Pluto (명왕성)

Pluto (명왕성) – ★★★★☆

Pluto (명왕성)

Pluto (명왕성)

The Korean education system is infamous for it’s grueling and oppressive culture, and the stress imposed on youngsters has often been the subject of film. Typically such themes appear in the form of teenage horrors, such as the successful Whispering Corridors series, whereby the pressures of constant examinations and competition from other students prove too much to bear for their very souls.

With Pluto (명왕성), director Shin Su-won (신수원) takes a dramatic-thriller approach to the topic and the result is fantastic. Employing the technical prowess and artistic sensibilities that earned her the Canal Plus prize for her short Circle Line (순환선) at Cannes, director Shin deftly explores the weighty subject matter with skill. Even more impressive is that Pluto manages to straddle both the independent aesthetic realm as well as more mainstream territory, a remarkable achievement given that it’s only her second feature film. While some critics have lamented the inclusion of more generic features, it is a wise move on director Shin’s part as it solidifies her name through the industry as a talent to watch.

At a highly prestigious high school that produces some of the most elite students in Korea, top student Yun-jin (Seong Joon (성준) is found murdered in a nearby forest. Immediately suspected is frosty roommate Joon (David Lee (이다윗), yet with a sound alibi his release is assured. Yet Joon knows much more about the circumstances surrounding Yun-jin’s death than he reveals, and gathers the most elite student group at school together to discover the killer.

The elite students run the school, forging a secret society

The elite students run the school, forging a secret society

Pluto begins with all the hallmarks of a highly competent independent thriller, as Yun-jin is stalked in the woods until he meets his untimely demise in suitably shocking fashion. Yet from such humble beginnings director Shin skillfully intertwines such low-budget aesthetics with thriller conventions, as prime suspect Joon is immediately questioned by detectives; however his intelligence proves too great for the officers to cope with, and with zero evidence, he is released. Both realms are consolidated incredibly well through the use of the non-linear narrative as Joon – sporting rebellious blue hair – in the present holds suspects captive as time counts down, while flashbacks to Joon’s admission to the school convey the character driven foundations.

The method is wonderfully effective in articulating the intense pressures enforced on students, whilst simultaneously providing each member of the school motive for Yun-jin’s murder. Director Shin approaches the topic with keen insight – perhaps unsurprising given her history as a teacher – as she emphasises how parental wealth, greedy tutors, and corrupt school officials are all accountable in the creation of highly intelligent yet morally questionable youths. And their actions are certainly unconscionable, as awful acts of cruelty are performed within the elite secret society of top tier students, ranging from sexual assault, bullying, bludgeoning animals and vandalism that ultimately result in suicide and murder.

Acts of vandalism are overlooked by officials in the bid to produce the best candidates

Acts of vandalism are overlooked by officials in the bid to produce the best candidates

Yet as ‘evil’ as their deeds are, director Shin fully develops each elite student as a victim in their own right. The lack of parental guidance and the encouraged desire to win at any cost pushes them into psychological instability. Their wildly spinning moral compass is, director Shin conveys, the result of a fundamentally corrupt education and class system that is doomed to repeat itself. The narrative wonderfully explores what happens when someone dares to challenge such a system through Joon, as he attempts to breach a social and educational class supposedly beyond his reach. Joon’s creativity and alternative perspective on life is brilliantly realised through his discussion on Pluto’s demotion, a theory that superbly encapsulates the very essence of the story – the belief that the sun/exam results are the center of the universe/life is not only flawed but wholly arrogant.

Lee David (이다윗) is highly competent in his performance as Joon. The novice actor does well in conveying an initially hopeful and interesting young man whose jealousy and desire leads him on a darker path. As his originality and creativity are quashed for the sake of exam results, the transformation into amorality is wholly believable.

Yet despite so many positive accomplishments, the final act was lamented by some critics for its use of generic conventions. This is an understandable criticism although one that is somewhat nitpicking. What director Shin has achieved with Pluto is remarkable, as she has taken a film with a keen social message and made it mainstream; a two-for-one in promoting debate on a serious Korean issue as well as solidifying her reputation as director of talent.

The intense stress and competition becomes to much to bear for Joon

The intense stress and competition becomes to much to bear for Joon

Verdict:

Pluto is an excellent exploration of the intense Korean education system, and the highly intelligent yet morally questionable youth that it creates. It’s a stunning feature film from director Shin Su-won, whose keen eye for symbolism and character study is articulated throughout. One of the great strengths of the film is the manner in which director Shin combines both the independent aesthetic with the mainstream thriller, simultaneously promoting debate on an important social issue as well as cementing herself as a quality director. Thoroughly recommended.

★★★★☆

International Women's Film Festival in Seoul (서울국제여성영화제) Reviews
My Place (마이 플레이스)

My Place (마이 플레이스) – ★★★★☆

My Place (마이 플레이스)

My Place (마이 플레이스)

The best kinds of documentary are the ones where the audience and those within the film itself undertake the same journey of discovery, sharing revelations and introspections about a particular topic that ultimately change the perspectives of those both sides of the camera. This is acutely the case with director Park Moon-chil’s My Place, a highly personal account of the director’s own family history and trauma. Director Park explores the inherently Korean cultural clashes of traditional ideology versus the contemporary, Western individualism contrasted with Eastern collectivism, as well as gender and family politics, all through the microcosm of his own family unit. Beginning with very traditional concerns over his unmarried sister’s pregnancy, the documentary charts how every member of the Park family is forced to re-examine themselves, their pasts, and their choices in order to welcome the new member into the fold. From beginning to end My Place is a heartwarming and illuminating film, thanks in no small part to the director’s wonderfully strong and charismatic sister who challenges familial and cultural issues head-on and emerges victorious.

My Place (마이 플레이스)

Cross-cultural trauma and single motherhood are problematic topics in Korea

Director Park’s sister Peace is very much the heart and soul of My Place, and the documentary is largely centered around the ramifications of her decision to be a single mother. In Korean culture unwed mothers are heavily stigmatized, and the film begins by attempting to address her perceived irresponsibility and whether abortion is a viable option. Yet as director Park converses about the issue with his parents, he begins to re-evaluate his own understanding of his sisters character through considering their shared history, and by interviewing her about her past and the pregnancy. The technique is superb, as the non-judgmental approach allows for layers of psychology and past traumas to be re-examined, and how they impact the decisions of the present. For instance, the film explores how the siblings were born and raised in Toronto which allowed their individuality and creativity to be nurtured, yet their forced relocation back to Korea at a young age provided an enormous culture shock that was difficult to cope with; the director even noting that school assemblies reminded him of the Nazis. The impact was greatest on Peace however, and the home videos and photographs of her childhood authentically capture her fraught and difficult childhood.

Old home videos add authenticity to the journey the family undertake

Old home videos add authenticity to the journey the family undertake

Director Park also applies such frameworks to his mother and father, and in doing so discovers more about what drove them in their youth and what shaped their decision-making processes so long ago. With the revelations of Peace’s unhappy childhood it would be all too easy to blame his parents, and while they indeed acknowledge responsibility for their choices, delving into their history stops the issue from being simple. Such scenes are brilliantly edited within the documentary not only for their seamlessness, but the constantly compelling revelations regarding his parents inspires audience introspection. Each member of the Park household is a fascinating person forged by history, and the loving care that director Park exhibits when filming them is palpable. This particularly applies in regard to Peace, as the directors respect and admiration for his sister clearly grows and develops during the course of the film.

Ironically what forces the family to re-evaluate themselves is the very thing that causes them worry – Peace’s pregnancy. And when her son Soul is born, witnessing the family gathering together and become stronger than ever is extremely poignant. Director Park charts the very early years of Soul’s life in similarly effective style, exploring how each member attempts to find a role in which to provide help and support, and the results are consistently moving, humourous and entertaining. Watching Peace working hard as a single mother, and Soul as he develops a personality of his own, is powerfully absorbing and captured with tenderness and sensitivity. One such scene involves Soul and his grandfather reading a storybook together, and the attempt to bestow morality lessons on the youngster is a beautifully funny moment. Director Park – and the audience – come to realise that the initial concerns over Peace’s pregnancy were unfounded, and that the strength and resilience she exhibits as a single mother are incredibly admirable. As such, My Place is emblematic of changing cultural attitudes, and is a wonderful testament to the love and bonds shared within the family.

Family trauma is revisited and healed through the birth of Peace

Family trauma is revisited and healed through the birth of Peace

Verdict:

My Place is a funny, enlightening, and wonderful documentary about the importance of family. By using his unwed sisters pregnancy as a catalyst, director Park Moon-chil uses his concerns as a springboard in which to explore the history and psychology of his mother, father, and most predominantly his sister Peace. In doing so director Park shares his revelations and changing attitudes with the audience, with each step constantly compelling as the family attempt to heal past traumas in order to welcome the new baby. A superb and lovely documentary.

★★★★☆

International Women's Film Festival in Seoul (서울국제여성영화제) Jeonju International Film Festival (제14회 전주국제영화제) Reviews
A former 'prostitute' throws candy at evil spirits while cursing American GIs.

Tour of Duty (거미의 땅) – ★★★☆☆

Tour of Duty (거미의 땅)

Tour of Duty (거미의 땅)

The sexual slavery inflicted upon the women of Korea during the Japanese occupation is an oft-discussed topic in Korean culture, with the euphemistically labelled ‘comfort women’ still striving for acknowledgement of the abuses they suffered. Less debated, however, is how the Korean government similarly forced such atrocities upon the women of the country for the pleasure of the American military, which was required in order to keep ‘peace’ on the peninsula. The hypocrisy involved has been a genuine source of frustration amongst feminists, particularly in regards to terminology – as money was exchanged for such sexual services with the American GIs, the women are often referred to as ‘prostitutes’ despite the subjugation imposed upon them.

Tour of Duty (거미의 땅)

Tour of Duty opens with a heartbreaking tale

Tour of Duty (거미의 땅), by directors Kim Dong-ryung (김동령) and Park Kyoung-tae (박경태), is a documentary that seeks to address the experiences of such ‘forgotten’ women. The film explores the lives of women forced to provide sexual services in a military town in the Uijeongbu area, and the affects of a history of sexual bondage. It is a heart-breaking and gut-wrenching viewing experience as the handful of women who still live in the now dilapidated town share their stories, and the poignancy is difficult to overstate. Directors Kim and Park do well in simply allowing their subjects to recount their traumatic pasts and their own distinct personalities, accompanied by some very attractive cinematography that exemplifies the twisted, labyrinthian landscape of not only the area but also the psychological trauma within. Yet despite such initial potency Tour of Duty loses focus and compulsion due to each director attempting to impart their own creativity on the film, resulting in an incredibly overly-long running time of two and a half hours.

A former 'prostitute' throws candy at evil spirits while cursing American GIs.

A former ‘prostitute’ throws candy at evil spirits while cursing American GIs.

Tour of Duty opens in suitably powerful style, as a now-elderly lady discusses some of the awful abuses she suffered when the military town was fully operational. The frank, almost confessional-tone of the conversation which includes the number of sexual partners and abortions she endured in her youth is beyond moving, while the resilience and resolve that developed as a result is incredible to witness. Similarly, the other women within the documentary are also highly compelling as they recount not only their tragic history, but their current life of squalor. One such woman, who became infected with a venereal disease from an African-American soldier, walks around the desolated military town throwing candies to ward off evil spirits while screaming racial obscenities about the man who gave her the affliction. Another traverses the myriad of maze-like pathways searching through refuse, lamenting the loss of her children. Directors Kim and Park employing stunning cinematography for each woman, employing different and very effective cinematic techniques for each in order to convey the disparate characters within the film. One of the most powerful images in the film comes when trying to locate the town itself on a map. As the camera moves across the Uijeongbu district, the sheer number of former military towns starkly articulates that the women featured within Tour of Duty are symbolic of a great many such stories in the area.

Yet the documentary becomes problematic when it begins to explore the life of an African-American/Korean orphan. Her history, involving childhood abduction by the authorities and forced prostitution – in which she often made to ‘service’ up to 15 soldiers a day – is no less harrowing than the other pasts being recounted. However the manner in which her story is told is highly expressionistic and completely at odds with the prior documentarian aesthetic. As such it is very clear that two directors are collaborating, with their alternative visions never managing to form a cohesive whole. The result is two films that have been edited together in a rather rudimentary fashion, which detracts from the incredible poignancy of what came before. This also gives rise to the other big issue with the film in the form of the two and a half hour running time, which is far, far too long. This is a genuine shame as had the two quite different films been edited separately both would be much stronger pieces of film, particularly the superb documentarian aesthetic in which Tour of Duty began.

A Korean-American orphan explores the old brothels she was forced to work in

A Korean-American orphan explores the old brothels she was forced to work in

Verdict:

Tour of Duty is a powerful documentary about the sexual abuses suffered by Korean women in an American military town in the Uijeongbu district. The stories of sexual slavery are harrowing and poignant, while the government role by both Korea and America in the atrocities, as well as the ‘forgotten’ status of the women, makes for an important and sometimes upsetting viewing experience. Yet the film loses traction as directors Kim Dong-ryung and Park Kyoung-tae seek to impose their quite different visual styles – the documentarian and the experimentalist – and the two disparate aesthetic styles never combine into a cohesive whole and make an overly-long running time of two and a half hours. Despite this, Tour of Duty is a potent reminder of crimes from the recent past that should not be forgotten.

★★★☆☆

International Women's Film Festival in Seoul (서울국제여성영화제) Reviews
BRA (브라자)

WFFIS 2013: Quick Fire Reviews 3

The quick-fire reviews featured here are from the Asian Short Film and Video Competition (아시아 단편경선):

BRA (브라자)

BRA (브라자)

BRA (브라자) – 7/10

Director Won Jan-di’s (원잔디) coming-of-age drama is a lovely and compelling story about a young girl called Da-young on the verge of entering adolescence  The tale encapsulates a wide spectrum of human emotion as Da-hyung desires to be seen as a woman by the boy she likes, and as such focuses on breasts as the sign of womanhood. As Da-young steals her grandmother’s bra and attempts to create breasts of her own, the film becomes a heart-warming tale of innocence with sweet moments of genuine comedy and drama. Director Won also seeks to create a comparison between Da-young and her grandmother, who is going through similar trials of her own. Yet as the grandmother’s story isn’t as developed as Da-young’s it serves to detract from the main story, although their discussion about entering womanhood is poignant and insightful. Certainly one of the better short films in the competition.

Chunjung (춘정)

Chunjung (춘정)

Chunjung (춘정) – 4/10

To be honest, it’s quite difficult to accurately review Chunjung as the English subtitles were so awful that the story was difficult to follow. Director Lee Mi-rang’s (이미랑) entry follows Chinese immigrant Chunjung, who joins an agency which cons elderly Korean people into parting with their money. It’s illegal of course, yet she forms relationships with the other women working there. It’s an odd film, as Chunjung appears to be mentally ill as well as illiterate, while the women at the agency always seem to talk about finding a man. Ultimately the film does very little to explore either the immigrant experience or Chunjung as a character, although hints of such may have been missed due to the terrible subtitles.

Fitting Room (피팅룸)

Fitting Room (피팅룸)

Fitting Room (피팅룸) – 4/10

Fitting Room is concerned with a mother who wishes to have a life of freedom, but can’t due to her young daughter. It is extremely difficult to empathise with the mother as she treats her daughter terribly throughout, never talking to her or attempting to understand the youngster. The turning point comes when the mother hides the sleeping girl in a closet in order to have sex with her boyfriend, which seems to be the catalyst for wishing to be a better mum. Director Oh Jung-mi (오정미) is clearly attempting to explore the evolving relationship between a bad single mother and her innocent daughter, but there is little depth due to the lack of dialogue and restriction within an apartment.

Mija (미자)

Mija (미자)

Mija (미자) – 6/10

Director Jeon Hyo-jeong’s (전효정) examination of lonely middle-aged woman Mija is an insightful, poignant, and often comedic short film. Her secret lover is a younger Nepalese man – a feature which sadly instigated gasps amongst the audience – and Mija decides to purchase tickets for them both to visit his homeland. The real power of the film lies in Mija’s desire to overcome her jealousies and her age through cosmetics and other methods, yet is ultimately unable to do so. The film is a poignant and moving depiction of a single middle-aged woman who wishes to change her life, with just enough comedy to keep the narrative from becoming bleak.

Mira's Will (미라의 의지)

Mira’s Will (미라의 의지)

Mira’s Will (미라의 의지) – 5/10

One of the more straightforward comedy offerings, Mira’s Will tells the story of a lonely young woman who has yet to experience her first kiss. The film is often more mildly amusing rather than funny, although the advice given by a friend to enhance her sex appeal – not to wear underwear on a date – adds some laughs. Director Lee Eun-jeong’s (이은정) entry is entertaining, especially witnessing Mira take control of her sexuality in order to seduce a man, but suffers as she is so desperate she’s willing to accept anyone. The film also doesn’t end well as wearing no panties on a date leads to a predictable outcome. However it is refreshing to see a female character take control of her sexuality – and to desire sex – without any connotations of shame, and as such is an enjoyable tale.

The Room of Drink (살롱 드 보아)

The Room of Drink (살롱 드 보아)

The Room of Drink (살롱 드 보아) – 3/10

The Room of Drink is an exploration of the way in which women are exploited in hostess bars by wealthy men. The premise is full of potential, as the hostess bar culture in Korea highlights one of the more accepted forms of misogyny within the country. However the film fails to scratch any of the surfaces that are so ripe for examination. When a pretty, young office worker is asked to drop by such a bar to provide documents for her boss, she is ushered into acting like a hostess, pouring drinks for her boss’ companion and allowing him to touch her. The unease is palpable, although never moves into the realm of tension, while the glares passed between the office worker and the real hostess convey an odd mix of jealousy and judgement that are not really explored. A missed opportunity by director Sohn Hae-sook (손해숙).

Festival News International Women's Film Festival in Seoul (서울국제여성영화제) Korean Festivals 2013 Reviews
Bad Scene (배드신)

WFFIS 2013: Quick Fire Reviews 2

The quick-fire reviews featured here are from the Polemics: The Constellation of the Violence Against Women (쟁점: 보이지 않는 – 폭력의 관계구조) section:

Bad Scene (배드신)

Bad Scene (배드신)

Bad Scene (배드신) – 6/10

Bad Scene depicts the story of struggling actress Jin-hong who, due to her 28 years of age, fails to get the part of a high school student. However there is a role in the film suitable for her, but it involves a lot of nudity. Writer/director Jeon Go-woon (전고운) explores the internal conflict of a woman who wishes to succeed yet must use her body to do so, highlighting the serious issue of the physical exploitation of women in the workplace. Yet ironically the strength of the film doesn’t lie in the main story, but in events that surround it. Jin-hong tapes her breasts to be upright and perky, and sexualizes herself in school uniform, even before the nude role is offered.  In attempting to prepare for the sex scene, Jin-hong asks a male friend to help but in doing so is almost raped, as he protests that she, “started it.”  The psychological and psychical exhaustion she suffers are clear throughout, yet the main problem with Bad Scene is that in depicting her private life the film loses focus on the actual ‘bad scene’ itself and the way women are exploited on camera. A moving and thought-provoking drama that could of benefited from greater focus and/or an extra ten minutes for exploration.

Deviation (도착)

Deviation (도착)

Deviation (도착) – 5/10

Director Lee Min-beh (이민배) explores the ‘male gaze’ and the hypocrisy of masculinity in Deviation. On the subway Su-jin overhears men discussing the leak of a sex tape by a prominent actress, and the rampant misogyny in their ideology as they chastise the actress yet are excited by watching it. However the film then takes an awkward turn as Su-jin visits a police station due to the arrest of her boyfriend, who has been secretly taking pictures of women’s legs. The hypocrisy of the officers is explored as they accuse the boyfriend of perversion yet do so themselves, and make up appallingly sexist reasons for  the crime. Much of the running time is spent in the station which is unfortunate, as the conversations are generally pushed too far beyond the realm of believability for it to be of consequence. Yet director Lee does finish on an ironic and pertinent end note, by directly accusing the audience of sexism through the voyeurism of the camera itself, which is a nice touch.

My, No Mercy Home (잔인한 나의, 홈)

My No Mercy Home (잔인한 나의, 홈)

My No Mercy Home (잔인한 나의, 홈) – 7/10

Documentary My No Mercy Home is a powerful viewing experience, as director Aori (아오리) follows the court case of a young woman – nicknamed ‘Dolphin’ – as she sues her father for rape and sexual assault which commenced in the 8th grade. Yet what is truly shocking about this real-life story is how Dolphin’s family accuse her of lying, despite the evidence to the contrary, and ex-communicated by the mostly female members of the family. Technically the film is quite rough-around-the-edges, yet Dolphin’s story is so heart-breakingly sincere that it highly compelling, albeit difficult, viewing. One of the wonderful elements of My No Mercy Home is the emphasis on other women as villains; while the father is responsible for rape, it is Dolphin’s mother, aunt and sisters, as well as an ex-boyfriend’s mother and various others figures, who turn their backs on the truth and Dolphin’s suffering. While it would have benefited from greater technical prowess, the film is a  sincere and moving documentary.

Festival News International Women's Film Festival in Seoul (서울국제여성영화제) Korean Festivals 2013 Reviews
Actress Gong Hyo-jin is wonderfully charismatic as Yeong-hee

WFFIS 2013: Quick Fire Reviews 1

The first in a series of quick-fire reviews from the 15th Seoul Women’s Film Festival, 2013:

You Are More Than Beautiful (그녀의 연기)

You Are More Than Beautiful (그녀의 연기)

You Are More Than Beautiful (그녀의 연기) – 8/10

Director Kim Tae-yong’s (김태용) You Are More Than Beautiful is a wonderfully charismatic short film, due wholly to the performance of Gong Hyo-jin (공효진). The story involves Jeju Islander – and singleton – Cheol-su, who returns to the island upon hearing that his elderly father is seriously ill. To ease his father’s suffering Cheol-su hires actress Young-hee (Gong) to play the role of his fiancee, so that he may leave this world without worrying about his son. While it certainly sounds like weighty subject matter, Gong’s charisma and grace elevate the film into a heartfelt comedy-drama as her playful personality turns all forms of negativity into keen optimism. Indeed, her rendition of traditional Korean opera is poignantly moving and uplifting, emphasising her caliber as an actress.  As one of the few directors in contemporary Korea cinema featuring women in prominent roles, Kim Tae-yong does incredibly well in simply allowing Gong to act, while his vision captures the Jeju scenery beautifully. A lovely short film.

My Place (마이 플레이스)

My Place (마이 플레이스)

My Place (마이 플레이스) – 9/10

Having already seen My Place at the Jeonju International Film Festival, could director Park Moon-chil’s (박문칠) documentary have the same resonance on a repeated viewing? Absolutely. Experiencing director Park’s evolving perspective on his family is consistently compelling and entertaining, as he changes from a man worried about his sister’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy to a man who comes to admire her strength of character. The personal family trauma that he places on screen is sincere and poignant, and director Park never shies away from the more difficult – and defining – periods from their history. He balances the representation of each family member incredibly well, simultaneously caring yet objective, allowing for each person to openly convey their psychology. An excellent documentary about family hardship and the desire to set things right.

Pluto (명왕성)

Pluto (명왕성)

Pluto (명왕성) – 9/10

Pluto is, quite simply, an excellent film. Director Shin Su-won’s (신수원) second feature length film is a brilliant exploration of the enormous pressure students experience within the Korean education system, and how the competitive nature to join a prestigious university forges a psychologically unbalanced generation. Director Shin’s vision shines throughout with some truly wonderful shots and compositions, articulating the fragile mental states of the protagonists by featuring superb use of the mise-en-scene. Some critics took issue with manner in which the film changes tone from high school drama to cop thriller, yet while the point is valid the evolving aesthetics and conventions do nothing to dampen the power of the story. In fact in doing so, the potency of the drama is elevated as adult institutions are held accountable, while the inclusion of thriller conventions should guarantee a more mainstream appeal. A powerful drama with an important social message, Pluto is certainly one of the best films of the year and it will very interesting to see audience reaction when it’s released nationwide in July.

Festival News International Women's Film Festival in Seoul (서울국제여성영화제) Korean Festivals 2013 Reviews
The 15th International Women's Film Festival in Seoul

WFFIS 2013: Asian Short Film and Video Competition

The 15th International Women's Film Festival in Seoul

The 15th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul

With so many exciting films centered around the representation of women in cinema and women’s issues, the International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul is gearing up to be a strong event for its 15th installment. Previously, the Korean offerings that have been explored here at Hanguk Yeonghwa emphasise the many and varied roles occupied by women in cinema, in New CurrentsThe Coming of Age in Asian Women Filmmaking and Violence Against Women, and Actress, Muse With A Movie Camera and Queer Rainbow: Queer x Feminism. Each of these categories serve to place a spotlight on the talented female filmmakers that exist within Korea, and their explorations of the great many contemporary challenges they face.

However every great film festival needs a competition, and WFFIS is no different. Here the Korean entries in the Asian Short Film and Video Competition are profiled, with an incredibly broad range of topics featured. From adolescent tales of puberty to desiring a first kiss, from a secret relationship with a foreigner to feminist figures, the short film competition has something strikes a chord with just about every age group.

Asian Short Film and Video Competition

The Bathhouse (목욕탕)

The Bathhouse (목욕탕)

The Bathhouse (목욕탕)

Director: Kim Ji-su (김지수)

Synopsis: This 7 minute animated film explores the sauna culture within Korea, where people soak themselves in pools of different temperatures. The style conveys something of a celebration of women’s bodies.

Beast Is My Middle Name (맹수는 나의 것)

Beast Is My Middle Name (맹수는 나의 것)

Beast Is My Middle Name (맹수는 나의 것)

Director: Kim Bo-ra (김보라)

Synopsis: Female sexuality is explored in this drama as student Ji-ran develops a fascination for Yu-jin’s thighs, and thoughts and fantasies begin to emerge.

BRA (브라자)

BRA (브라자)

BRA (브라자)

Director: Won Jan-di (원잔디)

Synopsis: BRA follows a young girl called Da-young, whose love for a man across the street leads her to desiring a bra like her friend wears. But will it provide confidence?

Chunjung (춘정)

Chunjung (춘정)

Chunjung (춘정)

Director: Lee Mi-rang (이미랑)

Synopsis: Drama Chunjung explores the life of a woman living in contemporary Korea, and her desire to create a home. Her work and relationships are also featured.

The Confession (못 다한 이야기)

The Confession (못 다한 이야기)

The Confession (못 다한 이야기)

Director: Kim Bo-mi (김보미)

Synopsis: This documentary is a heartfelt entry as the narrator explores the pain and loneliness of her separation from her ex-boyfriend.

Dictee-An Homage to Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (딕테-차학경 오마주)

Dictee-An Homage to Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (딕테-차학경 오마주)

Dictee-An Homage to Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (딕테-차학경 오마주)

Director: Mi-young (미영)

Synopsis: Murdered Korean-American artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s life is the subject of this film, as her origins from the Korean War to her immigration to San Francisco to her death.

Fitting Room (피팅룸)

Fitting Room (피팅룸)

Fitting Room (피팅룸)

Director: Oh Jung-mi (오정미)

Synopsis: This 9 minute short portrays the relationship between a mother and her young daughter, how they argue and compromise, and bond through preparation.

Iron Age (철의 시대)

Iron Age (철의 시대)

Iron Age (철의 시대)

Director: Jung Ji-yoon (정지윤)

Synopsis: Documentary Iron Age appears quite symbolic in nature as the film depicts a woman who has a hole in her heart. The film examines the nature of her personality.

Island in Island: More Oceans Inside, and More Islands Inside (섬 안의 섬, 그 안의 더 많은 바다, 그리고 그 안의 더 많은 섬들)

Island in Island: More Oceans Inside, and More Islands Inside (섬 안의 섬, 그 안의 더 많은 바다, 그리고 그 안의 더 많은 섬들)

Island in Island: More Oceans Inside, and More Islands Inside (섬 안의 섬, 그 안의 더 많은 바다, 그리고 그 안의 더 많은 섬들)

Director: Kim Ji-yeong (김지영)

Synopsis: This experimental drama explores the concept of memory.

Mija (미자)

Mija (미자)

Mija (미자)

Director: Jeon Hyo-jeong (전효정)

Synopsis: A secret love with a foreign man is the subject of this drama, as a middle aged woman attempts to go abroad with her lover but encounters problems.

Mira's Will (미라의 의지)

Mira’s Will (미라의 의지)

Mira’s Will (미라의 의지)

Director: Lee Eun-jeong (이은정)

Synopsis: A young woman named Mira decides to work on her sex appeal in order to finally succeed in getting her first kiss, but she takes things a little far.

The Room of Drink (살롱 드 보아)

The Room of Drink (살롱 드 보아)

The Room of Drink (살롱 드 보아)

Director: Sohn Hae-sook (손해숙)

Synopsis: Office worker Joo-hyun is forced to visit a hostess bar when her boss asks for documents, which forces her into an uncomfortable situation.

Sewing Woman (바느질 하는 여자)

Sewing Woman (바느질 하는 여자)

Sewing Woman (바느질 하는 여자)

Director: Woo Jin (우진)

Synopsis: This 3 minute animated short is about a woman who never stops sewing. The aesthetics and stylisation look very interesting.

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