Friday, November 15, 2013

KOFFIA 2013: My Experience by Priscilla

KOFFIA 2013 eventually comes to an end and the opportunity to work for KOFFIA has been a memorable and brand new experience for me. I am neither a Korean nor Australian, I’d only been living in Australia for four months and started working here from the beginning of June. My Korean film background is not very impressive at all but I’d like watching the Korean drama, movies and entertainment TV show.

Whenever I told my friends in Hong Kong I assisted in marketing the Korean film festival here, they’re all very excited and followed by a lot of questions, for instance, “Will you meet any of the famous Korean artists or celebrities during the event? Which Korean movies / drama have you watched recently? Do you like Song Joong Ki? He is very handsome"blah blah blah... and the conversation never ends. No doubt, Korean movies and culture are very popular among Hong Kong people too and I believe that the Kwave is spreading quickly in other countries as well, perhaps we will see more Korean Film Festival organised in different places soon.

Back to my experience for KOFFIA, it’s hard to describe in just a few sentences but I'd have a couples of happy “First Time” memories to be recorded here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

KOFFIA 2013: My Experience by Margaret

The opportunity to blog for KOFFIA has been an enriching and rewarding experience. Much like Ben, I have been attempting to juggle the demands of uni, learning Korean and tutoring HSC students, with writing for the KOFFIA blog. It has been a tough balance, but a nice reprieve! As much as I like writing, it can be an arduous task actually putting pen to paper. Starting that first sentence is always the most excruciating. 

My Korean film background is not impressive at all, so I feel that the blogging experience really opened my eyes to the impressive repertoire of Korean films out there. I may not engage in fan-girling or know all the actors names and filmography, but I am beginning to appreciate Korean film, especially as I enjoy seeing the settings and places in the films  that are so familiar to me. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

KOFFIA 2013: My Experience by Ben

I am currently writing this last blog post for KOFFIA 2013, when I should be reading a chapter of an Honours cohort member’s thesis. That being said, since I have been unable to attend any of the films bar ‘A Werewolf Boy’ on Opening Night, I think I can express some disappointment regarding the unfortunate clash of schedules. 

On the other hand, the optimist in me points out I was at least able to attend one film – and a very good one at that. I did not know that Korean cinema would gather this much attention in Sydney, let alone in Australia so far from the amount of interest generated in Brisbane. I was aware of the interest towards K-Pop due to the increasing number of non-Korean friends asking me about learning the Korean language, but I was not expecting this much attention and dedication towards Korean films. This is something incredible to see and I hope the Korean Cultural Office and other organisations will sustain and increase the momentum gathered thus far.

Friday, November 8, 2013

KOFFIA 2013: My Experience by Paul

Writing this on the last day of this years KOFFIA, it seems like a good time to reflect on the barrage of cinematic goodness that has spread itself along Australia’s East Coast over the last few weeks.

KOFFIA for me also stands as a kind of moment in time reference point for my own life in Australia, when for the 2012 version of the festival I found myself taking on blogging duties, as well as volunteering to help out at the movie screenings. At that point in time I’d only been living in Australia for a few months, having come here after spending over 3 years living in Tokyo, Japan.

There were of course a lot of differences between Tokyo & Sydney. There, I could regularly watch Korean movies on the big screen (even if it meant struggling through the Japanese subtitles), whereas here I hadn’t seen a single one. There I’d regularly meet my friends in Tokyo’s Koreatown, a whole suburb of streets and alleyways jammed full of restaurants and bars which even had its own train station, whereas here my friend took me to a strip the length of a single block on Pitt Street and announced “Welcome to Koreatown!” There I was paying to take Korean lessons that were being taught in Japanese, whereas here I discovered I could take them for free in English! & of course there I’d regularly take the less than 2 hour flight to Seoul on a long weekend and be back in Tokyo 72 hours later with an aching liver, whereas here suddenly Seoul was over 10 hours away and a whole lot more expensive to get to.

Friday, November 1, 2013

KOFFIA 2013: My Experience by Genesis

An early morning flight to Korea looms as I write this reflection. Funny, this feeling - that somehow through the films I viewed at KOFFIA 2013 I feel as if I’ve already been to Korea – from ancient Joseon to modern day Seoul! Is it safe to say that when I step out of Incheon everything will feel alien-ly familiar? I hope so, even though this will be my first time to the land of the Morning Calm.

I’m a K-pop, K-drama and K-fashion enthusiast – adding K-film to my list of K-enthusiasms was just covering another base I hadn’t previously. This opportunity came through artistic director Kieran Tully and fellow blogger Raelene to whom I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to. I also extend that to the KCO and the entire team behind KOFFIA. It is so great that such good cinema has become readily available here. I had only experienced Korean cinema once or twice before but after KOFFIA 2013 I can never see Korean cinema the same way again. I believe the expression is “broader horizons”!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Review: The Last Stand (2013)

It’s safe to say that people who went to watch The Last Stand’ fall into two categories – those who were exited to see Arnold Schwarzenegger’s big screen comeback in a lead role, his first in 10 years, and those who were excited to see Kim Ji-woon’s English language Hollywood debut. A brief look at the user reviews on the likes of IMDB will tell you which category the majority of people fall into, with endless headers along the lines of “He Said He’d Be Back!” littering the lists of comments.

For myself of course, as someone who happily admits to Ji-woon being his favourite director, it could have been Arnie or anyone else for that matter, I’d be there! I was however a little late to the party, and was a little concerned that in only its third week of theatrical release, the movie had completely disappeared from the cities cinema screens, forcing me into a trip to the suburbs to check it out. Even then, the total audience members for the 7:00pm screening could sadly be counted on one hand. But still, it was a Ji-woon movie in the cinema, my third after watching ‘A Bittersweet Life' (달콤한 인생) in the UK & ‘I Saw the Devil' (악마를 보았다) in Japan, so I was a happy guy.

Monday, September 9, 2013

KOFFIA 2013 Review: Pluto / 명왕성

Last year, I visited Korea for the first time and made it a priority to attend the Busan International Film Festival after hearing much about it through social media and friends. The experience was out of this world - never had I been to a festival that an entire city was in tune with in every kind of way. 

There were two films that stood out to me the most amongst all the Korean films I saw at the festival. One was Kim Ki-duk's outstanding film Pieta, which was also included in the 2013 program of KOFFIA, an excellent comeback from the elusive Korean director. The other film was from a relatively new director and a new force to be reckoned with in the Korean film industry, and was possibly the biggest surprise for me at the festival. I had not heard anything about the film, or the director, and was going with gut when I decided to grab a ticket to see it.

The film was Pluto, directed by ex-school teacher turned filmmaker Shin Su-won whose short film Circle Line (also screened as part of the K-Shorts Showcase at KOFFIA this year) was awarded the Canal+ Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012. For a film that was made without the support of large funding bodies, Pluto is an incredible achievement for the kind of film it is and I would gladly tell you why.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

KOFFIA 2013 Review: Miracle In Cell No. 7

I have never hated myself so much for not taking tissues to a film. Never. And I am the kind of person who normally trusts your word on this. Miracle in Cell No. 7 is a film that knows exactly how to pull at your heart's strings, over and over again, and doesn't shy away from ensuring you get a good cry out of it.

Part comedy, part drama, Miracle in Cell No. 7 tells the story of Yong-gu (Ryoo Seung-ryong, Masquerade), a mentally challenged man with the capacity of a 6-year-old and his young daughter, Ye-sung (Kal So-won/Park Shin-hye). When Yong-gu is wrongly accused for the murder of a young school girl, he is sent to prison, leaving him separated from Ye-sung. When his cellmates learn of his disability and longing for his daughter, they devise a plan to sneak Ye-sung into the cell to reunite her with her father.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Review: Project 577 / 577 프로젝트 (2012)

The documentary ‘Project 577’ had an unlikely origin, with actor of the moment Ha Jung-woo vowing that if he won the best actor award at the Baeksang Arts Awards, the Korean equivalent of the Oscars, for two years running, he’d embark on a cross country trek. In 2010 he took the award for his performance in the Winter Olympics ski-jump drama ‘Take Off’ (국가대표), and in 2011 he did indeed win for a second consecutive year as a North Korean on the run in the thriller ‘The Yellow Sea’ (황해).

Friday, September 6, 2013

Modern Korean Animation: The King of Pigs / 돼지의 왕

How shaped are we by our middle school days? Do our experiences there decide how we live the rest of our lives? Are our memories of this period fond, or continue to haunt us? Can one ever let go of those experiences? 'The King Of Pigs', a harrowing and violent Korean animated drama written and directed by Yeun Sang-ho, impressively delves into these questions. 'The King of Pigs' won three awards at the Busan International Film Festival and was selected to screen in the Director's Fortnight at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. It made its Australian premiere at the Sydney Film Festival in the Official Competition. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Cinema Forums & Four Leaf Clovers

During the Korean Film Festival's Sydney leg I was lucky enough to attend a Cinema Forum in the Korean Culture Office. The subject was ‘Thrilling Shorts and Dark Matter’, and was to be attended by the actress Kim Kko-bbi, directors Moon Byoung-gun & Shin Su-won, & producer Lim Chung-geum.

The forum lasted for about an hour, and gave the opportunity for this years special guests at the Korean Film Festival of Australia to provide some valuable insights into what it takes to work within the Korean independent and short movie scene. Special mention has to go to Moon Byoung-gun, who thanks to embracing the spirit of Australian culture during the day through partaking in a few Aussie beers (this was revealed after the forum finished), arrived on stage fashionably late with a healthy glow and a spring in his step.

The directors discussed at length what it takes to really get a short film which doesn’t have the backing of a large studio or a significant amount of funding behind it out there to a larger audience, as they regaled us with their adventures in film festivals such as the prestigious Cannes, and their own experiences closer to home at the Busan Film Festival. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Eating for KOFFIA 2013

So any day or evening at KOFFIA will involve more than just seeing the film. Your friends might want to go eat somewhere as well. I'm going to assume you know your authentic Korean food and where to go to get it; Especially when you think of Korean food you think of a big B, quickly followed by another B and then a Q. But I'm going to look further afar while still maintaining some Korean ties. For those interested in a bit more variety than your usual Korean cuisine, read on. Don't worry. There'll be no mention of Old Boy and places to go eat octopus. Except that one.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

KOFFIA 2013 Review: Stoker / 스토커

Director Park Chan-wook sure likes to keep us waiting for a new movie, with his
last feature length production being 2009’s ‘Thirst / 박쥐’, since then he’s made a couple of short films with his brother, but apart from that things have been relatively quiet. Then suddenly around the start of 2012, rumblings began to emerge that some of Korea’s top directors had their name attached to Hollywood projects - Kim Ji-woon was going to be directing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s action comeback, Jong Boon-ho was going to be adapting a French sci-fi comic, and Park Chan-wook, well, he was going to be directing a Wentworth Miller (yes that Wentworth Miller, although he’s credited under the pseudonym Ted Foulke) penned psychological thriller.

While the chances of anyone ever guessing that the guy who made ‘OldBoy / 올드보이’ would end up directing a movie written by the actor from ‘Prison Break’ were pretty slim, general reaction seemed one more of curiosity rather than the usual fan boy bickering and whining that traditionally greets such announcements. ‘Stoker’ managed to keep a sense of mystery to it even after the trailer came out, the basic premise of a mother & daughter grieving over the loss of their husband & father, only to have a mysterious uncle turn up out of the blue to stay with them, was all that was known.

Monday, September 2, 2013

KOFFIA Review 2013: Boomerang Family / 고령화 가족

The words boomerang and family to some may be terms that have no relation whatsoever. However Song Hae-seong’s Boomerang Family defines the colloquialism in an approach that is relatable to all. It is often said that no matter what we will return to our families - from cradle to grave we’re bound by binds of blood, intimacy and inherent nature. This is the setting of Song Hae-seong’s familiar plot. The insight to this Korean family; made up of siblings who constantly quarrel and a mother who harbours a million and one secrets is not so unfamiliar that they could even be Australian, Arabic or even Azerbaijani! But it’s the Korean character’s nuances that make this film differ from recognizable cinematic narratives.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

KOFFIA 2013 Short Film Competition: My Two Cents

As a fan of short films who deplores the fact that they are not exactly the easiest items to discover in mainstream pop culture, I was quite pleased to review the 10 items in the KOFFIA 2013 Short Film Competition. I felt I was able to engage, empathise and most importantly, enjoy the broad spectrum of issues and themes covered by each film. Without further ado, here are my two cents on each short film:

La Croyance - directed by Chase Lee
Chase Lee will take you on a five-minute ride that will give you the urge to overcome any obstacle in your way and achieve all accomplishments you have sought out. The challenge to defy the odds is portrayed by the protagonist wanting to shoot at a basketball court. The usage of a mime works effectively, illustrating the mental challenges and aspirations to be able to shoot freely. Eventually, the mime is able to successfully make a layup, showing that most, if not all obstacles start within one's own head. If we are determined and have the urge to succeed, it will happen. The music provides a fitting touch to have belief – ‘La croyance’ in French no matter what the odds may be. The protagonist's determination can be applied to situations in our everyday lives, and should be done so.

Inevitable Paradox - directed by Hyun Shin
Passing moments, staircase wit, the inexplicable feeling of mutual understanding but being unable to express this sentiment freely: Inevitable Paradox summarises all these themes and images succinctly and effectively in three minutes, while leaving the viewer with food for thought that lasts much longer than the film itself. As the single green leaf flows downstream, so does time and all the various stages of the human condition: childhood, adolescence, university or working life, eventually followed by retirement and death. Days blur into one another and eventually your entire existence passes by you. The usage of both Korean and English dialogue and photographs instead of frames adds a nice touch and reinforces the theme of discrete days agglomerating to become a continuous flux. Perhaps the next time you go out for some fresh air or a cigarette to take a break from work, you too will realise the contradictory intricacies of this existence we call life.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

KOFFIA 2013 Review: Fists of Legend / 전설의 주먹

My apprehension going into watch Fists of Legend was almost palpable. Billed
as a mixed martial arts melodrama that follows three middle-aged men take part in a televised fighting competition called ‘Legendary Punch’, the basis of which is that they used to go to school together and had reputations based on their fierce fighting skills, it’s difficult to figure out exactly who is the movies target demographic.

Furthermore, the MMA style that sporting competitions like UFC have made so popular has yet to really successfully transfer onto the big screen. While watching two sweaty men withering around on top of each other in an actual real match is exciting and dangerous, as you have no idea what’s going to happen, watching it in a movie takes away that immediacy, stripping it of any tension. Lacking the rhythm and flow of old school kung-fu or the kinetic energy of kickboxing, MMA in comparison comes across as stifled and almost boring, as can be witnessed in any of the countless straight-to-DVD Tapout movies.

Still, while Fists of Legend seems like a questionable proposition from a story standpoint, the talent behind the production can’t be denied. Helmed by reliable commercial director Kang Woo-seok (‘Public Enemy / 공공의 적’, ‘Silmido / 실미도’), the three characters themselves are played by the always enjoyable Hwang Jeong-min (‘The New World / 신세계’, ‘The Unjust / 부당거래’), Yoon Je-moon (‘Boomerang Family / 고령화가족’ – also showing at the Film Festival!), & Hang Song-soo favourite Yoo Joong-sang (‘The Day He Arrives / 북촌 방향’, ‘Nobody’s Daughter Haewon / 누구의 딸도 아닌 해원’).

Friday, August 30, 2013

KOFFIA 2013 Review: My Paparotti / 파파로티

An essay of idolatry or perhaps an open love letter to Lee Je-Hoon would perhaps best describe the following review of My Paparotti. Late-comer; late bloomer, whatever you want to call him Lee Je-hoon is a face of current Korean cinema to watch! His versatility is notable for such a “young” actor. You reviled him as the enfant terrible come chaebol heir in Fashion King, you fell in love with him as camp and hopelessly-in-love Seok-I in Just Friends and your heart broke as his did in Architecture 101. Je-Hoon in My Paparotti commands your hope and your faith in the goodness of a person.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

KOFFIA Review 2013: Approved for Adoption / Couleur de Peau: Miel

“I come from here and elsewhere. I am neither white, nor black. The colour of my skin is honey.” -Jung Henin, Approved for Adoption

We all come from somewhere. We take it for granted that we may have the same shaped eyes as our mother, or the same eye colour as our grandmother; maybe the inherited eccentricities of our grandfather, or the physical frame of our father. However, for many of the 200 000 South Koreans who have been internationally adopted since the end of the Korean War, these simple and innocuous musings are relative unknowns.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Shin Su-won: A Late Bloomer

A Seoul National University graduate Shin Su-won studied scriptwriting at the Korea National University of Arts while teaching at a middle school. At the age of 34, she told her husband and children that she needed a change of direction, quit her job and enrolled.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

KOFFIA 2013 Review: Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time / 범죄와의 전쟁

It's time to catch up with Old Boy favourite Min-sik Choi to see what trouble he's getting into now with Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time. This time we head back in time to the 1980s and 90s as he does a Walter White and gets mixed up in organised crime. Everything is set for disorder, pain and a few questionable haircuts.

Monday, August 26, 2013

KOFFIA 2013 Review: The Berlin File / 베를린

Any news of Ryoo Seung-wan making a new movie is usually greeted by equal doses of excitement and anticipation from fans of Korean cinema, myself included. Once clumsily labeled as the Tarantino of Korea, outside of both directors love of paying homage to cinema of the past, there is little else to warrant comparing their work. After being influenced by the New Hollywood wave of the 1970s in his last movie ‘The Unjust / 부당거래’, for ‘The Berlin File’ Seung-wan said he wanted to make a spy action movie in the style of ‘The Bourne Identity’.

The production attracted an impressive cast, with the four starring roles going to Ha Jung-woo (‘Nameless Gangster / 범죄와의 전쟁 : 나쁜놈들 전성시대’, 'Project 577 / 577 프로젝트'), Han Seok-kyu (‘Paparoti / 파파로티’, ‘Eye for an Eye / 눈에는 눈 이에는 이’), Jeon Ji-hyun ('The Thieves / 도둑들', ‘My Sassy Girl / 엽기적인 그녀’), and Seung-wan’s brother & frequent collaborator Ryoo Seung-beom (‘No Mercy / 용서는 없다’, ‘Crying Fist / 주먹이 운다’). As for the action, another frequent Seung-wan collaborator, and arguably the most respected action director working in Korea today, Jeong Doo-hong (who took on the starring role in Seung-wan’s 2006 feature ‘City of Violence / 짝패’), came on board as the action director.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

KOFFIA 2013 Review: Pieta / 피에타

“What is money? Life? Death?”- quote from the film, Pieta.

Director, Kim Ki-duk

If you are familiar with the director of Pieta, Kim ki-duk, you will be aware of the accolades his films have received internationally. Kim’s 18th film, Pieta, was recognised at the 69th Venice Film Festival in 2012 and received the Golden Lion. Those who are brave enough to sit through the 104 minutes of challenging material, will be satisfied with the film’s awarded status. However, as is the case with any film that incorporates confronting and graphic material, the ability of the film to polarise views and reactions will not be a surprise.

Lee Jeong-jin as the sadistic Lee Kang-do
Pieta traces the sadistic, pitiless character, Lee Kang-do, played by Lee Jeong-jin; a relentlessly violent character who lives a solitary existence with no sign of family or friends. He works for loan sharks, who prey on the workshop owners in the industrial area of Cheongyecheon. With no concern for the situation of these workshop owners, who are trying to make ends meet, the loan sharks demand ten times the amount of a one month loan. Kang-do’s role does not stop at merely collecting money, it transgresses into the sadistic as he maims those who cannot repay their loans in order to file insurance claims for the handicap payout. There is an element of pathological violence that Kang-do exerts on the susceptible industrial workshop owners who cannot repay their loans, and he refuses to display any feeling or remorse towards his vulnerable victims.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

KOFFIA 2013 Review: The Tower / 타워

The big budget glossy film fans will be happy when 'The Tower' screens at KOFFIA 2013. Getting into the Christmas in July spirit of things it's a family drama with light hearted comedic moments that belie the coming disaster.

Good for people new to Korean cinema. 'The Tower' is the type of film that is accessible but not easily seen in an Australian cinemaplex. The film drew huge audiences with its opening day box office only second to 'The Thieves' (also being shown at the festival).

Friday, August 23, 2013

Why You Should Watch Films at KOFFIA 2013 and Not at Home

Someone I know once declared: "150 inch projector and a bunch of blu-rays is my film festival." He is wrong. Here's why.

The better screen and sound. See Gladiator's opening scene on a big screen? The small screen version doesn't compare.  You don't feel every hit in a battle scenes like you do on the big screen and there are plenty of hits in Fists of Legend.  The sound at the start of the music documentary Made of Stone about the Stone Roses was astounding. And we didn't have to worry about turning the sound down in case it bothered the neighbours. There's some great music to be heard in the 9 Muses of Star Empire documentary. 

Nothing like seeing a film with a full house!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

KOFFIA 2013 Review: Masquerade / 광해: 왕이 된 남자

When I first came across Choo Chang-min’s Masquerade, it was on a fourteen-hour flight from Singapore to Helsinki, I had only been exposed once before to Korean period film - a previous experience with A Frozen Flower, was I really up for another film spoken in Middle Korean (중세국어)? Boy, I did not know what was coming!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Moon Byoung-gon: A new found talent

Moon Byoung-gon won the Short Film Palme d’Or at Cannes International Film Festival for his film Safe. The first Korean to win the honour. He was quite surprised at the award as he didn't even know he could win a prize. Safe is a grim portrait of a man addicted to gambling and a female college student who steals money from her work place.

Moon studied film at Chung-Ang University in Seoul graduating in 2011 and has directed two shorts ― No More Coffee Break (2008) and Finis Operis (2011). The fantasy short Finis Operis, a portrait of an aging man living a secluded life, was featured at Cannes in its International Critics’ Section in 2011. Through the not-so-short school period he experienced many aspects of the film industry, Finis Operis was his graduation film and he got to be the first Korean student to be invited to La Semaine de la Critique du Festival de Cannes. Liking to show the irony of life through stories, he is now developing in feature film.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

KOFFIA 2013 Review: Architecture 101 / 건축학개론

“We were all someone’s first love/우리는 모두 누군가의 첫사랑이었다.”
- Slogan from Architecture 101 promotion poster

One’s first love is a moment in life that tends to trigger polarised reactions when people are asked about it: either you have fond recollections of time spent together with your sweetheart experiencing the sensations of love for the first time, or you are reminded of a dark point in your life. Unrequited love, acrimonious breakups… in any case it is a topic that remains personal for all of us.

Architecture 101, directed by Lee Yong-joo, will take you back to a time of youthful bliss juxtaposed with midlife crises and subsequent indecisiveness. It also provides a concise insight into Korean university culture and the restless days of one’s youth. Given the movie’s success in the Korean box office, many viewers in their 30s and 40s were able to experience nostalgia over the 118-minute screening and liked its primary topic.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Kim Kko-bbi: The Breathless Flower

While Kim Kko-bbi’s name, which literally translates to ‘flower rain’, may not be as familiar to fans of Korean cinema as some of her contemporaries, her performances certainly should be.

Although she’s been on the Korean movie scene for over ten years, it was her performance in Yang Ik-june’s 2008 feature ‘Breathless / 똥파리’ which brought her to most peoples attention, including myself. The movie, starring the director himself in the main role as a violent debt collector with a traumatic family history, quickly became a festival hit through word of mouth. Ik-june plays a character seemingly hell bent on inflicting pain on everything and everyone he come across, brutishly violent with a vocabulary to match, he appears to have no redeeming qualities at all, until he accidentally crosses paths with spunky schoolgirl Yeon-hee, played by Kko-bbi.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Kim Yoon-seok: The Everyman Anti-Hero

When people think of leading man material, the image of someone who looks slightly world weary, is into the later half of his 40’s, and seemingly appeared from nowhere, probably isn’t what springs to mind for most people. However Korean actor Kim Yoon-seok has found himself in just that position, and it’s one that for anyone who’s seen his performances, is very much deserved.

Yoon-seok started his acting life on the stage, having been trained as a member of the highly regarded Theater Yeonwoo Company, before making his stage debut in 1988 in a Korean version of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, the movie that made Marlon Brando famous well over 30 years before. He stayed in the world of theatre for many years, before making the gradual transition to movie and TV roles, one of the first of which was a supporting part in director Choi Dong-hoon’s 2003 movie ‘The Big Swindle’ (범죄의 재구성). 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ryoo Seung-ryong: Miracles & Masquerades

When you’re a leading man in Korean cinema, you might get a starring role every couple of years and quite possibly be type-cast in the type of role that you play, such is the danger of modern cinema. However, sometimes playing a supporting part to the main star can be a more attractive option – if done right, you could have more acting opportunities, more variety of roles to choose from, and more chances to experience working with a variety of other performers and directors.

Such is the case for Ryoo Seung-ryong, although rarely the leading man, chances are if you’re a fan of Korean cinema you’ll have seen him in at least a couple of movies. Born in 1970, he began his acting career on stage performing in a musical at just fifteen. Seung-ryong, like his contemporary Kim Yoon-seok, would remain a theater actor for much of his career, and didn’t make the transition to the big screen until later in life.

That transition came with a small part in the 2004 movie ‘Someone Special / 아는여자’, and set him on a path to star in more than thirty movies in a period of less than ten years – an impressive achievement by anyone’s standards. Despite my own interest in Korean cinema also dating back over ten years, the first time I got to see Seung-ryong onscreen wasn’t until 2009. After flying under the radar for so long, 2009 was a year that I seemingly couldn’t get away from him.

First of all I saw him as the head of a secret government agency in the action comedy 'My Girlfriend is an Agent / 7급 공무원', which was then followed by his turn as a bumbling reporter in the Doenjang jigae mystery 'The Recipe / 된장', and to top it all off he also had a central role as a North Korean agent in the only K-drama to this day that I’ve watched through to the very end, ‘IRIS / 아이리스’. The ironic thing is though that he was such a versatile and adept actor, that at the time I didn’t even realize it was the same actor in all three productions.

Friday, August 16, 2013

KOFFIA Short Film Comp Interview: "The Worst Best Friend" with Benny Lee

Check out our exclusive interview with KOFFIA 2013 Short Film Competition finalist Benny Lee below! Buy your tickets to what will be an exciting short film session, screening August 25th in Sydney!

1. What / Who inspired you to join this competition? Why did you get into filmmaking? 
I’ve harboured a love for filmmaking and cinema since as long as I could remember. My earliest memories are snippets of men fighting in Chinese martial arts films as my dad worked as a projectionist. The first film I remember in its entirety was James Cameron’s Terminator 2. I still remember the feeling of awe as I watched what was happening in front of me. I remember thinking I want to create worlds and characters that will make other people feel what I’m feeling now. Having goals and dreams are great and all but I never really took steps to make that dream come true. I really have to thank my friends who kicked my ass and harassed me enough to actually take the first step – making my first short film. They’re the reason I joined this competition. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

KOFFIA Short Film Comp Interview: "Vincents Guilt II Bullet Blues" with Dee Choi

Check out our exclusive interview with KOFFIA 2013 Short Film Competition finalist Dee Choi below! Buy your tickets to what will be an exciting short film session, screening August 25th in Sydney!

1. What / Who inspired you to join this competition? Why did you get into filmmaking? 
I’ve always been interested in filmmaking but only actively began pursuing it once I saw “10 minute film school” by Robert Rodriguez on Youtube.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

KOFFIA Short Film Comp Interview: "Next Stop Seoulywood" with Matthew Rooke

Check out our exclusive interview with KOFFIA 2013 Short Film Competition finalist Matthew Rooke below! Buy your tickets to what will be an exciting short film session, screening August 25th in Sydney!

1. What / Who inspired you to join this competition? 
KOFFIA is such a tight ship and a great festival, I wanted to b a part of it again. It’s a showcase of Korean Cinema excellence and what an honour to have a film of mine amongst such distinguished filmmaking. …oh yeah and the money! Why did you get into filmmaking? I got into filmmaking through music. Music has an emotion, an image has an emotion, and when put together the total potentially transcends their sum. Film & Video is 25 such potential moments per second. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

KOFFIA Short Film Comp Interview: "La Croyance" with Chase Lee

Check out our exclusive interview with KOFFIA 2013 Short Film Competition finalist Chase Lee below! Buy your tickets to what will be an exciting short film session, screening August 25th in Sydney!

1. What / Who inspired you to join this competition? Why did you get into filmmaking? 
I was the screenplay writer/producer and main actor for “Remorse” in last year’s Korean Film Festival. I believe as an actor KOFFIA helps me grow as an actor/director. I am powered to present myself to a community that may be interested in working with me in the future. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

KOFFIA Short Film Comp Interview: "The Korean Butterfly" with Angela Lee

Check out our exclusive interview with KOFFIA 2013 Short Film Competition finalist Angela Lee below! Buy your tickets to what will be an exciting short film session, screening August 25th in Sydney!

1. What / Who inspired you to join this competition? Why did you get into filmmaking? 
My inspiration came from my obsession with the Korean culture and how much I want to show it off. Between my peers and I, there was an initial plan to film a music video cover in the second half of the year just for fun and also as a potential entry for the k-pop dance competition. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

KOFFIA Short Film Comp Interview: "Inevitable Paradox" with Hyun Shin

Check out our exclusive interview with KOFFIA 2013 Short Film Competition finalist Hyun Shin below! Buy your tickets to what will be an exciting short film session, screening August 25th in Sydney!

1. What / Who inspired you to join this competition? Why did you get into filmmaking? 
I originally didn’t have any intentions to submit Inevitable Paradox but I felt that KOFFIA would be an ideal forum in which to share my work with others. The short answer as to why I got into filmmaking is that I was seeking a means to express myself and found film to be the most complete medium in which to do so. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

KOFFIA Short Film Comp Interview: "Human Meat Factory" with Anna Han

Check out our exclusive interview with KOFFIA 2013 Short Film Competition finalist Anna Han below! Buy your tickets to what will be an exciting short film session, screening August 25th in Sydney!

1. What / Who inspired you to join this competition? Why did you get into filmmaking? 
Hearing about a festival with Korean filmmakers in Australia was awesome, I love watching Korean films, they’re so honest and you get to see how unique the culture is. I got into films because I thought it was boring and dull for people to have the same career for their whole lives. When I’m making movies, I can be a sheep today, and a dinosaur tomorrow.

Friday, August 9, 2013

KOFFIA Short Film Comp Interview: "Double Truth" with Julius Lee

Check out our exclusive interview with KOFFIA 2013 Short Film Competition finalist Julius Lee below! Buy your tickets to what will be an exciting short film session, screening August 25th in Sydney!

1. What / Who inspired you to join this competition? Why did you get into filmmaking? 
I joined the competition for a number of reasons. One of them was I felt the KOFFIA Short Film Competition was the ideal place to put forth my film which explores the subject of cultural diversity and the conflict it can produce. I’ve always wanted to enter one of my films into a competition and I felt Double Truth was the first film I made which I was confident with and did not hesitate to share with others. And recently I’ve wanted to learn more about my Korean heritage which I honestly did not take much interest in when I was younger. I want to learn more about the culture, the history, the people and its cinema which has grown in international appeal in recent years. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

KOFFIA Short Film Comp Interview: "Asian Australian Gentleman" with Ezra Andres

Check out our exclusive interview with KOFFIA 2013 Short Film Competition finalist Ezra Andres below! Buy your tickets to what will be an exciting short film session, screening August 25th in Sydney!

1. What / Who inspired you to join this competition? Why did you get into filmmaking? 
Originally after seeing an advertisement at my college for this short film competition I was going to convert one of my already written scripts (Romance/Drama) into Korean and pretty much set a challenge for myself. But time went by and I had class projects I had to focus on, during this time I was finalising and publishing ‘Asian Australian’, and it fit the criteria, so I thought why not! I got into film making at a young age, but until now I haven’t really been happy with what I’ve accomplished. I love to tell stories (especially romance/drama) so hopefully one day I’ll be able to work on a feature film in the genre. Whether it be English or even Korean, as long as it touches people and evokes their emotions, that’s what counts for me. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

KOFFIA Short Film Comp Interview: "0.5" with Richard Kim

Check out our exclusive interview with KOFFIA 2013 Short Film Competition finalist Richard Kim below! Buy your tickets to what will be an exciting short film session, screening August 25th in Sydney!

1. What / Who inspired you to join this competition? Why did you get into filmmaking? 
I have always wanted to participate in KOFFIA and in the short film competition, the opportunity only came about this year when I finally got off my behind. The inspiration came from those around me, they told me I wasn’t getting any younger so I figured that I really should start doing what I have always wanted to do; to make films. I suppose the moment I wanted to be a film director was when I watched Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan then the dream was solidified when I watched Park Chan Wook’s Oldboy but it was always a childish dream. That is, until I was 23 when I dropped out of my engineering degree and pursued media/film. My parents disowned me for a while. True story. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

KOFFIA 2013 Review: The Thieves / 도둑들

Director Choi Dong-hoon’s ‘The Thieves’ hit Korean cinemas in 2012 with a wallop, a globe trotting adventure consisting of an all-star Pan-Asian cast, it quickly became the most watched movie in Korean history. It was also responsible for sparking a lot of debate around if big Hollywood style blockbusters and Chinese co-productions are the way forward for Korean cinema, slowly leading to distinctly Korean flavoured mid-budget efforts becoming a thing of the past.

However take a step back from all the discussion
around what is and what isn’t the future of Korean cinema, and taken as what it is ‘The Thieves’ sets out to do exactly what it intended – provide two hours of unpretentious good spirited entertainment. Even with no details of the plot, I'm sure the cast alone was responsible for some of the ticket sales – Dong-hoon regulars Kim Yoon-seok (The Chaser추격자) & Kim Hye-soo (‘Tazza' 타짜) are joined by Lee Jong-jae (‘The New World' 신세계), Kim Hae-sook (‘Thirst' 박쥐), Kim Soo-hyun (‘Secretly Greatly' 은밀하게 위대하게), and making her Korean movie come-back Jun Ji-hyeon (‘The Berlin File' 베를린). Throw in Hong Kong movie legend Simon Yam ('Daisy' 데이지), Chinese actor Derek Tsang (‘Dream Home’), & Malaysian star Angelica Lee (‘The Eye’), and anyone who’s a fan of star watching should be more than happy.

Monday, August 5, 2013

KOFFIA 2013 Review: 9 Muses of Star Empire / 나인뮤지스 오브 스타 엠파이어

42% of 10478 children surveyed by Daum, the Korean equivalent of Yahoo, in 2010 claimed that they wanted a career of being commoditised by their bosses and the masses, scrutinised by media agencies, endure endless hours of repetitive tasks and constant surveillance by their superiors. They wanted to be singers and performers in the entertainment industry. (Source)

K-Pop has thus far been the primary catalyst of Hallyu (한류; ‘Korean Wave’) with the rapid ascent of boy bands and girl groups performing their well crafted dance numbers to perfection on stage. As seen by the survey results, many dream of the idyllic Korean celebrity lifestyle of numerous live performances, appearances on TV shows and awards ceremonies. However, very few people know about events taking place behind the scenes; the directors thus serve a role to fill in that exact gap in knowledge.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Review: Hong Kil-dong / 홍길동 (1986)

To the western world, the name of Hong Kil-dong is no doubt an unfamiliar one, but in Korea, the hero of writer Heo Gyun’s 16th century novel is a well known folk legend in the same vein as England’s Robin Hood. The illegitimate son of a nobleman and one of his concubines, Hong Kil-dong was rejected by his own family due to his mixed blood of noble & peasant, and on his travels through the corrupt outside world, he robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.

Over the years Hong Kil-dong has appeared in many forms, in the 1960s his tale was told in two animated feature length movies, in the 1980s he returned in animated form, but this time in an updated science fiction setting, throughout the 1990s he was the star of a series of popular video games, 5 years ago he got his own K-drama series, and as recently as 2010 he even got his own musical, with Sungmin and Yesung of Super Junior playing the title character.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

KOFFIA 2013 Review: Whatcha Wearin'? / 나의 P.S. 파트너

How climactic is a climax if it’s formulaic? Refreshingly adult and with an openness often frowned upon in Korean culture, 'Whatcha Wearin'?' is a rom-com specifically designed to tease. You have every saccharine detail you’re expecting of the genre - a handsome lead and a beautiful damsel in distress, the emotional twists and turns and the almost always, happily-ever-after. However director Byun Sung-Hyun serves up romance, raunch and comedy in this film that tinkers with the boy-meets-girl formula.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Review: Comrade Kim Goes Flying / 김동무는 하늘을 난다 (2012)

There’s not too many Saturday nights when you get to visit the cinema for the purpose of watching a North Korean movie, but back in June on the eve of the Sydney Film Festivals final day, the opportunity arose to do just that, with their screening of ‘Comrade Kim Goes Flying'

The movie is a curious piece, and while the story behind it doesn’t involve any kidnapped South Korean directors (Shing Shang-ok) or forced into acting American military (Charles Jenkins – who authored ‘The Reluctant Communist’, strongly recommended!), it’s certainly no less interesting. Essentially the idea came from Nicholas Bonner, a British gentleman who founded Koryo Tours, a company which specializes in trips to North Korea. He also produced a couple of documentaries on the country, including the critically praised ‘The Game of Their Lives’, and so with the help of another producer, Belgian Anja Daelemans, they pitched the idea of a movie about a working class girl struggling to achieve her dream of being a trapeze artist.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

K-Pop and Korean Film: An Unlikely Marriage?

Today on the KOFFIA blog, blogger Ben Lee takes a look at the relation between Korean film and K-pop. Make sure to look out for our Reach for the Stars category at #KOFFIA2013, which includes the K-pop documentary 9 Muses of Star Empire and the true story of a variety show star in My Paparotti, if you want to learn more about Korean music on screen!

Globalisation has truly swept through South Korea during the past two decades. From its status as a hermit state under the Joseon dynasty during the 19th Century to becoming a world leader in electronics, steel production and shipping in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, Korean popular culture has now made the jump to global audience. This is seen through an info-graphic from "YouTube Trends"...