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.

★★★★☆

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

You Are More Than Beautiful (그녀의 연기) – ★★★★☆

You Are More Than Beautiful (그녀의 연기)

You Are More Than Beautiful (그녀의 연기)

Kim Tae-yong (김태용) is one of the few directors working in the Korean film industry who actively gives women a ‘voice’.  Rather than define female protagonists through relationships or position them as objects/commodities, director Kim’s films are consistently compelling through the articulation of fully-formed women’s roles.

You Are More Than Beautiful (그녀의 연기) fits very much within such a framework. Indeed, the Korean titles literally translates as ‘Her Performance‘, an ironic title referring to both the director’s sensibilties as well as Gong Hyo-jin’s (공효진) outstanding acting talent. The 25 minute Hong Kong co-production is a highly charismatic short film, and despite the limited time frame manages to portray a lovingly nuanced and very entertaining romantic tale.

Upon learning of his terminally ill father’s condition, Jeju Islander Cheol-su (Park Hee-soon (박희순) must quickly return to his hometown to say a final farewell. However, wishing to show his father that he will be taken care of, Cheol-su hires an actress, Yeong-hee (Gong Hyo-jin), to act as his fiancee. Upon meeting the actress at the airport, Cheol-su quickly discovers Yeong-hee’s incredible positivity and charisma as she tries her utmost to fulfill her role.

Yeong-hee and Cheol-su meet at the airport, ready for their roles

Yeong-hee and Cheol-su meet at the airport, ready for their roles

First and foremost, the reason You Are More Than Beautiful is such a lovely short film is due to the superb performance of Gong Hyo-jin. From the moment she enters the film at the airport through to the final credits, the actress is constantly charismatic and it’s impossible not to be won over by her positivity. The title is particularly apt as Gong Hyo-jin is indeed very attractive, yet that is not what defines her character. It is Yeong-hee’s indomitable spirit and her cheeky-yet-playful personality that makes her so compelling to watch. Whether taking pictures in the countryside to reinforce the charade, or simply having a conversation to discover Cheol-su’s personality, Yeong-hee is a beautiful person both inside and out. Yet where the protagonist really shines in in meeting her fake fiancé’s terminally ill father. Her rendition of traditional Korean opera, as well as her interactions with the elderly gentleman, are a joy to behold due to the poignancy and heartwarming comedy embodied by the actress.

Actor Park Hee-soon also provides a great foil as stoic and sombre Cheol-su. The reason for his melancholy seems to go beyond his father’s illness, with the washed out colour palette conveying his depression well. Watching Cheol-su’s reluctance to engage with Yeong-hee’s positivity is wonderfully entertaining, as her zest for life slows chips away at his cold exterior yet he still attempts to keep her at a distance. The mismatched couple convey more heart and emotional connection than most films manage in three times the length, which is an incredible feat.

To flesh out the facade, the couple discover each other's traits

To flesh out the facade, the couple discover each other’s traits

Director Kim has stated that prior to filming You Are More Than Beautiful, all he prepared were the camera and the cast. This is quite surprising as the cinematography is very attractive throughout the film, particularly the manner in which the natural beauty of Jeju Island is captured. The roads and paths, as well as the horse farm, highlight the unspoiled nature of the island and as such conveys the romanticism with which Jeju has become renowned. Similarly, while the great outdoors looks gorgeous, director Kim employs some wonderful symmetrical shots to emphasis different stages of the evolving relationship between Yeong-hee and Cheol-su to great effect.

Yet despite such praise, the film isn’t quite perfect. It’s a credit to director Kim and the actors involved that although a lot of events occur during the 25 minute running time, there is still a desire for more. This certainly could have been achieved with more development ascribed to Cheol-su, whose character isn’t as fully-formed as Yeong-hee. Yet with Gong Hyo-jin on such amazing form it is entirely understandable, as her enthralling charisma and grace make the film so compelling.

Actress Gong Hyo-jin is wonderfully charismatic as Yeong-hee

Actress Gong Hyo-jin is wonderfully charismatic as Yeong-hee

Verdict:

You Are More Than Beautiful is a delightful short film by director Kim Tae-yong. As one of the few directors in the Korean film industry creating fully-developed female roles his films are always interesting, and actress Gong Hyo-jin takes full advantage of the opportunity to perform her acting talent. Throughout the film she is utterly compelling and wonderfully charismatic, living up to the title as her passion for life and positivity make her more than an attractive women. A lovely short film.

★★★★☆

 

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
The 15th International Women's Film Festival in Seoul

WFFIS 2013: Muse With A Movie Camera and Queer Rainbow

The 15th International Women's Film Festival in Seoul

The 15th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul

With a focus on exploring female issues through cinema, the Women’s Film Festival in Seoul has constructed several different categories in which to emphasise the concerns women face in contemporary society. Previously the New Currents, as well as The Coming of Age in Asian Women Filmmaking and Violence Against Women have been discussed, yet within this feature three different areas are explored. Actress, Muse With A Movie Camera is, as the title suggests, regarding women who have chosen to go behind the camera and direct. The 3 Korean films within this area feature quite diverse work, from high-budget thriller to low-budget short. Queer cinema is acknowledged in Queer Rainbow: Queer x Feminism, although unfortunately there’s only one Korean film exploring such gender and sexuality issues. Finally, Open Cinema is concerned with male directors who explore or represent women’s rights or interests, expanding the representation of women on screen. While there’s just one Korean film in this category, it’s a sublime documentary and one that eloquently fits the goal of broadening women’s issues in cinema.

Actress, Muse With A Movie Camera

The Knitting (뜨개질)

The Knitting (뜨개질)

The Knitting (뜨개질)

Director: Yoon Eun-hye (윤은혜)

Synopsis: Superstar actress Yoon Eun-hye helms short film The Knitting, a drama about a woman struggling to cope following a break-up. Seeking solace through knitting, the memories of the past love prove hard to erase.

The Peach Tree (복숭아 나무)

The Peach Tree (복숭아 나무)

The Peach Tree (복숭아 나무)

Director: Ku Hye-sun (구혜선)

Synopsis: Released in 2012 after receiving its premiere at the Busan Film Festival in 2011, The Peach Tree tells the story of two twin brothers who fall in love with the same woman. While it might initially sound cliched, the narrative takes on a new twist as the twins were born conjoined, sharing the same body, yet have quite different personalities. With lots of symbolism involving the nature of family and the titular peach tree, the romantic drama resonates strongly. See below for the trailer:

Perfect Number (용의자 X)

Perfect Number (용의자 X)

Perfect Number (용의자 X)

Director: Pang Eun-jin (방은진)

Synopsis: Based on Japanese author Keigo Higashino’s novel The Devotion of Suspect X, Perfect Number is the second film by actress-turned-director Pang Eun-jin following Princess Aurora. The thriller depicts a woman who kills her ex-husband following a violent assault, and the gifted mathematician living next door who helps her conceal the crime from the authorities. The film was quite successful when released last year. See below for the trailer:

Queer Rainbow: Queer x Feminism

To Become 1 (2의 증명)

To Become 2 (2의 증명)

To Become 2 (2의 증명)

Directors: Sui (스이), Kay (케이)

Synopsis: The only queer entry in the category explores the life of a middle-aged woman preparing to undergo gender correction treatment. Yet she continually faces obstacles by those around her.

Open Cinema

My Place (마이 플레이스)

My Place (마이 플레이스)

My Place (마이 플레이스)

Director: Emmanuel Moonchil Park (박문칠)

Synopsis:  Winning the Audience Award at the 2013 Jeonju Film Festival, My Place is a wonderful documentary that explores notions of family and women’s rights. Director Park has crafted a loving film based around his sister’s pregnancy. Recommended.

You Are More Than Beautiful (그녀의 연기)

You Are More Than Beautiful (그녀의 연기)

You Are More Than Beautiful (그녀의 연기)

Director: Kim Tae-yong (김태용)

Synopsis: This Korean/Hong Kong co-production by director Kim Tae-yong involves a mysterious meeting.

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