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.