even when facing external issues including violence and peer pressure. Director Kim Jin-moo is a hot property after the release of Apostle, a film based on North Korean human rights issues. The film was even selected for overseas screenings at the UN. Furthermore directors Park Ga-hee and Jung Won-sik all have a history in helming shorts, while Ju Seong-su has previously worked in the production departments of several features.

You Are My Vampire (그댄 나의 뱀파이어)

Director Lee Won-hoi (이원회)

You Are My Vampire

You Are My Vampire

You Are My Vampire

You Are My Vampire

Quirky romantic-comedy-drama You Are My Vampire seeks to capitalise on supernatural relationships that are so popular in contemporary culture. Director Lee Won-hoi employs a playful and energetic style in depicting the story of struggling screenwriter Gyu-jeong, who encounters a mysterious black-clad figure who bears an uncanny resemble to a vampire…or he could just be the strangest man she’s ever met. The film features an eclectic supporting cast who, to Gyu-jeong’s dismay, also begin behaving strangely after the arrival of the pale-skinned man.

Festival News Jeonju International Film Festival (제15회 전주국제영화제) Korean Festivals 2014
The 15th Jeonju International Film Festival

The 15th Jeonju International Film Festival

The 15th Jeonju International Film Festival

The 15th Jeonju International Film Festival

The 2014 Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) is due to commence from May the 1st through to the 10th.

Now in its 15th installment, JIFF has long been the festival for showcasing up and coming Korean independent talent as well as serving as a platform for international indies to receive attention. This year is of course no exception, as new features have added and programs extended in conjunction with the traditional core categories.

Last year, JIFF provided the launchpad for several notable Korean indie films that later went on to become successful on the international circuit. Family documentary My Place (마이 플레이스) and drama-thriller Lebanon Emotion (레바논 감정) were the most prominent, enjoying lengthy festival runs and scooping several awards domestically and internationally while other productions including Dear Dolphin (환상속의 그대)Cheer Up Mr. Lee (힘내세요, 병헌씨)Talking Architecture, City: Hall (말하는 건축, 시티:홀), and controversial documentary Project Cheonan Ship (천안함프로젝트) also performed well. Breathe Me (울게 하소서) was the most celebrated short film to emerge from the festival, later appearing in Cannes in the prestigious Critics Week category.

This year however sees not only an array of new Korean filmmakers but also some of the most renowned and reputable names in the independent film industry screening their latest work. Furthermore, the festival design is clearly emphasising JIFF as a celebration of elegance and subtle sincerity, as can be viewed in the trailer below.

The big change at JIFF 2014 lies in the greater focus on Korean films. Korea Cinemascape has now become a distinct program in its own right, and while previously more mainstream Korean films were integrated within, the focus has now shifted to more independent and low-budget productions. As such, there are some big names in indie cinema within Korea Cinemascape this year, including Lee Song Hee-il (White Night), Lee Sang-woo (Barbie) and Kim Kyung-mook (Stateless Things), as well as a greater number of world premieres which further cement JIFF’s reputation for discovering new talent.

In addition, two of JIFF’s staple programs – Jeonju Digital Project and Short! Short! Short! – have been amalgamated in order to enhance the overall quality of the productions as well as elevating the films into features. This year, two of of the three films are helmed by Korean directors.

The festival is also now separated into two distinct parts – from May 1st~7th JIFF will operate is normal, while May 8th~10th will focus more on the films in the International Competition. The Closing film has been abolished, and instead the Grand Prize winning film from the International Competition will screen instead.

Opening Film

MAD SAD BAD (신촌좀비만화) 

Directors Ryoo Seung-wan (류승완), Han Ji-seung (한지승), Kim Tae-yong (김태용)

Ghost (유령)

Ghost (유령)

I Saw You (너를 봤어)

I Saw You (너를 봤어)

Picnic (피크닉)

Picnic (피크닉)

MAD SAD BAD is a fascinating and exciting departure from traditional opening films. The 3D omnibus is helmed by three of Korea’s extremely talented directors. In Ghost, director Ryoo Seung-wan (The Berlin File) explores the life of a high school student who retreats from the world and instead finds purpose talking with a girl on SNS. The segment stars red hot indie star Lee David (Pluto, Poetry), Kwak Do-wan (The Attorney, National Security) and model Son Soo-hyeon in her acting debut, while the film itself is based on a true story. In futuristic zombie film I Saw You, director Han Ji-seung (Papa) plays with a variety of genres as he portrays the undead as factory workers. Featuring Park Ki-woong (Secretly Greatly) and kpop star See Ya’s Nam Gyoo-ri (Death Bell), the romantic musical horror will certainly be an attractive affair. Rounding out the omnibus is Picnic by director Kim Tae-yong (You Are More Than Beautiful). When a young girl loses her autistic brother on a picnic trip, her frantic search calls forth the realms of her imagination inspired from her beloved comic books. Child actress Kim Soo-an (Hide and Seek) stars.

Please see below for the MAD SAD BAD trailer.

Festival News Jeonju International Film Festival (제15회 전주국제영화제) Korean Festivals 2014

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
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