Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Review: Cyrano Agency / 시라노;연애조작단 (2010)

Anyone familiar with Korean cinema will know that the romantic comedy genre is a staple of the industry, usually pitting an enviously good lucking guy and girl up against the odds to get together and live happily ever after. However in ‘Cyrano Agency’, this tried and tested method got given a refreshing and cynical twist, and came out all the better for it.

The movies unique concept is no doubt down to director and screenwriter Kim Hyeon-seok. ‘Cyrano Agency’ is his third, and at the time of writing latest movie, having not only directed but also wrote the screenplays for his previous efforts as well. Hyeon-seok is a versatile guy, and fans of Korean cinema will most likely have seen something he’s worked on one way or another. Weather it be as an actor in the movie ‘Chingu / 친구’, as the screenwriter for ‘JSA – Joint Security Area - 공동경비구역 JSA’, or as assistant director on ‘The Isle / 섬’. With ‘Cyrano Agency’, he transferred to screen a concept he first developed while still in film school, and it was certainly worth the wait to see it come to fruition.

To summarize the plot would be best done by imagining the ‘Mission: Impossible’ movies, only swap Tom Cruise for Eom Tae-woong, and swap scenarios such as trying to stop someone from trying to end the world, to trying to make a girl fall in love with the guy that’s hired them. Essentially Tae-woong and his team, played by Park Sin-hye, Park Cheol-min, and Jeon Ah-min, play a group of out of work actors who, from a run down old theater, operate an agency that specializes in making people fall in love. How do they do this? By writing carefully researched scripts, creating perfectly timed eye contact, and making that all important first kiss on a rainy evening (if it’s not raining enough, don’t worry there’s a rain machine overhead).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Interview: "A Glaring Night" with Lee Mi-ji

Our final piece of the puzzle in our Shorts Showcase is an interview with Lee Mi-ji and her graduation film A Glaring Night. The film screened as part of the Korean Short Film Night 2012 on November 29th at Cinema On The Park, a weekly Korean film night in Sydney. 

A Glaring Night follows the story of Mike, a young Korean man adopted to an American family when he was a baby, who returns to Korea in search of his father. The film centres around one single night in Daegu, as Mike, while driving his taxi, encounters a passenger who might hold the key to finding his father.

The film previously screened at the Pucheon International Fantastic Film Festival this year in the shorts section, and was voted the Audience Favourite at the Korean Short Film Night screening at Cinema On The Park last November.

Read on for a short interview with director Lee Mi-ji and her film A Glaring Night

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Interview: "Making Noise In Silence" with Mina Son

Continuing in our series of interviews with short filmmakers, next up is a special chat with Mina Son, whose film Making Noise in Silence was part of our International Short Film Showcase at this year's Korean Film Festival in Australia. The film had an encore showing as part of our Korean Short Film Night 2012 on September 29th. For more information, click through to Cinema On The Park's website.

Making Noise in Silence is a short documentary about two teenagers navigating the complexities of adolescence and adulthood within the duality of Deaf and Korean cultures.

The film screened at several different film festivals including the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, United Nations Association Film Festival, Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival and the San Diego Asian Film Festival where it received the Best Short Documentary prize in 2011.

Read on for a short interview with director Mina Son and her film Making Noise in Silence.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Interview: "KOWI" with Mary-Jo Tohill

As part of the upcoming Korean Short Film Night 2012 event organised by the programming team behind KOFFIA, we took this opportunity to speak with Mary-Jo Tohill, director of short documentary KOWI. The New Zealand produced film will be screened at this very special occasion on September 29th to celebrate the New Zealand and Korea Year of Friendship this 2012.

To book your free seat at the Korean Short Film Night, click through to Cinema On The Park's website.

KOWI is a documentary that follows the story of a Korean family who, after immigrating to New Zealand, put aside their struggles in a new land to help and cook for the homeless every Sunday.

Read on for a short interview with director Mary-Jo Tohill and her film KOWI

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Road to Action…(Via some Drama & Suspense)

The month of November saw the ‘Cinema on the Park’ screen assaulted by a barrage of fists and kicks, as four movies representing the best of old school and modern day Korean action tore up the screen. Now that the dust has settled, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the brief but invaluable insight I got into the organisation of such an event, through my involvement in screening the Australian premieres of ‘Miss, Please Be Patient’ & ‘Canton Viper’.

The initial seed for Action Month was planted way back in January this year, when after a three year hiatus living in Tokyo, which saw me visiting Korea several times, I returned to Sydney and purely by accident stumbled across the Korean Culture Office. I discovered the Cinema on the Park program almost immediately, and set about finding a way to contribute my own love of Korean movies through another one of my passions – writing.

Somewhere along the way though, I couldn’t get it out of my mind of what an opportunity it would be to showcase a part of Korean cinema history that is overlooked, and in many cases completely unheard of, by most people – the kung-fu movie genre of the 70s and 80s. Indeed the genre itself is almost a forgotten one in the history of Korean cinema, as while countless Korean super-kickers lit up the screens in Hong Kong kung-fu movies, movies produced on home soil were often lacking in budget, quality chorography, and basically every other ingredient that makes a kung-fu movie enjoyable.

For that reason the whole genre of Korean kung-fu is usually completely ignored, or even worse, passed off as an unwatchable mess. Such an attitude makes this small part of Korean cinema an incredibly murky area to find out information on, indeed even Hong Kong movies that were made on the cheap in the Philippines gain more recognition than their Korean counterparts. Even now, an unknown amount of movies during the late 70’s / early 80’s were in fact Hong Kong / Korean co-productions, but a check on the internet usually has them only listed as purely Hong Kong productions, with the Korean input not mentioned, or more likely, not even known about.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Action Month Review: Action Boys / 우린 액션배우다 (2008)

After watching the high kicking heroes of the previous three weeks movies, the final week of action month couldn’t have finished with a more appropriate choice than the 2008 documentary ‘Action Boys’.

Made on a shoestring budget, the documentary chronicles a five year period, from 2004 – 2008. Beginning with the thirty-six students that make up Seoul Action School’s class of 2004, thanks to the grueling training regime, by the time of graduation only eight of them remain. If anyone wants to check out the Action School in more depth, I did a blog post of my visit there. It’s not long before even some of the eight that remain decide that perhaps the faceless world of stunt work is not for them, and the documentary eventually settles its focus on four of the graduates and their adventures, or often mis-adventures, into the movie industry.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Action Month Review: Canton Viper / 광동살무사 (1983)

Much like what last weeks ‘Miss, Please Be Patient’ was to the filmography of Kim Tai-jung, ‘Canton Viper’ is the same to the filmography of Korean super-kicker Hwang Jang-lee. For anyone not familiar with the most formidable kicker ever to grace the silver screen, please check the blog post I wrote during the Korean Film Blogathon earlier this year for a lowdown on why this guy has the reputation he does.

Canton Viper’ was another of many Korean movies long thought lost, only to be discovered and pulled up out of obscurity by the guys at ‘Houndslow Team’, and on 15th November it got its premier showing in Australia. With the help of Jon-James Hodson, a film-maker currently in post-production on his Hwang Jang-lee documentary ‘The Anonymous King’, we were able to film an exclusive interview with Jang-lee, who is now almost seventy but certainly doesn’t look it. Shown before the movie started, he shared some interesting anecdotes from filming and the difficulties they had to overcome, giving a unique insight into what it was like to make a kung-fu movie in Korea back then.

There is no mistaking ‘Canton Viper’ as a Korean movie for a number of reasons, but perhaps first and foremost it’s because of the story. While most people watching Hong Kong kung-fu movies did so purely on the basis of the fight action on display, with little to no attention paid on storyline or characters (indeed, many Hong Kong movies of the era didn’t even film with a script, instead just making it up as they go along), the case with ‘Canton Viper’ is quite different.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Action Month Review: Miss, Please Be Patient / 아가씨 참으세요 (1981)

‘Miss, Please Be Patient’ was a movie which was considered lost for a long time, until finally in 2011 the guys at ‘Houndslow Team’ - a group of martial arts cinema fans spread across the globe dedicated to tracking down rare kung-fu movies to remaster and release - managed to locate a bruised and battered practically unwatchable VHS copy, and so began the journey to finally give people a chance to watch it.

Why was it worth tracking down? ‘Miss, Please Be Patient’ is one of Kim Tai-jung’s rare movie appearances in his homeland. Tai-jung was a martial artist who, after Bruce Lee’s untimely death in the middle of filming ‘Game of Death’, was brought in to fill in as Lee’s double so that they could finish the movie, due to his similar mannerisms and characteristics. Tai-jung stuck around in Hong Kong, going on to headline ‘Game of Death 2’, which pitted him up against fellow Korean super-kicker Hwang Jang-lee, and he even got to play Bruce Lee himself in the Hong Kong / American co-production ‘No Retreat, No Surrender’. In the movie he plays the ghost of Bruce Lee, who trains a young American student in the art of kung-fu, so that he can beat the evil Jean Claude Van-Damme, here making his screen début.

Amongst these movies, Tai-jung made a couple in his native Korea. Sadly due to Korea’s reputation at the time for producing largely low quality, poorly choreographed kung-fu movies when compared to its Hong Kong counterparts, a lot of them simply disappeared into movie oblivion. However as with anything, there are always a few diamonds in the rough, the sad thing in the case of Korea’s kung-fu movie output is that those diamonds got swept up in the same oblivion as all the rest, lost in the crowd of mediocrity.

When ‘Miss, Please Be Patient’ was finally wrapped up, remastered to the best it could be and sporting English subtitles for the first time, I planned to watch it more out of curiosity purposes than anything else, hardly expecting to gain any real enjoyment from the experience. So imagine my surprise when I found a real gem of a movie, genuinely funny comedy paired with high impact fight scenes, topped off with a cast of cool characters strutting around in early 80s Seoul and Pusan.

When I first suggested to Kieran, the festival director at the Korean Culture Office, that the movie could be shown as part of the ‘Cinema on the Park’ program, I was delighted that he was really open to the idea, and the movie could get a real screening like it deserves. Of course when he asked me to introduce it for the audience my demeanour quickly turned to one of nerves and anxiousness, talking in front of people is not really my forte, but how could I say no?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Action Month Review: The Kick / 더 킥 (2011)

When rumours first emerged of Korea & Thailand getting together to create an action movie co-production, fans of the genre could hardly contain their excitement, including myself. Thailand was leading the charge on the action front for a good while since the release of ‘Ong Bak’ in 2003 starring Tony Jaa, which was quickly followed up in 2005 by ‘Tom Yum Goong’, filmed right here in Sydney. The bone crunching action in both movies was choreographed by Panna Rittikrai, which had he been born in Hong Kong would no doubt be on a par with Jackie Chan. But as it was he made a name for himself in his home country of Thailand, churning out shoestring budget action fests over a period of more than 20 years, before finally getting international recognition through ‘Ong Bak’.

The movies of Korea should need no introduction, known for its gritty gangster revenge thrillers and unflinching takes on violence, it should have been a match made in heaven. While Thai movies deliver on action, the plotting and screenplays often leave a lot to be desired, so the thought of a movie helmed by a Korean director, featuring the chorography of Panna, sounded too good to be true.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Food & Film Experience: The Recipe / 된장 (2009)

On Monday 22nd October, the lucky few of us who worked at this years Korean Film Festival in Sydney were given the opportunity to attend the DENDY Cinema in Newtown’s screening of the 2009 movie, ‘The Recipe' (된장). A movie that revolves around the traditional Korean dish of doenjang jigae, or soy bean soup as its most closely translated in English. Hats off to whoever it was that came up with the stroke of genius to get local Korean restaurant, Paju, to put on a buffet style Korean feast in the cinema lobby before the movie started.

Being a guy whose mood is dictated by how much food is in his stomach, I was immediately put into a state of euphoria by the stacked plates of bulgogi, kimchi, and various others on display.  Not even the woman sat close to me who was educating her husband about the Japanese superstar, Psy, could distract me from the plate, and to top it all off Hyun provided us with a beautiful performance of a traditional Korean dance.

With appetites satisfied and senses awakened, it was time for the movie.  As someone who considers himself pretty familiar with the Korean movie scene, I have to hold my head in shame and say that The Recipe flew completely under my radar, not even the name was familiar. Although once I saw the poster art I knew Id seen it before, obviously for someone who tends to lean towards the grittier side of Korean movie making, I realized that Id obviously dismissed a film about a spicy stew without a second thought. After all, how can you make a whole movie that revolves around a dish thats normally eaten within 10 minutes?  (or is that just me?)

Well, The Recipe answers that question in an interesting way. To define the genre of the movie would depend of which part you were watching, as if someone only saw the beginning, middle, or end, Ive no doubt all three would come back with separate answers. At times it appears to be a murder mystery about a serial killer, then it shifts to a comedy about a bumbling reporter, for a few moments it seems its going to have elements of the supernatural, before eventually it seems to become the tale of two doomed lovers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Antenna Review: Planet of Snail / 달팽이의 별 (2011)

Sneaking into the cinema in Newtown is regularly going to bring you to a world away from the bustle of King St, especially on a Friday night. This time however more so than ever the does the contrast show itself as the movie in question is not the fast paced and polished cinema one associates with films out of Korea but the gentle and reflective low budget, and yet heavily acclaimed, Planet of Snail at this year’s Antenna Documentary Film Festival.

Just as the darkness of the cinema envelopes you, so too does Planet of Snail take you over with its show of the human spirit and enduring love. The protagonists, the deaf and blind Young-chan and Soon-ho, who suffers from a spinal condition, work harder than most on their relationship helping each other with everyday tasks. Each using their strengths to help the other’s ailment, is no better shown than in a 9-minute long light bulb changing scene.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hammer I Miss You: Oldboy (2003)

Liam José is one part of CRIME FACTORY PUBLICATIONS, which publishes noir, crime and hardboiled magazine and literature. He also writes for CRIMINAL COMPLEX. His fiction has been published in numerous anthologies, and can next be found in The Tobacco-Stained Sky and Superhero.

We asked Liam to write about how he discovered Korean cinema, and what he loves about it. Here is what he said...

I was asked to write about how I came to love Korean cinema for the KOFFIA blog, and, like so many other people in Western countries, I’d have to trace my love to Oldboy (2003), Park Chan-Wook’s masterful thriller – which is playing at this year’s KOFFIA as part of the ‘Modern Classics’ line-up.

It opened in Australia in the old timey days of 2005, so cast your mind back – back to when Live 8 successfully eliminated poverty and all the world’s woes; when smartphones had yet to launch, and the secret tower that beams thought control laser at us all had yet to be switched on. Yes, it truly was a different age. And so was I, due to the magic of “time”.

From the opening shot of Oh Dae-Su (Choi Min-Sik) dangling Oh Kwang-rok’s character over the edge of a building by his necktie, I knew I was hooked. The movie had a fearless blend of operatic staging, blood-curdling violence and the darkest black humour. Based on a comic book, OldBoy is the tale of Oh Dae-Su, who is kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years, only to be released and told he has five days to discover the reason he was taken. It is the antetype of the modern resurgence in revenge thrillers, and a good gateway drug into Korean cinema in general.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Looking Back: Reflections on Sydney’s KOFFIA 2012

It’s already been almost a week since this years Sydney KOFFIA wrapped up with the closing ceremony on Tuesday evening.  It’s been strange finishing my normal job and realizing I can just stroll home, as opposed to the routine I’d developed of heroically running through the city at 5:00pm while ripping my shirt & tie off, in the style of Clark Kent turning into Superman, to reveal the KOFFIA t-shirt underneath.  The questions of if I’d be allocated to ticketing, ushering, information desk, or various other tasks that being a KOFFEE involved, have now been replaced with the more mundane ones, such as Dominos or Pizza Hut, Starbucks or Gloria Jeans?  Like most things in life, there’re no easy answers.

The 7 days that the Korean Film Festival spanned created many great memories, no doubt not only for the people that worked there, but for the audiences that got to enjoy the movies as well, so I thought I’d share some of my own that definitely won’t be forgotten.  After working at the opening night, I found myself back in the thick of things on Friday for the Korean Cult Cinema Double Header, which consisted of ‘King of Pigs / 돼지의 왕’ & ‘OldBoy / 올드보이’.  To help people get into the spirit of things there was a Gangster Dress Up Contest, and when it comes to gangster style (forget about Gangnam Style!) nobody does it quite like the Koreans.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

KOFFIA Review: The Front Line / 고지전 (2011)

Korean cinema has over the years developed, and in most cases created, some rather niche genres, from the ‘revenge seeking gangster’ movie to the ‘terminal illness love story’.  In recent times it looks to be adding the ‘two guys in the Korean war’ genre to it’s array as well, with movies like Taegukgi / 태극기 휘날리며’ and ‘My Way / 마이 웨이’ following the formula, and in 2011 director Jang Hun gave us ‘The Frontline / 고지전’ to throw into the mix as well.

Hun is certainly no stranger to the male bonding formula, with his two previous movies also exploring the relationships between two male characters in ‘Rough Cut / 영화는 영화다’ and ‘Secret Reunion / 의형제’.  In ‘The Frontline’ the relationship is between Shin Ha-kyun’s character of Kang, who is sent to investigate the Alligator Battalion after an officer is found dead from a South Korean bullet, and Ko Soo’s character of Kim, who is second in charge of the battalion and had been believed to be dead by Kang.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Storms in a Tea Cup: A Critical Eye on the 2012 KOFFIA Short Film Competition Selections

A sunny late August afternoon in Sydney not only marked the half way point of the NSW leg of this years Korean Film Festival in Australia, it also heralded the screening of the 8 finalists that were chosen as part of the Short Film Competition.

I was on hand to help out with the voting process for the Audience Choice Award, which meant having the pleasure to sit in the cinema and get to watch the selections myself. The eight entries ranged across a wide variety of subjects & styles, all being viewed under the watchful eyes of the judges which included ‘Sunny / 써니’ and ‘Scandal Makers / 과속스캔들’ director Kang Hyeong-cheol.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Confessions of a first time KOFFEE: Finding My Connection

Having just got through helping out with the opening night of this years Korean Film Festival, I thought I’d take the opportunity while the adrenalin is still pumping to share my journey of getting involved with the KOFFIA crew.

My journey to tonight happened somewhat by chance.  Having come to Australia in January after spending over 3 years in Japan, where Korea was less than a stones throw away and a place I found myself frequently visiting, I was eager to find some way to keep my connection, but didn’t know how.

It was while walking down Elizabeth Street one day for no reason in particular (well, actually I was probably trying to find a job to save myself from financial ruin) that I stumbled across the Korean Cultural Office, which I soon found out run a free movie night every Thursday.  I’d had some experience in writing about movies before, so eventually ended up speaking to Kieran, the Artistic Director of the office and all round nice guy, about contributing some pieces to go along with the movies that where being shown.  A few weeks later I was churning out an article a day for the Korean Cinema Blogathon event, and at the moment have somehow found myself roped into giving a presentation before the showing of ‘Miss Please Be Patient / 아가씨 참으세요in November, as well as arranging an interview with the famous super-kicker of countless kung-fu movies, Hwang Jang-lee.  Of course in between all of this fun, we have the event which kicked off today, the 3rd Korean Film Festival of Australia 2012, and what a festival it is!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Choi Min-sik - A Man of Many Moments

While actors like Song Kang-ho may be more prolific, and Lee Byung-hun may be more idolized, chances are if you speak to somebody from the western world and they’ve seen a Korean movie, the conversation will almost certainly (with very little variation, I’ve had it many times myself) go like this – “So there was a crazy movie were this guy eats a live octopus, then later he beats up a heap of people with a hammer, then the ending….the ending is just insane!”

Of course to anyone even slightly initiated with the world of Korean cinema, the movie being described is of course 2003’s ‘OldBoy (올드보이)’, and that “guy” who’s being referred to is Oh Dae-su, the character played by Choi Min-sik.  ‘OldBoy’, debatably even more so than ‘Shiri (쉬리)’, which came 4 years before & in which he also starred, along with the previously mentioned Song Kang-ho, is probably the biggest breakout Korean movie so far.  Audiences in America, the UK, & Australia all became familiar with the second of Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy through strong word of mouth, mainly involving those scenes that everyone talks about, and glowing reviews from film critics, making Choi Min-sik’s rather large head instantly recognizable to many people who normally wouldn’t know Jet Li from Bruce Lee.

Friday, August 10, 2012

KOFFIA Review: Arirang (Kim Ki-Duk, 2011)

Arirang, screening at the Korean Film Festival in Australia at the end of the month, is a documentary from iconic Korean filmmaker, Kim Ki-duk. Plagued by personal issues following an accident on production of his latest feature in 2008, Dream, the director turned to self-imposed exile and spiraled into depression. Shot by Ki-duk entirely by himself from a desolate shack on top of a mountain using a Canon Mark II digital camera, Arirang is a self-reflexive and confessional video diary. It is an insight into Ki-duk’s fractured mental state at the time as he takes a look back at his career to date, questions what cinema means to him now and if his filmmaking has any purpose in the world, and tries to come to terms with the accident and his conflicting emotions.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A new look at a modern classic: the ultimate revenge in 'Oldboy'

Take a sneak peak into a true modern cult classic from contemporary Korean cinema at its best as Andrew Nette shares his thoughts about Oldboy (2003). Directed by Park Chan-wook, Oldboy will be at this year's KOFFIA as part of the Modern Classics section.

It’s not the first time I’ve said this in print, but South Korea seems to be leading the pack at the moment in terms of producing top-notch crime cinema that’s completely unafraid to mix and match different genres.

Think Kim Ji-woon’s I Saw The Devil, Lee Jeong-beom’s The Man From Nowhere and Na Hong-jin’s The Yellow Sea. Another example is Park Chan-wook’s 2003 movie Oldboy, playing as part of this year’s Korean Film Festival in Australia on the big screen.

Part blood soaked revenge movie, part psychological thriller, Oldboy was Park’s ninth film. Among his earlier efforts was the excellent military thriller J.S.A: Joint Security Area in 2000 and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance in 2002. But it was Oldboy that brought him international attention and, arguably, can be credited as the film that first exposed Western art house audiences to South Korean cinema.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Interview: "Remember O Goddess" with Lee Yoon-Jung

This week we put the spotlight on Lee Yoon-Jung, director and writer of short film Remember O Goddess, which is a part of our K-MYSTERY section in our International Short Film Showcase program this year.

In the middle of the night, a man reports the disappearance of himself to the police office. He has lost his memory. He can only remember from the moment he found himself left alone in an apartment. He tries to find any clue as to who he might be, but nothing comes out. When he plucks up the courage to go out, he meets a girl at a convenience store, who he thinks might know him. Instantly she becomes his only hope and joy, but when he returns, she has disappeared. His quest to find someone who remembers him suddenly becomes greater than his need for his own memories.

Remember O Goddess is a film which stirs the humanity in us all and prompts us to think about what we choose to learn and what we keep ignorant in our lives. The short film has already been recognised in several international film festivals including the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival, where it won the Golden Reel Jury Award for a Short Film, the New York International Film Festival and San Diego Asian American Film Festival in 2011. Yoon-Jung has already started working on a feature film length version of Remember O Goddess, which garnered an impressive response from crowd-funding website and initiative Kickstarter

Read on for a short interview with director Lee Yoon-Jung and her film Remember O Goddess.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Interview: "An Education" with Cho Yong-Won

This week we put the spotlight on Cho Yong-Won, director of short film An Education, which is a part of our SCHOOL DAYS section in our International Short Film Showcase program this year.

Young-jae, a high-school senior, really wants to go to college. But with the competition fierce, he needs to find a way to differentiate himself from the pack - assuming he can even successfully gain admission. His best chance is to get a recommendation letter of good deed, so he sets out to search for the drunk man he saved from being hit by a train a few days earlier. Along the way Young-jae is taught far more about life than he had expected.

An Education is a film which stirs the humanity in us all and prompts us to think about what we choose to learn and what we keep ignorant in our lives. 

Read on for a short interview with director Cho Yong-Won and her film An Education.

Park Chan-wook in Hollywood, and the Vengeance Trilogy

Bora Kim is from Korea and is currently living in Melbourne, where she is in her final year at Monash University studying Communication. Bora is part of this year's KOFFEE Team and has written an entry about Park Chan-wook and the Korean Wave in Hollywood for the KOFFIA Blog. Read more after the jump.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Feature Film Focus: the rise of Korean Animation at KOFFIA

This year, the KOFFIA lineup has expanded to include a wider range of films, that sees animated feature films screen for the very first time. This year's ANIMATION program reflects a new trend in the burgeoning Korean film industry, sparking a bright future for this often over-looked form of storytelling. 

Korean animators have found their successes from working in large scale productions for a number of years, ranging from James Cameron’s Avatar to The Simpsons Movie. KOFFIA 2012 will present 2 different and juxtaposing feature films LEAFIE: A HEN INTO THE WILD and THE KING OF PIGS.

LEAFIE: A HEN INTO THE WILD, based of a popular children’s book, went on to be the highest grossing Korean animation of all time, and will have its Australian premiere at KOFFIA. Directed by Oh Seung-yun, the story follows an ambitious hen who has dreams of raising her own eggs and roaming free in the wild. After escaping from her coop, she sets out on an adventure with a young wild duck and a wise but quirky otter! LEAFIE exemplifies the Western way of storytelling with the freshness and liveliness of being a truly Korean story of family, love and finding oneself. The film was  also awarded the Best Animated Film prize at the 5th Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

On the opposite side of this is the critically-acclaimed THE KING OF PIGS, which will also screen as part of the ANIMATION program as what is a darker and more adult take on animation. The film is Yeun Sang-ho's feature film debut and reflects on the more serious themes of bullying, violence and social class structures in a modern Korean society. THE KING OF PIGS was also the first Korean film to be competing in the Official Selection at the Sydney Film Festival this year. Furthermore, the film was also the first Korean animated feature to be invited to compete at Cannes Film Festival this year. 

The worldwide success and recognition of these two films symbolise the Korean film industry's coming of age in the international film scene, and a change of attitudes towards animated films in Korea.

We will further explore the progress that the Korean Animation industry has made with industry forums, and even look at the possibility of the Korean and Australian industries working together.  This year's Sydney and Melbourne sessions of LEAFIE: A HEN INTO THE WILD will be followed by a Korean Animation Today Forum, featuring some industry professionals from both Australia and Korea including Cinema On The Park regular Deborah Szapiro (Co-Director of the Sydney International Animation Film Festival). 

Please visit the KOFFIA website for more information on all KOFFIA sessions and forums.

In the meanwhile, get your animation fix this week at Cinema On The Park, a free weekly Korean film night hosted by the Korean Cultural Office in Australia. This week the KCO are focusing on Korean animation and will be screening THE STORY OF MR. STORY, an animated feature film of an ear-cleaner who shrinks to a size that allows him to listen to his clients' inner most secrets.

The screening will follow a short discussion panel about animation between Deborah Szapiro and Damian Gascoigne (Associate Professor of the Design and Animation Faculty at the UTS: University of Technology, Sydney). We hope you join us for this free screening and forum at the Korean Cultural Office.

THE STORY OF MR. STORY + Animation Forum
at the Korean Cultural Office, 255 Elizabeth St, Sydney
July 26, Thursday - Forum starts at 6:30PM, Film starts at 7:15PM
Free entry, bookings essential here:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Interview: "See You Tomorrow" with Lee Woo-jung

Here is the final interview to the series of interviews of the short filmmakers whose films were part of the 3rd Korean Film Festival in Australia's International Short Film Showcase held this year in Sydney. Our final interview is with Lee Woo-jung, whose film 'See You Tomorrow' was part of the School Days section of the program. 

As the school day come to an end, two friends see each other off with a familiar routine that has begun to bore Hyo-jung. She is tired of school life, study and her usual friends, and sets out on a night to try something new. Her once ordinary existence will forever be changed after a dark evening of exploration.

See You Tomorrow received international critical-acclaim, having screened in the International Competition section of the Berlinale Shorts at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival this year. The film also competed in the 37th Seoul Independent Film Festival and the 16th Busan International Film Festival in 2011.

Read on for a short interview with director Lee Woo-jung and her film See You Tomorrow

Monday, July 23, 2012

Interview: "Ghost" with Dahci Ma

This week we put the spotlight on Dahci Ma, director of short film Ghost, which is a part of our K-MYSTERY section in our International Short Film Showcase program this year.

Ghost follows a mysterious man, who hides from the police in an empty house. He is caught up in a fantasy world brought on by extreme hunger and anxiety. However, what he faces in the end is the darkest side of himself in this austere, deceptively simple short with an unnerving, undercurrent of menace.

The film has had an amazing festival circuit run across the world, having screened over 30 film festials including the likes of Cannes Film Festival, Sitges Film Festival and Chicago International Film Festival. It even competed in the prestigious Blue Dragon Awards' short film competition category. Ghost was also awarded the Honorable Mention Award, Best Production Design and Best Special Effects awards at the LA New Wave International Film Festival.

Read on for a short interview with director Dahci Ma and her film Ghost.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Interview: "Fly By Night" with Son Tae-gyum

Continuing our spotlight on the directors whose films make up this year's International Short Film Showcase, we turn our focus to Son Tae-gyum's award-winning Fly By Night.

Fly By Night tells the story of a teenage boy who lives a poor life with his older brother. With the uncertainty of his future, he develops a sexual relationship with an older man for money, and begins to question his sexuality and direction in life. The film will screen as part of the PANORAMA section of the short film showcase this year.

Direct from Cannes Film Festival this year, Fly By Night was awarded the 3rd prize in the coveted Cinefondation section. The film has also been internationally recognised at a several GLBT festivals, including the 27th Torino LGBT Film Festival and the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival for its themes on sexuality. 

Read on for a short interview with director Son Tae-gyum and his film Fly By Night.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Interview: "ExamiNation" with Judy Suh

As part of our International Short Film Showcase, we put the spotlight on the directors whose films make up our program to learn more about themselves and their films. For more information about our shorts program, visit our website.

Judy Suh's short documentary ExamiNation reveals a striking cultural phenomenon in South Korea surrounding the college entrance exam, Sooneung. It follows a day in the life of one student, Bitna, who as been preparing for the grand exam for years. The documentary sheds light on how the exam influences an individual as well as a whole nation. ExamiNation will screen as part of the SCHOOL DAYS section of the International Short Film Showcase.

The film has also received several prizes including the Highest Achievement Award at the Northwestern University Film Festival in 2011, the People's Choice Award at the Expo Film Festival in Northwestern University as well as Best Short Documentary Award at Best Shorts Competition.

Read on for a short interview with director Judy Suh and her short doco ExamiNation.

Monday, July 9, 2012

KOFFIA 2012's International Short Film Showcase line-up revealed

For the first time KOFFIA will present a selection of the best and latest short films from Korean filmmakers based all across the world. This International Short Film Showcase will see 11 Australian Premieres and 1 Sydney premiere take place across 3 categories in this free program at KOFFIA 2012.

Click through for the line-up and read about our 3 categories, PANORAMA, K-MYSTERY and SCHOOL DAYS.

Interview: "A Brand New Journey" with Kim Hee-jin

Director Kim Hee-jin's award-winning short film A Brand New Journey tells a story of Byung-hwa, a middle school boy, who wants to go on a school trip but doesn't have the money to afford it. Having already screened at 6 film festivals, including the likes of the Jeonju International Film Festival, Seoul Independent Film Festival and Asiana International Short Film Festival where it won the Special Jury Prize, Best Short Film prize and Best Korean Short Film prize respectively, A Brand New Journey is an enlightening story of a young man who simply longs to be an ordinary school boy.

A Brand New Journey will screen in the SCHOOL DAYS section of KOFFIA's new shorts program, the International Short Film Showcase, which will feature a variety of short films from up and coming Korean directors from around the world. For more information, see our official website.

Read on for a short interview with director Kim Hee-jin and her new short A Brand New Journey.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Calling all bloggers! Join the Connection!

This year's festival tagline 'Discover Your Connection' asks you to discover what brings you closer to Korea. Film has, without a doubt, the power to do this. From stories of love to war, comedy to heartache, the 3rd Korean Film Festival in Australia will both strengthen and help you discover your own connection to Korean Cinema.

With less than 50 days till KOFFIA, we are looking for bloggers to be a part of our KOFFIA Blog team, and to share their very own connections. No matter if you are a seasoned film buff, the occasional blogger, or someone who simply wants to be a part of the connection, WE WANT YOU!

Join us!

Entries can be a review of a Korean film you love or have recently seen, or they can be about your favourite Korean actor, director, cinematographer, music supervisor, gaffer... (you get the picture). Have a read of Samson's review of director Bong Joon-ho's masterpiece Mother, or delve into Sarah's article about the very talented Song Kang-ho.

We also welcome you to write about your connection to Korean cinema. Tell us about how you found your interest in Korean cinema, or about your curiosity to know more about it. For an example, check out Paul's article about his first encounter with Korean Cinema, or an aarticle I wrote for this year's Korean Film Blogathon on my discovery of Korean Cinema.

If writing isn't your thing, but you still want to share (or if you love to talk!), send us a short video of your connection to Korean cinema! See our Hungry For Talk compilation we made from last year's videos below:


Now you might be wondering - what's in it for me? You will have your article or video posted here on the blog, which will be shared across our social media sites for others to join your connection. Your name will also be added to a very exclusive list of connections on our website along with the article or video you have submitted. 

So start writing and join the connection! Submit all your articles, videos, expressions of interest or enquiries to me at r.loong@koffia.com.au.

KOFFIA Marketing Assistant

Stay up to date with everything about KOFFIA

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cinema On The Park Review: The Host (Bong Joon-Ho, 2006)

I was excited to watch The Host, having been recommended it on several occasions. It is not only a hugely popular film in Korea, but has been well-received by international audiences. I had the chance to see it at Cinema on the Park last week, playing as part of their 'Birth of the Blockbuster' program.

The Host is a South Korean monster film directed by Boon Joon-ho, following the success of his 2003 crime drama, Memories of Murder. The Host, which became the highest grossing South Korean film of all time and was critically acclaimed - picking up Best Film at the Asian Film Awards – works not just as an original and terrifying creature film, but as a social and political commentary. It introduces an additional biological threat which exposes government incompetence, identifies implications of the American military presence in Korea, and allows political activism to become a part of the drama. It is also a compelling family drama too.

The cause of the mutation of the giant amphibious creature that will later terrorize Seoul is revealed in the film’s opening sequence; the order of an American military pathologist to a reluctant Korean assistant to violate protocol and dump 200 bottles of formaldehyde into the sewer system, which flows into the Han River. A period of time passes, and there are several sightings of a large creature beneath the surface.

We are introduced to the family who will become the primary protagonists for this tale. Park Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) runs a snack bar with his father, Hee-bong (Byeon Hee-bong), which is set up along the bank of the Han River. It is revealed he has a sister and brother; a skilled national medallist archer, Nam-joo (Bae Doona) and an alcoholic former-activist, Nam-il (Park Hae-il), as well as a young daughter, Hyun-seo (Ko Ah-seong). Each of the characters surprise us in different ways and it is easy to forge an emotional connection to their stories.

When civilians spot the large creature beneath a bridge along the Han River, Park joins the curious crowd who try to bait it. Soon enough, he and his family find themselves in danger when it emerges from the water and runs amok. As an audience, the arrival of the creature is just as much of a shock as it is to the bemused witnesses. People are mauled and killed and in a stunning capture, Hyuk-seo is grabbed by its tentacle and taken back to its lair. 

During the struggle, Park comes into contact with the creature, which is feared to be the host of a deadly virus, and as a result is considered to be an extreme threat to national health. Park has reason to believe his daughter is still alive and he enlists his family to help him escape from the facility and hunt down the creature, placing themselves on the Government wanted list in the process.

For most of the film the visual effects were exceptional and the CGI design of the monster is most interesting, save for the finale where I thought the effects became a little ambitious and weren’t quite pulled off. The beginning – conveying the reasons for the mutation of the monster – was also a bit weak. As original as the primary characters are in The Host I felt like Nam-joo was shortchanged, spending a large part of the film trapped in one of the drains.

That’s about the only obvious weaknesses, because The Host was a lot of fun, with Joon-ho breaking genre conventions and keeping the audience guessing. Though very amusing, mounting tension and genuine stakes are never surrendered for comedy, and there is great energy provided by the score, the innovative photography and the terrific performances. Song Kang-ho was excellent as the seemingly-boneheaded Park, who is revealed to be much smarter than initially suggested, scarred by events in his past and with an unshakeable dedication to finding his daughter. It is very cleverly crafted, effectively developing a supportable band of disparate heroes, and finding ways for them to participate and utilize their unique individual skills.

It is one of the few films that I have seen that has remained compelling for the duration having revealed the creature so early. Some of the best monsters films – Jaws and Alien for example – don’t reveal the monster until after the half way, while there are many that offer brief early glimpses and are obviously trying too hard to keep their monster hidden. Here, blessed with the budget to utilize the monster at his will, Joon-ho has enlisted a stellar creative team to come up with a very unique creature – and one that was utilized in original and inventive ways. Certainly one of my favourite Korean films to date.

My Rating: ★★★★
By Andrew Buckle

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Short Film Comp: $5000 worth of prizes to win!


2012 KOFFIA Short Film Competition

The Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA) will return for 2012 in Sydney, Melbourne and for the first time, Brisbane. Three years, Three Cities, Three times the scale! The KOFFIA Short Film Competition will complement the 3rd KOFFIA, an opportunity to showcase the developing talent from our up and coming filmmakers

The competition is open for all Australians who wish to embrace Korea through film or have / are a Korean staff contributing to it. KOFFIA wants you! To submit the best short film as a promising Korean Australian’s and promising young director to ‘wow’ the theatre! 

Jury Award 1st: $2,000 cash prize
Jury Award 2nd: $1,000 cash prize
Jury Award 3rd: $500 cash prize
NIDA Best Actor Award: 2 day weekend course (RRP $260)
NIDA Best Actress Award: 2 day weekend course (RRP $260)
Metro Screen Audience Award: TBC

The KOFFIA Short Film Competition screening and awards ceremony will take place on the 25th of August, 2012 during KOFFIA’s run at Dendy Opera Quays Cinema. We hope to see you at the festival watching your own little masterpiece on the big screen! 

To participate in the competition for the screening and prizes for the Korean Cultural Office’s KOFFIA Short Film Competition supported bMetro Screen, the University of Sydney Faculty of Arts and NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art), an applicant must complete and submit the application form along with their film in DVD or HD file format to the Korean Cultural Office before 6pm, July 24th, 2012

You can download the 2012 application form, and entry requirements on the KOFFIA Short Film Comp page. With thousands of dollars in cash prizes and the chance to meet talented industry professionals and academics on the jury, it's time to get filming!

Enquiries: submissions@koffia.com.au