Preview: London Korean Film Festival 2017

Xin Yi Wang runs through the anticipated highlight films from the 12th edition of the London-based Korean Film Festival.

In recent years, Korean Cinema has experienced a flourish in ground-breaking filmmaking and exciting features. Here are a few selections from the London Korean Film Festival’s 2017 program.

A Cycle of Romance

Both opening and closing films are studies of romance, whether that concerns the love between a man and his mistress, or a long term relationship where early sparks are replaced by realism and the ordinary. Hong Sangsoo’s third feature of the year is The Day After, starring current muse Kim Min-hee (The Handmaiden) and Kwon Hae-Hyo. An entry in competition at Cannes, The Day After is quintessentially Hong, complete with bottles of Soju and a simple story. Shot in monochrome, it did not make waves at Cannes, but is unmissable for any Hong enthusiasts. A conversation will be held on the 26th of October.

Though The Day After deals with the complexities of fidelity, Kim Dae-hwan’s The First Lap is insightful in the realism of a romance. There are no grand gestures or dramatic love triangles after years of marriage, only the mundaneness of life; you fight over petty things and make up hours later. The film follows couple Ji-young (Kim Sae-byeok) and Su-hyeon (Cho Hyun-chul) in a quiet but heartfelt journey as we take a peek into their marriage, and closes London Korean Film Festive 2017 with a genuine piece of filmmaking.

The Film Noir Collection

With more than fifty years of film noir history contained within the fourteen films selected by the festival, we delve into the world of Korean film noir in all its violence, thrill and suspense. Turbulent political history, social upheavals and a developing urban life of Korea in the 20th century provide a grandeur stage for crime and mystery, pushing film noir as an ever-evolving genre to dive into the underbelly of Korean society.

Both The Villainess (2017) and The Merciless (2017) were part of the selection at Cannes this year and will kick off the Film Noir Collection at LKFF. Both receiving standing ovation at Cannes, they are part of Korea’s best films of the year. The Villainess was praised for its kinetic thrill and crafted choreography, and The Merciless resembles the work of Tarantino in its unpredictability.

The Collection kicks off with Lee Man-hui’s little known but highly appreciated Black Hair (1964) and a newly-restored version of murder mystery The Last Witness (1980). It also focuses on the 1990s, a period when Korean film noirs flourished, with the four selections of Dead End (1993, short), The Rules of the Game (1994), Green Fish (1997) and Nowhere to Hide (1999). Green Fish is the directing debut of Korea’s highly respected director Lee Chang-dong, and Nowhere to Hide exhibits experimental editing techniques from the time. A Bittersweet Life (2005) will also be screened – a great opportunity for those to revisit or be introduced to the iconic Korean gangster film.

Cinema Now: A Look into Current Korean Cinema

Featuring new and mainstay filmmakers in Korean Cinema, this strand contains both the European Premiere of Lee Dong-eun’s debut feature, In Between Seasons (2016) and Master (2016). Screened at the Busan International Film Festival, In Between Seasons is about a mother caring for her hospitalised son, discovering his secrets in a tale of acceptance and love. Though beautifully shot, it is also criticised for its pacing. Master, a blockbuster and box office smash hit in Korea, stars prominent A-List actors about fraud investigation, and promises entertainment and thrill.

Women’s Voice: A Feminine Perspective

Four dramas and one documentary are at the centre of the exploration of feminine perspectives at the festival. The highlight is Candle Wave Feminists (2017), an extremely current documentary made as part of an activist project that shines the light on feminist protests in Korea, and their defiance against the misogyny present in Korean society. Directed by Kangyu Garam, this documentary short will have a free screening at the British Museum followed by a Q&A.

London Korean Film Festival has further strands including Indie Firepower, curated by Tony Rayns with a focus on Jung Yoon-suk’s work; and Classics Revisited, curated by Dr Mark Morris on a retrospective of director Bae Chang-ho in the 1980s. Documentaries, short films, artistic videos and animation will be featured as part of the line-up.

Screenings will be held from 26th October – 19th November at various cinemas around London, including Picturehouse Central, Regent Street Cinema, SOAS, Birkbeck’s Institute of Moving Image, National Film & Television School, and the British Museum.

Visit London Korean Film Festival’s website for more information and the complete programme line-up.

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