Seoul International Women’s Film Festival 2015

SIWFF POSTERThe Seoul International Women’s Film Festival (SIWFF) is due to be held from May 27th to June 3rd, at Megabox Sinchon and Arthouse Momo theaters near Ewha Women’s University.

Now in it’s 17th edition, the festival continues to feature successful categories such as New Currents, Polemics #IAmAFeminist, and Queer Rainbow that explore the lives of contemporary women around the globe.

Yet this year SIWFF organisers have added an extra element to help promote the event for the first time in the festival’s history – an honorary ambassador titled ‘Feminista.’ The first Feminista is actress Kim Ah-joong, the star of films including 200 Pounds Beauty and My P.S. Partner.

SIWFF 2015 will open with Berlinale Crystal Bear winner My Skinny Sister, which leads nicely into this year’s special focus program, The Equal Power of Swedish Women’s Cinema, which contains an impressive 21 titles.

However, let’s take a look at some of the Korean films due to be screened at SIWFF 2015.

New Currents

21& – director Kim A-ra (김아라)

Disillusionment for those in their early twenties is rife

Disillusionment for those in their early twenties is rife

Young filmmaker Kim A-ra explores the disillusionment and frustrations of Koreans in their early twenties in documentary 21&. After studying extremely hard in Korea’s brutal education system, the youngsters are looking forward to working towards achieving their ambitions…but is it possible?

A Girl at My Door (도희야) – director Jung July (정주리)

Do-hee is a victim of terrible domestic abuse in the country town

Do-hee is a victim of terrible domestic abuse in the country town

Premiering at Cannes in Un Certain Regard before appearing at Toronto and Busan, A Girl at My Door is an incredible and empowering drama exploring the lives of those on the margins of contemporary society. Featuring outstanding performances by actresses Bae Doo-na and Kim Sae-ron, and with confident and assured direction under the gaze of July Jung, this is a great opportunity to catch the film again on the big screen. Read the review here.

Heart of Snow, Heart of Blood (눈의 마음: 슬픔이 우리를 데려가는 곳) – director Kim Jeong (김정)

Korean descendants born in Uzbekistan have a complex history

Korean descendants born in Uzbekistan have a complex history

Documentary Heart of Blood, Heart of Snow follows the life of Alex Kim, a descendant of Koreans who were forcibly relocated to Uzbekistan by Stalin. Yet while there his family wealth is confiscated, and he becomes the owner of a restaurant. Director Kim Jeong uses Alex’s story to examine the turbulent history of those who fled the Korean War, only to become struggling nomadic migrants.

The Liar (거짓말) – director Kim Dong-myeong (김동명)

Ah-young's lies explore the materialism of society

Ah-young’s lies explore the materialism of society

Talented independent actress Kim Kkob-bi takes centre stage in drama The Liar. The film examines the importance of social status, material wealth and physical appearances in Korean society through the lies told by Ah-young, the central  protagonist who dreams of a life of luxury away from her current reality. Director Kim’s drama premiered at Busan Film Festival last year.

Polemics #IAmAFeminist

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

As tensions escalate, Seon-hee and Hye-mi fight back against their affluent male abusers

As tensions escalate, Seon-hee and Hye-mi fight back against their affluent male abusers

Based on a true story, Cart depicts the outcry and shocking abuse of workers rights as the managers of a supermarket chain attempt to fire their staff and replace them with part-timers. Yet many of the current workforce are struggling single mothers, students, or those nearing retirement. Premiering at Toronto before screening at Rotterdam and Busan, Cart is an impressive social drama. Read the review here.

The Emotional Society on Stage (감정의 시대:서비스 노동의 관계미학) – director Kim Sook-hyun (김숙현), Cho Hye-jeong (조혜정)

The roles we perform come under scrutiny

The roles we perform come under scrutiny

Experimental documentary The Emotional Society on Stage examines the roles people are forced into within society, and notably if it’s possible to break such cultural forms through performance. The 24 minute film previously appeared at the 2015 Jeonju Film Festival, as well as The Seoul Independent Documentary Film and Video Festival in the same year.

Queer Rainbow

Sinchon Bouncy Ball (신촌탱탱볼) – director Lee Min-jeong (이민정)

Homosexuality is still very much taboo in Korea

Homosexuality is still very much taboo in Korea

 World premiere. Documentary Sinchon Bouncy Ball presents the issues concerned with sexuality in modern Korea through following student Rau as she prepares to complete a school project regarding gender identity. In examining the various areas of the debate Rau comes to develop her ideas on the nature of sexuality, love and identity.

Barrier Free Screening

How to Steal a Dog (개를 훔치는 완벽한 방법) – director Kim Seong-ho (김성호)

Can Ji-so steal a dog and help her family?

Can Ji-so steal a dog and help her family?

How to Steal a Dog was a successful indie film in Korea earlier this year, and has been selected for the ‘barrier free screening’ event, presented for both visually and hearing-impaired audiences.

The film depicts the tale of Ji-so and younger brother Ji-suk who spy a poster offering a big cash reward for finding a missing dog.

For more information, please visit the official SIWFF website here.

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Festival News Korean Film Festivals 2015 Seoul International Women's Film Festival (제 17회 서울국제여성영화제)
The 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival

PiFan 2013: World Fantastic Cinema

The 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival

The 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival

The wonderfully titled ‘World Fantastic Cinema’ section in the upcoming Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) features a truly eclectic range of films from a host of countries. With horrors, thrillers, dramas, romance and comedies on offer, there is certainly something for everyone in the line-up.

There are seven feature films from Korea within the category, including some mainstream releases as well as a focus on new talent, all of which are profiled below.

Alternatively, if you wish to see the features on the opening/closing films or the Puchon Choice categories, please click on the link(s) to be taken to the relevant page.

The Bluff (허풍)

The Bluff (허풍)

The Bluff (허풍)

Director: Gong Ja-gwan (공자관)

Synopsis: When four friends gather for a reunion, the small talk eventually gives way to more sexual topics of conversation. A game of bluffs begins, as the friends attempt to get to know each other more deeply than ever before.

Go, Stop, Murder (고스톱 살인)

Go, Stop, Murder (고스톱 살인)

Go, Stop, Murder (고스톱 살인)

Director: Kim Joon-kwon (김준권)

Synopsis: Popular game ‘go, stop’ becomes horririfc in this thriller, as a group of players in the countryside start to die one-by-one. Yet when a substitute player is brought in, he begins to think that the game itself is the source of the problem.

Horror Stories 2 (무서운 이야기2)

Horror Stories 2 (무서운 이야기2)

Horror Stories 2 (무서운 이야기2)

Directors: Jeong Beom-sik (정범식), Kim Hwi (김휘), Kim Seong-ho (김성호), Min Gyu-dong (민규동)

Synopsis: The first Horror Stories film opened PiFan 2012, so it’s perhaps only fitting that the sequel features in the line-up as well. Horror Stories 2 follows in the same footsteps as its predecessor, as three short scary tales are framed within another fourth. The Cliff involves two friends who find trouble in a mountain; Pain of Death features horrors set in the countryside; and Escape is concerned with a teacher who must deal with the consequences of some bad advice. See below for the trailer.

How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (남자사용설명서)

How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (남자사용설명서)

How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (남자사용설명서)

Director: Lee Won-seok (이원석)

Synopsis: Released back in February this year, director Lee’s How to Use Guys with Secret Tips garnered some impressive reviews from both Korean and foreign critics alike. In a case of extremely bad timing however, the film failed to set the box office alight as it went toe-to-toe with The Berlin File and Miracle in Room No. 7. The film follows unlucky-in-love Bo-na, a Tv commercial assistant director, who discovers a tape featuring instructions on how to seduce and manipulate men. But can she find true love? See below for the trailer.

Oldmen Never Die (죽지않아)

Oldmen Never Die (죽지않아)

Oldmen Never Die (죽지않아)

Director: Hwang Cheol-min (황철민)

Synopsis: In order to inherit his grandfather’s fortune, Ji-hun became a farmer to impress the old man with his labor skills and determination. Yet bizarrely the old man simply refuses to die, while the arrival of a challenger threatens Ji-hun’s plans.

Southern Superhero Showdown (촌능력전쟁)

Southern Superhero Showdown (촌능력전쟁)

Southern Superhero Showdown (촌능력전쟁)

Director: Ryu Hoon (류훈)

Synopsis: The brilliantly titled Southern Superhero Showdown features an unemployed young man named Ho-bang, who accidently discovers a strange village where everyone has superpowers. The paradox however is that the village is seemingly inescapable.

The Truth (진실)

The Truth (진실)

The Truth (진실)

Director: Seo Seung-man (서승만)

Synopsis: This 93 minute fiction blurs the lines between performance and reality through a story featuring stage actors. When weapons are brandished and characters die on stage, what really is going on?

For the full line-up of films in the PiFan World Fantastic Cinema category, please head over to the PiFan site by clicking on this link.

Festival News Korean Festivals 2013 Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (제17회 부천국제판타스틱영화제)
Circle Line (순환선)

Modern Family (가족 시네마) – ★★★☆☆

Modern Family (가족시네마 )

Modern Family (가족시네마 )

Modern Family (가족 시네마) is a collection of four short films that explores the different forms of trauma that can occur for contemporary families. Each story is a very interesting and well-crafted vision of the issues facing the family unit, with each respective director’s style shining through in the quest to articulate the emotional complexities of the situation.

The short films deal with a surprising array of topics including unemployment, the loss of a child, parental responsibility and women’s rights in the workplace. What is wonderful about each entry is the sincerity in which the issue is explored. Often subtle and understated, Modern Family is an insightful film about the complexities of family and the attempts to survive in contemporary society.

Yet ironically, as each short film is so interesting, they all feel as if they end too soon. All four directors have chosen potent topics to explore, and the short time limit means that each respective story feels cut short. The depth each director has applied in examining familial issues is powerful yet seems to only scratch the surface of the situation. It is a testament to the director’s skill that each entry causes a desire for more information, but it is a desire that, for the most part, goes unfulfilled.

In the interest of fairness, each short film is reviewed individually, before a final summary.

Circle Line (순환선)

Circle Line (순환선)

Circle Line (순환선) – ★★★★☆

Director Shin Su-won’s (신수원) Circle Line is the most prestigious entry within Modern Family, having won the Canal+ prize at Cannes in 2012. The award is thoroughly deserved, as director Shin employs some wonderful artistic shots and symbolism in exploring the life of a middle-aged man who has recently been made unemployed. To make matters worse, his wife is soon to give birth to their second child. Depressed and ashamed, the man simply travels on the subway circle line all day, searching for jobs on his laptop and observing the assortment of characters that come and go. Director Shin articulates the man’s frustrations superbly through the mise-en-scene and the minor, but highly symbolic, confrontations that arise. Jeong In-gi (정인기) is also terrific as the redundant father-to-be, providing a restrained performance that suddenly explodes when tensions become too much to bear. Circle Line is as much a commentary on contemporary masculinity, economy, and society as it is about family, and it’s the subtle manner in which each area is dealt with that makes the film so compelling.

Star-shaped Stain (별 모양의 얼룩)

Star-shaped Stain (별 모양의 얼룩)

Star-shaped Stain (별 모양의 얼룩) –  ★★★☆☆

Star-shaped Stain is arguably the most poignant film in the omnibus, as director Hong Ji-young (홍지영) examinations a couple whose daughter died through tragic circumstances. Initially the couple seem to be coping extremely well with the loss, however with the anniversary of the youngster’s death the barriers that they have built to cope with the trauma gradually wear down. Director Hong does a great job of gently peeling back the layers of the protagonists, particularly of the mother (Kim Ji-young, 김지영) who feels such a tremendous sense of guilt that she continuously revisits the events of her final encounter with her daughter. The real tragedy comes in the form of the hope that her daughter is alive, as the once composed woman begins to unravel which is genuinely heartbreaking to witness. The moving film is unfortunately cut short just as it starts to become seriously compelling, as the protagonists are pushed into highly emotional and psychological territory but then abruptly ends. This is a real shame as there is a lot more potential to be explored, but which never materializes due to the limitations of the running time.

E.D.571

E.D.571

E.D.571 –  ★★★☆☆

Director Lee Soo-yeon’s (이수연) entry is the only one which adds a more science-fiction sensibility to the exploration of family by setting the story in the year 2030. A workaholic career woman (Seon Woo-seon, 선우선) leads a rather lonely life, living purely to work. Yet it is thrown into disarray when a young girl (Ji Woo, 지우) appears on her doorstep claiming to be her biological daughter, the result of selling an unfertilized egg in order to pay for tuition years prior. The film is a commentary on parental responsibility with the media full of reports about criminal youths and gangs, but with the arrival of the biological daughter it becomes clear that such actions are the results of awful parenting and neglect. However E.D. 571 doesn’t really explore the issue with the depth required for it to be insightful, with mentions of certain situations but lacking the psychological and emotional depth for them to carry any weight. Part of the reason is the decision to shoot the entire confrontation in the woman’s home in the form of a battle of wits which, while certainly interesting, doesn’t really get to the heart of the issues being referenced.

In Good Company (인 굿 컴퍼니 )

In Good Company (인 굿 컴퍼니 )

In Good Company (인 굿 컴퍼니) –  ★★★☆☆

In Good Company is an excellent examination of the misogyny and unfairness women are forced to endure in contemporary Korea. Director Kim Seong-ho (김성호) also wisely shoots his film in the form of a documentary adding a greater sense of realism, while adding dramatic ‘reconstructions’ of the events that occurred as a pregnant worker is forced to resign in order to save a company providing maternity pay. Interestingly, rather than centering the argument around exploitative patriarchy through the male boss – performed ably by Lee Myeong-haeng (이명행) – the narrative emphasises the work ethic within Korean culture, and the lack of female solidarity, as the source of the problem. This is where In Good Company really shines, as the women who should know better and support each other actually perpetuate the misogyny, which is a highly refreshing take on the subject. While the film explores the issues well, it is ultimately let down in the quest to tie up all the narrative loose ends through a contrived finale which undermines what came before.

Verdict:

Modern Family is an insightful collection of 4 short films concerned with trauma in the contemporary family unit. Each director – Shin Su-won, Hong Ji-young, Lee Soo-yeon and Kim Seong-ho – have each produced work that exemplifies their unique styles as well as exploring quite diverse areas, and the omnibus is consistently compelling throughout. The time limitations do have a negative impact on the storytelling however, as just as the narrative begins to push their protagonists in dramatic directions the film is cut short, or the rush to tie everything up leads to contrivances. Despite this, Modern Family is a thought-provoking drama, and a great showcase of directing talent.

 ★★★☆☆

International Women's Film Festival in Seoul (서울국제여성영화제) Reviews
The 15th International Women's Film Festival in Seoul

WFFIS 2013: The 15th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul – New Currents

The 15th International Women's Film Festival in Seoul

The 15th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul

The 15th installment of the International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul (WFFIS) is due to commence from May the 24th to the 30th, in the trendy Sinchon district of the capital. With the catchphrase, “see the world through women’s eyes!”, the festival celebrates the achievements of female filmmakers throughout the world by screening an eclectic selection of films that focus on women’s issues.

The festival will launch with American director Sally Potter’s Ginger and Rosa, a film that explores the early days of feminism in 1960s London through the experiences of two teenage girls. From there, films from around the world will be shown that will promote and explore a variety of discourses.

For the full list of films you can visit the official website here, but for an in-depth look specifically at the Korean films in the festival – as well as the official WFFIS trailer – please see below.

New Currents Category

Grape Candy (청포도 사탕: 17년 전의 약속)

Grape Candy (청포도 사탕: 17년 전의 약속)

Grape Candy (청포도 사탕: 17년 전의 약속)

Director: Kim Hee-jung (김희정)

Synopsis: Released in 2012, director Kim Hee-jung’s independent drama Grape Candy explores the life of Sun-joo who is busy making preparations for her upcoming wedding. When her fiance is involved in an accident, she bumps into estranged middle school friend So-ra at the hospital and discovers the two are due to embark on a business trip together. Filled with jealousy, Sun-joo joins the trip but in doing so suppressed memories from the past begin to surface. See below for the trailer:

Love Games (연애놀이)

Love Games (연애놀이)

Love Games (연애놀이)

Director: Joung Yu-mi (정유미)

Synopsis: This animated 16 minute short film portrays the different kinds of games that couples play to bring them closer together, from mundane picnic events to more exciting endeavours.

Modern Family (가족시네마 )

Modern Family (가족시네마 )

Modern Family (가족시네마 )

Directors: Shin Su-won (신수원), Lee Soo-yeon (이수연), Kim Seong-ho (김성호), Hong Ji-young (홍지영)

Synopsis: Omnibus film Modern Family is comprised of 4 shorts that examine the family unit. In Circle Line, director Shin Su-won depicts the life of an unemployed middle-aged man. Director Lee Soo-yeon depicts the possible future of motherhood in E.D.571, involving a woman in 2030 who sold her eggs to repay student loans. In Good Company is about pregnant women in the workplace by director Kim Seong-ho. Finally director Hong Ji-young explores family trauma in Star-shaped Stain.

Circle Line (순환선)

Circle Line (순환선)

E.D.571

E.D.571

In Good Company (인 굿 컴퍼니 )

In Good Company (인 굿 컴퍼니 )

Star-shaped Stain (별 모양의 얼룩)

Star-shaped Stain (별 모양의 얼룩)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Father's Emails (아버지의 이메일)

My Father’s Emails (아버지의 이메일)

 My Father’s Emails (아버지의 이메일)

Director: Hong Jae-hee (홍재희)

Synopsis: My Father’s Emails is an autobiographical documentary based on the life of director Hong’s father, who wrote an email detailing his experiences through periods of Korean history.

Nora Noh (노라노)

Nora Noh (노라노)

Nora Noh (노라노)

Director: Kim Sung-hee (김성희)

Synopsis: Fashion designer Nora Noh is the subject of this documentary. Her importance in the world of fashion as the first person in Korea to hold a fashion show, as well as her other contributions, are explored and profiled.

Pluto (명왕성)

Pluto (명왕성)

Pluto (명왕성)

Director: Shin Su-won (신수원)

Synopsis: Festival favourite Pluto has garnered a lot of positive critical response since its premiere at the Busan Film Festival in 2012. The film explores the incredible pressure and bullying that transpires in Korean high schools, as well as the power wielded – and abused – by elite students. While several films have tackled the challenging subject matter, Pluto‘s originality and powerful resonance has led to invitations to international festivals including Hong Kong and Berlin. See the trailer below:

Tour of Duty (거미의 땅)

Tour of Duty (거미의 땅)

Tour of Duty (거미의 땅)

Director: Kim Dong-ryung (김동령), Park Kyoung-tae (박경태)

Synopsis: Documentary Tour of Duty examines a dilapidated camp town that once hosted the US military. Directors Kim and Park follow 3 women, and reveal their secrets and memories.

You Were So Precious (너무 소중했던, 당신)

You Were So Precious (너무 소중했던, 당신)

You Were So Precious (너무 소중했던, 당신)

Director: Baek Mi-young (백미영)

Synopsis: This animated co-production with France portrays an underground world where forgotten things dwell. When a child monk decides to return one to its owner, events are set in motion.

Festival News International Women's Film Festival in Seoul (서울국제여성영화제) Korean Festivals 2013