Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why the KOFFIA experience is worth a ride

The 2nd official Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA) is on in Sydney this coming August 24 – 29, and will even be rolling into Melbourne for the first time this year in September.

While some movie goers may be deterred by the thought of reading subtitles and deciphering cultural differences in foreign films, the wicked line-up of films for KOFFIA will be sure to prove that there’s much to gain in checking out something outside of the comfortably familiar. Catering to the tastes of horror junkies, action/thriller lovers, indie hipsters and even family-friendly types, KOFFIA is a festival experience that celebrates the breakout of Korean films in international spaces – a phenomenon that could not have been foreseen a couple of decades ago.

Before the 90s, the Korean film industry wasn’t making back any of its money. Relying on Hollywood imports and cheesy melodrama to get people into cinemas, Korea’s film industry was on the verge of simply closing up shop due to its serious lack of profitability. But once the political and economic climate of Korea began to change so did the nation’s films. Even with direct American competition in the country itself, Korean production companies proved that strong concepts and innovative direction could beat foreign competitors, offering the world something that was culturally striking and yet, uniquely familiar.

KOFFIA: The History of Korean Cinema

Korean cinema now stands at a very interesting point in its history. As the eyes of international film festivals, leading American production companies and regional importers (such as China, Japan, and Vietnam) look to the Korean film industry for inspiration (and ways to make money), it seems like global audiences can’t get enough of what this geographically small but remarkable country has to offer in terms of its dramatic art onscreen.

And while celebrating Korean cinema’s success is a large part of what KOFFIA is all about, I think this special event in Sydney is more interesting and exciting in relation to Korean cinema’s rising position. That is to say, I don’t think Korean cinema has seen enough widespread attention (especially in Australia) in order to claim a dominant position in the international landscape of filmmaking. It is still a growing industry, and despite the success it may have seen in the past decade, the nation’s filmmakers are pulling all sorts of moves (good and bad) to win over an international audience. For this reason, Korean cinema deserves to be seen, reflected upon and at the very least, given a chance.

KOFFIA opens in 2010

The Australian film industry itself is continually looking for ways to tell exciting, culturally-specific and yet, widely appreciated stories. Australian filmmakers, film buffs and movie-goers are those who have an eye for originality, inspiration and the daring in film, as we ourselves live in a country full of diverse ideas and people. And considering 2011 is the year of Australia-Korean friendship, what could be a better way of getting to know each other than a movie date?

Whether you end up loving it, hating it, not understanding any of it or just getting weirded out, the distinctly different, new and eye-opening (literally!) experience of KOFFIA is definitely something to look out for.

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