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.