This year in Korean Cinema, there will be a small special section discussing the lives of Korean female filmmakers, featuring director Shin Su-won’s latest film Hommage as a highlight of the section. In this special section titled “Hommage: SHIN Su-won and Korean Women Directors,” a total of four films full of fascinating and charming stories will be screened.
Hommage, the highlight of this special section, is a story of a female filmmaker, Jiwan. She is let down when her new film is shunned by the public. She starts writing a new script, but it is going nowhere and does not receive many reactions. One day, the Korean Film Archive appoints her to restore the audio for A Woman Judge, a film by a female filmmaker from the 1960s. To fill in the missing data, Jiwan embarks on a journey to follow the traces of the film and discovers the life of the female filmmaker. Lee Jungeun’s lively performance reflects Jiwan’s optimism even in difficult situations.
Shin Su-won’s debut film, Passerby #3, follows the story of Jiwan, who quit her job and goes through the arduous process to debut as a filmmaker. As many people know, this film is an autobiographical story. In addition, compared to Hommage, this film refers to Jiwan’s past. In this context, it would be an interesting experience to view both films together.
Women with a camera is a documentary created by Shin Su-won as a chapter of MBC’s 50th-anniversary documentary series Time. In this film, Shin lends the camera to a female rock star who was featured in Passerby #3 and lets her create her own film; Shin also presents the daring process of filmmaking by a housewife living in Busan. The second half is about Hong Eunwon, the second female director in Korean cinema who directed A Woman Judge. Shin visits the house where director Hong used to live and also meets up with Kim Young-hee, the female editor who edited director Hong’s films at the time. This story is also dramatized in Hommage.
The last film of the special section is A Woman Judge by Hong Eunwon. The film is inspired by the story of Hwang Yun-seok, the first female judge in South Korea who died a mysterious death in 1961, but it traces a different trajectory from the true story. However, considering the circumstances of the early 1960s in South Korea when men were dominant in society, the fact that it is “the story of the first female judge in South Korea depicted by the second female director in South Korea” has great significance.
A Woman Judge may be considered the last link in the special section, but it is also its starting point. This is because such pioneering films eventually became the foundation for shaping the history of Korean female filmmakers and women’s films today. In the end, these four films, A Woman Judge, Women with a camera, Passerby #3, and Hommage, have a continuous and connected relationship. After watching all four films, you will be able to grasp the interesting connection between them and deepen your understanding of the life of the Korean female filmmaker.
Written by Programmer MOON Seok
This year, several family films have been selected for the Korean Cinema section. As explained in the Korean Competition section, this is partially due to the fact that there were exceptionally many films that deal with families this year; but more so because there was an intention to present as many films as possible for more audiences to enjoy, considering that this year’s festival will have theater screenings for the first time in three years amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This is also the reason why a large number of films with actors familiar to the audience were included.
The memory of you by Sim Mihee and A song for my dear by Lee Changyeoul, despite one being a documentary and the other being a feature film, surprisingly deal with similar subjects. The two films display the noble and pure love of an elderly couple through the story of a husband taking care of his wife with dementia. In The memory of you, the husband discovers the fact that he has a fatal disease while taking care of his wife. The most beautiful part of this film is the scene where the husband, who needs to undergo surgery in order to take care of his wife, goes on a trip alone with his wife. This journey is their last trip together and it represents a summary of their long history together. In A song for my dear, a pansori expert hits a rocky patch as he takes care of his wife with dementia. The sorrow of the husband looking at his beloved wife is embroidered in the film with a mournful melody of pansori. The deeper the anguish, the more sorrowful the tune.
Room Sharing by Lee Soon-sung is about a “quasi-family” that is not related by blood, but is connected through life together. The protagonist is a grandmother who owns a house and participates in a local government’s “room sharing” program by renting the house to college students for a small fee. This picky and meticulous grandmother often clashes with the college students. As they come into conflict, they also slowly start learning about each other. The outstanding acting by Na Moonhee adds delight to this typical storyline. Good morning by Cha Bongju depicts the story of characters who form a family-like relationship in a hospice. Through the eyes of a young woman who ends up here after committing suicide, it shows the will of the patients wanting to live their life to the best until their last moment. The film features familiar actors, such as Lee Soonjae, Yoo Sun, Lee Yoon-ji, Song Jae-rim, and Kim Hwanhee (The Wailing), the narrator of the film. My only love is an omnibus film that was directed by four veteran directors, including Kim Kyunghyung, Jo Jinkyu, Chung Heung-soon, and Park Younghoon. It also consists of the stories of family and quasi-family. It is full of episodes that show the strangely entangled wheel of fate and twists in life: a story of a doctor and a patient who share the moment of light and darkness in their lives at the same time, a story of a pharmacist finding new life after answering a phone call from a girl who doesn’t know her father’s death, a drama of paradox created by a father and daughter who run a pension business, and a story of a boy who becomes a true hero after he dies from a rare disease. The brilliant cast of Pang Eunjin, Oh Jiho, Seo Junyoung, Park Jungyu, Ok Jiyoung, and Han Sooyeon also attracts attention.
Meanwhile, Citizen Pane is a somewhat special project. As the official title of “Seoul Independent Film Festival2022 Omnibus Challenge” suggests, this film is an omnibus film produced by the Seoul Independent Film Festival. It includes 6 satirical comedy films which portray someone who lacks power objectifying and othering those who lack even more power to reveal society´s superficiality and contradictions: haribo by Kim Sohyoung, Where you live becomes you? by Park Dong-hoon, Sincerity Practice by Choi Hana, Hands in Hands by Song Hyeon-ju, and A New Mind by Han Inmi. Each of these shorts run around 10 minutes and will be screened together.
Directors widely known through the JEONJU IFF have also returned. Director Choi Changhwan, whose relationship with the JEONJU IFF began in 2019 with the film The Boy from Nowhere and visited Jeonju every year since, is back with his new film, The layover. It tells the story of three couples on a plane that departs Incheon but diverts to Busan due to an engine failure. The three couples end up staying overnight at a hotel. Similar to Plant Café, Warmth, which screened at the JEONJU IFF last year, this film also contains several episodes in one large setting and presents the cracks and closures in life that an accidental “landing” can create. The exquisite acting ensemble includes actors representative of the Korean independent film industry, such as Gang Gilu, Byun Junghui, KANG Jinah, and Kim Sieun. Director Park Soonlee (Park Young-im), who entered the Korean Competition with The Romance of a Mediocre Actress and a Short Bald Man in 2015 and presented Ephemerals to remember in 2018, also returns to the JEONJU IFF with Prayer of the isle. The most experimental among the films screened in Korean Cinema, This film depicts a woman who lives a lonely life at the end of her life and leaves a strong impression through memorable images and minimal music. Deep sorrow and pain seem to seep out from the woman’s memories, dreams, and fantasies.
Including The memory of you aforesaid, the Korean Cinema section introduces three documentaries this year. The Teachers: pink, nature trail, ridge between rice paddies, plum, directed by Park Hong-yeol and Hwang Da-eun, is a story about teachers or carers who worked at “Acorn Village,” an after school program in Seongsan-dong called Seongmisan Village. In this village, which is famous for its educational community activities, the five teachers who are in charge of 60 students face a crisis with the development of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the children stayed home, the burden for the teachers has increased and the circumstances cannot meet the demand. Moreover, even after working for 10 years, they are not recognized as teachers outside of this village. It is a delicate documentary that follows the daily lives of the teachers. CHOSEN by Joseph Juhn is set not only in the United States but also in its political scene. While the director told the story of a Korean who was a main figure in the Cuban Revolution through Jeronimo (2019), in this film, he tells the story of five Korean Americans who are running for the U.S. Congress (Senate and House) elections in 2020. The film features David Kim, who wants to represent LA´s Koreatown, and many more. They are divided into Democrats and Republicans, but they both advocate legal protection for Korean Americans. Rather than being happy about the presence of a large number of Korean Americans in American politics, it is interesting to see how the film views this from an objective perspective. It is worth paying attention to the reality of candidate David Kim who did not win the hearts of residents in Koreatown even with a progressive agenda. Furthermore, the 14 noteworthy Korean Cinema’s shorts ranging from fictional shorts with familiar actors to imaginative animations are just waiting to be seen.
Written by Programmer MOON Seok
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