Jeonju Int. Film Festival 2015 – Hot Picks

The 16th Jeonju Int. Film Festival

The 16th Jeonju Int. Film Festival

The 16th Jeonju International Film Festival, which will run from April 30th through to May 9th, has unveiled the full lineup of Korean and foreign films to be screened.

In terms of Korean cinema, in addition to the already previously announced Korean Competition and Korean Competition for Shorts that features new and emerging talent, films from the peninsula will feature within Korean Cinemascape and Korean Cinemascape for Shorts, as well as in other select programs.

With so many independent productions from which to choose, selecting quality films can be somewhat of a daunting task. As such, here are Hanguk Yeonghwa’s Hot Picks for the upcoming festival.

Jeonju Digital Project 2015

Samnye (삼례) – Director Lee Hyun-jung (이현정)

Samnye

Samnye

Director Lee’s previous JIFF film, Echo of Dragon, appeared in the 2013 Korean Competition and proved her art-house sensibilities. Samnye tells the story of a struggling screenwriter, who meets a charming yet strange girl. Art cinema fans should definitely take a look.

Snow Paths (설행 눈길을 걷다) – Director Kim Hee-jung (김희정)

Snow Paths

Snow Paths

Described by JIFF Head Programmer KIM Young-jin as, “undervalued in the Korean film industry,” director Kim (Grape Candy) returns with Snow Paths, a film exploring the life of an alcoholic seeking solace in the mountains who befriends a nun.

Korea Cinemascape

Black Stone (블랙스톤) – Director Roh Gyeong-tae (노경태)

Black Stone

Black Stone

Black Stone premiered at Rotterdam earlier this year. A Korean/French co-production, the film depicts highly controversial issues in contemporary Korea, involving inter-racial families and abuses within the Korean military.

Death in Desert (붉은 낙타) – Director No Zin-soo (노진수)

Death In Desert

Death In Desert

Director No has been busy recently with Total Messed Family (JIFF 2013), The Suffered (JIFF 2014), and The Maidroid (Yubari Fantastic Festival 2015). With Death in Desert, he explores an obsessive relationship between a couple who just can’t let go of each other.

Made in China (메이드 인 차이나) – Director Kim Dong-hoo (김동후)

Made In China

Made In China

There’s been plenty of buzz around the Kim Ki-duk produced Made in China, which premiered at Tokyo in 2014. Featuring stars Park Ki-woong and Han Chae-ah, the story involves a Chinese eel farmer and a cold-hearted Korean food inspector.

Speed (스피드) – Director Lee Sang-woo (이상우)

Speed

Speed

Director Lee is notorious for tackling controversial subject matter within his films, as exemplified by Mother is a Whore, Barbie, and Fire in Hell. Following short film Exit at JIFF 2013, he returns with Speed, a tale of four friends whose lives are intertwined.

Trap (덫, 치명적인 유혹) – Director Bong Man-dae (봉만대)

Trap

Trap

Director Bong’s Han River premiered at Busan 2014 to praise for exploring suicide with dark comedy. With Trap, a miserable screenwriter travels to an inn to finish a script, yet falls for the charms of a seductive teenage girl with increasingly dark ambitions.

Korea Cinemascape for Shorts

The Running Actress (여배우는 오늘도) – Director Moon So-ri (문소리)

The Running Actress

The Running Actress

Legendary actress Moon So-ri steps behind the camera for The Running Actress, a 24 minute short film. In it, Moon plays a woman trying to balance domestic life and hardships while attempting to forge a career on screen.

Outdoor Screening

Like a French Movie (프랑스 영화처럼) – Director Shin Yeon-shik (신연식)

Like a French Movie

Like a French Movie

Director Shin has a rare ability to helm films both mainstream (Rough Play) and artistic (The Avian Kind, The Russian Novel). In Like a French Movie, which seems to be one of the director’s artistic endeavours, the protagonists all embody the traits of characters within a French film.

For more information of the films playing at Jeonju International Film Festival, please follow the link here.

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16th Jeonju International Film Festival (제16회 전주국제영화제) Festival News Korean Film Festivals 2015
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
JIFF 2013

JIFF 2013: Korean Films in Competition

JIFF 2013

JIFF 2013

The 14th Jeonju International Film Festival is almost upon us, kicking off on the 25th of April and running for a week through to the 3rd of May. After the huge controversies surrounding the festival last year, JIFF is reinventing itself with new programmers and staff as well as holding additional events due to take place nearby.

As always JIFF will screen a great variety of film talent focusing specifically on the independent sector. Opening with the joint French/Canadian film Fox Fire (폭스파이어) by director Laurent Cantet, a host of new film-making talent will be on display until closing film Wajida (와즈다), by Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al Mansour, is screened.

For the full list of films being shown at JIFF 2013 please follow the link provided here, which amongst other things features a wonderful focus on Indian films in a category titled ‘Beyond Bollywood’. Yet as Hanguk Yeonghwa is concerned with Korean films specifically, here’s a rundown of the ten ‘Korean Films in Competition’.

51+

51+

51+

Director: Jung Yong-taek (정용택)

Synopsis: 51+ explores the lives of musicians who perform in the famous Hongdae area of Seoul, a hotspot for indie bands and emerging talent. Yet as the area has become more popular and big businesses have moved in, aspiring musicians are forced out and must take opportunities where they can.

Cheer Up Mr. Lee (힘내세요, 병헌씨)

Cheer Up Mr. Lee (힘내세요, 병헌씨)

Cheer Up Mr. Lee (힘내세요, 병헌씨)

Director: Lee Byeong-hun (이병헌)

Synopsis: The film follows Byeong-heon, a young aspiring film-maker who endures seemingly constant disappointment as he attempts to establish himself. The film purports to be something of an amalgamation of docu- and mockumentary set in the film world.

Dancing Woman (춤추는 여자)

Dancing Woman (춤추는 여자)

Dancing Woman (춤추는 여자)

Directors: Park Sun-il (박선일), Park Jun-hee (박준희), Ryu Jae-mi (유재미), Jo Chi-young (조지영), Choo Kyeong-yeob (추경엽)

Synopsis: Dancing Woman is an omnibus comprised of a variety of different genres and themes. Apparently, the film employs modern dance techniques during each narrative, and looks to be an interesting experimental piece.

Dear Dolphin (환상속의 그대)

Dear Dolphin (환상속의 그대)

Dear Dolphin (환상속의 그대)

Director: Kang Ji-na (강진아)

Synopsis: Employing a mixture of fantasy and reality in exploring love and death, Dear Dolphin looks set to be one of the more surreal offerings from the festival. The trailer can be viewed below:

December (디셈버)

December (디셈버)

December (디셈버)

Director: Park Jeong-hoon (박정훈)

Synopsis: December (디셈버) is an exploration of relationships and how they shift and change over time. At 73 minutes it’s quite short for a feature, yet as one of the few films focusing primarily on relationships it could be one of the more interesting dramatic films at the festival.

Echo of Dragon (용문)

Echo of Dragon (용문)

Echo of Dragon (용문)

Director: Lee Hyun-jung (이현정)

Synopsis: The description of Echo of Dragon is quite ambiguous, even labelled as a ‘peculiar drama’. With it’s off-the-wall themes – including repressed desires – and ‘twisted’ imagery, the film has the potential to be a boundary-pushing wildcard.

Grandma-Cement Garden (할매-시멘트정원)

Grandma-Cement Garden (할매-시멘트정원)

Grandma-Cement Garden (할매-시멘트정원)

Director: Kim Ji-gon (김지곤)

Synopsis: The human rights orientated Grandma-Cement Garden explores the forced relocation of elderly citizens in Busan. Their trials, lifestyles and memories are portrayed until their inevitable move, and as such could be a success with its political scandal/human interest angle.

Groggy Summer (그로기 썸머)

Groggy Summer (그로기 썸머)

Groggy Summer (그로기 썸머)

Director: Yun Su-ik (윤수익)

Synopsis: Groggy Summer is concerned with the pressures of Korean society, and their impact on a creative wannabe poet. The dissection of culture and pressure on Korean youth is an intriguing and timely premise, and could tap into cultural anxieties.

Lebanon Emotion (레바논 감정)

Lebanon Emotion (레바논 감정)

Lebanon Emotion (레바논 감정)

Director: Jung Young-heon (정영헌)

Synopsis: The description of Lebanon Emotion is incredibly vague, but it appears to be an exploration of a variety of human emotions that occur in different situations. Director Jung has helmed several short films during his career, so it will be interesting to see what he achieves with feature length material.

My Place (마이 플레이스)

My Place (마이 플레이스)

My Place (마이 플레이스)

Director: Park Moon-chil (박문칠)

Synopsis: My Place is an interrogation of the differences between contemporary and traditional Korea, focusing on one particular family unit. The ideological differences between generations isn’t particularly original, yet as single-motherhood forms part of the film it could signal a fresh approach on the subject.

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