Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Korean Cinema News (11/24-11/30, 2011)

Another big edition with lots of sales and Korean film festivals news this week with a number of great features and interviews to boot!


Finecut Adds AFM Deals
Germany's Ascot Elite and Brazil's Conquest Filmes became the latest distributors to acquire rights to South Korean animation film Leafie.  Handled by Korean sales firm Finecut, the film has been widely sold following its breakout hit status in Korea.  The company say that international distributors are planning theatrical releases next year targeting a family audience.  (Film Business Asia, November 23, 2011)

Animation Leafie, a Hen into the Wild Wins Award Overseas
The animated feature film Leafie, a Hen into the Wild  has grabbed another award overseas.  The South Korean animation won the Best Animated Feature Film Award at the Fifth Asia-Pacific Screen Awards held in Australia on Thursday, beating other promising nominees, such as Eric Khoo’s Tatsumi and Makoto Shinkai’s Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below. (KBS, November 25, 2011)

Soft Content, Strong Messages
The film Wandeuk or Punch in English is about high school student Wandeuk, who lives with a hunchback father and a mentally-challenged uncle in Seoul.  Nothing about his life shines, and adding to his miserable existence is that his teacher lives right next door to his “oktapbang” or roof-top housing unit that is largely synonymous with poverty in Korea.  (The Korean Times, November 23, 2011)

A Teacher Finds Movie Stardom in South Korea
The best chance an English-language teacher in South Korea has of acquiring military experience, it appears – outside of creating an incident at a checkpoint near the border – is working for Kang Je-gyu, one of the country‘s top movie directors.  (Asia Sentinel, November 24, 2011)

Breaking a Taboo, First Major Film About the L-Word Opens in Korea
There have been many boy-meets-girl or boy-meets-boy love stories in mainstream cinema in Korea, but none about lesbians.  So when director Kim Su-hyeon’s Life is Peachy was screened for the press on Nov. 16, it certainly attracted attention.  (Joong Ang Daily, November 25, 2011)

Busan native Kwak Kyung-taek, who has directed such hits as Friend (2001), Typhoon (2005), A Love (2007), and most recently Pain (2011) chooses his five favorite films, you may be surprised by his choices.  (, November 25, 2011)

Beyond Extreme? The London Korean Film Festival
While the late Tartan Films’ successful ‘Asia Extreme’ sub-label gave many Western viewers in the Noughties their first – perhaps only – taste of the Korean New Wave, it also created an impression of the national cinema that was doubly narrow.  The sixth London Korean Film Festival went some way towards redressing this imbalance.   (Sight & Sound, November 2011)

Highest Grossing Korean Films of 2011
2011 has produced a range of successful Korean films that have captured the public's imagination, tugged at their heartstrings, caused a few laughs, and asked some serious questions.  Although the year is not quite done, the big films of the year have largely had their say at the box office.  This week I wanted to take a look at the top domestic films of 2011 and see just what type of films captured the public's interest in 2011.  (, November 26, 2011)

Martin Scorsese Gives a Thumbs Up to UCI Professor Kyung Hyun Kim's Cinema Book
It's not often that an academic tome--even one related to film--snags a forward written by legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese.  But Kyung Hyun Kim, UC Irvine's associate professor of East Asian languages & literatures and film & media studies, won those bragging rights, and like else everything in Hollywood it all started with the right connections.  (OC Weekly, November 25, 2011)

Korean Film Festival: Islamabad Gets a Taste of Korean Cinema
A Barefoot Dream is high on emotions, but then Pakistanis love their drama.  And besides, the melodrama in the Korean 2010 entry for Oscars consideration is unmistakably East Asian, which is entirely different (if ever slightly so influenced) from Hollywood and Bollywood (sorry, no sappy love stories here).  The film played at the Korean Film Festival at Pakistan National Council of the Arts on Friday.  (The Express Tribune, November 27, 2011)

The Korean Movie Database runs down Korean cinema's box office record breakers, past and present.  A great feature on Korean film history.  (KMDB, November 27, 2011)

From Late Autumn to Countdown, This Year's Disappointing Top 3
Now that the Blue Dragon Film Awards are over, all the major award shows for 2011 are done.  Several movies were released in 2011.  While there were big office hits like Detective K, Sunny, Arrow, The Ultimate Weapon and Punch, there were also movies that just came and went without any sound but were just as strong in quality and lingering imagery.  (, November 28, 2011)

Korean Film Festival in Sri Lanka
The embassy is also in the process of organizing the 2011 Korean film festival which will be held from December 5 to 9 at the National Film Corporation Theatre.  All five movies selected for the festival are box office hits in Korea.  This would be a great opportunity for Sri Lankans to become familiar with the Korean culture and lifestyle in the 21st century while enjoying the benefits of a quality movie at the same time.  (Sri Lanka's Daily News, November 28, 2011)

Spike Lee’s Version of Oldboy Has New Elements Meant to ‘Throw Off’ Audiences Familiar With Original
The possibility of an American remake of South Korean revenge film Oldboy (2003) has been a worrisome thing for a few years now.  But this year Spike Lee was tapped to direct, which immediately made the new Oldboy a more attractive, or at least a more interesting proposition.  With Josh Brolin set to star and Colin Firth rumored to be playing the film’s revenge-seeking antagonist, things are looking petty damn good.  (, November 28, 2011)

Canada's 108 Media to Distribute Korean Toon Leafie
Toronto-based 108 Media Group has picked up distribution rights for the Korean hit animated feature Leafie: A Hen Into the Wild for Canada, U.S., Australia, U.K., and New Zealand from Finecut.  Leafie also sold to German-speaking territories through Ascot Elit and Brazil’s Conquest Filmes.  (animation Magazine, November 28, 2011)

Korean Documentary Wins Top Prize at IDFA 2011
Korean documentary Planet of Snail won the top prize at the world’s largest documentary film festival in the Netherlands on Saturday, becoming the first Asian film to win the award.  (The Korea Herald, November 27, 2011)

Kim Starts Film Grad School at Dankook Univ.
Busan International Film Festival’s founding and honorary director Kim Dong-ho is launching a graduate school specializing in film contents at Dankook University in South Korea.  Starting in the first semester of 2012 which starts in March, the graduate school will admit 25 students to teach them in the fields of directing, producing, and screenwriting.  (KOBIZ, November 25, 2011)

Journals of Musan and Arirang Win at Tokyo Filmex
The 12th Tokyo Filmex awarded its Special Jury Prize and $8,000 of Kodak film stock to Park Jung-bum’s The Journals of Musan and the Agnes B Audience Award to Kim Ki-duk’s Arirang.  Park’s feature film debut The Journals of Musan has won a raft of awards since its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) last year where it picked up the New Currents and International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) awards.  (KOBIZ, November 29, 2011) 

Hello Ghost Walks Through Walls, Opens in China
Korean comedy Hello Ghost became the third South Korean film this year to get a theatrical release behind the Great Wall of distribution barriers in China when it opened Nov. 24.  Mega Films, which is in charge of Hello Ghost’s Chinese distribution, released the film on about 4,000 screens in Shanghai, Beijing and other cities large and small.  (KOBIZ, November 29, 2011)

Korean Cinema on the Park in Sydney: Controversial Classics
Hey Sydney! You like free movies don’t you?  Yeah, you do.  If you also like Korean cinema, and listening to a series of guest speakers (including us!), then why not check out the KCO’s Cinema on the Park series?  On every Thursday night throughout the year, the current program is Controversial Classics. It’s a bit saucy!  (The Reel Bits, November 29, 2011)

Korean Film Week in Cape Town
The Cape Town leg of the Korean Film Week will take place at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront Cinema Nouveau from 5 to 11 December.  Organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, the Korean Film Week is currently running in Pretoria at Brooklyn Cinema Nouveau until 4 December.  Films shown at the festival include Scandal Makers (2008), Le Grand Chef (2007), Take Off (2009), Beyond The Years (2007), and A Barefoot Dream.  (Screen Africa, November 30, 2011)

Korean Film Archive: Theater, Museum, and Library
Long before Korean film developed its indie rep for extreme violence (Lady Vengeance, 2005), dark sexuality (The Housemaid, 2010) and swallowing live octopus (Oldboy, 2003), there was a golden era of bouffants and pensive romance that has since been forgotten.  Forgotten by everyone that is, except by cinematic treasure hunters combing the vaults of the Korean Film Archive (KOFA).  (CNN Go, November 30, 2011)

Funimation Adds Live-Action Korean Athena: Goddess of War Film
The North American distributor Funimation acquired the rights to distribute the movie spinoff of the South Korean espionage television series Athena: Goddess of War.  Distribution rights were also sold to China's New View TV & Media and Germany's Tiberius Films.  (Anime News Network, November 23, 2011)

Pioneering 'Personal' Documentary Attempts to Break Down Prejudice
On Nov. 19 at Art Space C in Jeju City roughly 40 people, mainly Westerners, were on hand to watch Miracle on Jongno Street, the first Korean documentary about homosexual men.  In his debut as director, Lee Hyuk-sang has created a film that shows the daily lives of four gay Korean men living in a society that has yet to accept them as equals.  (The Jeju Weekly, November 26, 2011)

Now Is The Time To Buy Oldboy, Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance And Sympathy For Lady Vengeance
Pallisades Tartan are selling Blu-rays of Chan Wook Park’s superb Vengeance Trilogy – Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Oldboy (2003) and Sympathy For Lady Venegance (2005) – from their Amazon store at the wonderful price of $17.99 for the set. That’s less than $6 per film.  (Bleeding Cool, November 24, 2011)

Actor Jang Keun-suk Makes $1M Donation to Hanyang University
Actor Jang Keun-suk, 24, made an anonymous 1.2 billion won donation on Nov. 22 to Hanyang University, where he is currently enrolled.  The donation, which he did not announce to university officials, was revealed on Nov. 24 through the university website’s automated system that posts the name and donation amount.  Jang is currently a senior at Hanyang University, majoring in theater and film studies.  (The Hankyoreh, November 24, 2011)


My Way Documents Korean Soldier in the Battle of Normandy
It all started with the photograph of a young Korean man.  Drafted into the Japanese army [under the Japanese Colonial Rule] and then dragged off by the Soviet military, he was captured again after being sent to fight in German uniform in the fierce Battle of Normandy during the Second World War in 1944.  Seeing a documentary about the photograph at the National Archives in the United States, Director Kang Je-gyu got goosebumps.  (The Hankyoreh, November 26, 2011)

Kim Hye-sun Ditches Innocent Image with Saucy New Role
Kim Hye-sun (42), once known for her innocent image, is heating up the silver screen with her new movie Perfect Partner.  She became a teen sensation after debuting as a model for TV ads but retired from show business after getting married.  As she periodically returned to acting in subsequent years, she opted for roles that suited her age, often portraying a middle-aged mother.  (The Chosun Ilbo, November 26, 2011)

Korean-American Director Rediscovers Roots
Tammy Chu was adopted by an American family at the age of nine and raised in rural New York state. She never saw another Korean until she went to college.  "I remember what my birth parents looked like, but I forgot how to speak Korean and memories of Korean culture also disappeared from my mind," she recalls.  (The Chosun Ilbo, November 28, 2011)

Director Explores My Father’s House
It took making a film for director Kang Yu Ga-ram to understand her father’s life.  The two did not share much in common to begin with.  Her father is a firm supporter of the conservative Grand National Party; KangYu has worked with progressive NGOs and film production houses.  He spent most of his life on construction sites; she obtained her master’s degree in women’s studies.  (The Korea Herald, November 28, 2011)

Doctor-Filmmaker Probes Capitalist Exploitation in Medical World
A doctor has stepped up as an ombudsman for patients who cannot afford proper treatment due to what she calls the “capitalist exploitation of the medical world” and has made a movie to make sure her voice is heard.  White Jungle by occupational environmental physician Song Yoon-hee has been creating a buzz online, even before its theatrical release Thursday, as it documents the darker side of the current healthcare system.   (The Korea Times, November 29, 2011)


Life Is Peach (aka Ashamed - eng sub)



(Modern Korean Cinema, November 28, 2011)

Korean Cinema News is a weekly feature which provides wide-ranging news coverage on Korean cinema, including but not limited to: features; festival news; interviews; industry news; trailers; posters; and box office. It appears every Wednesday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at the Korean Box Office Update and the Weekly Review Round-upReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Korean Gangsters: Next week is Jopok Week on MKC!

Next week will be Jopok (Korean Gangster) week on Modern Korean Cinema!  I'm currently panning an essay on Ha Yu's exceptional A Dirty Carnival (2006) and in seeking to develop my arguments I have gone back to rediscover older Korean gangster films.  Sadly I have not been able to get my hands on any of those made in the 1960s and 70s but next week I plan to review some of the following significant Korean gangster films of the 1990s:

The General's Son (1990)
The General's Son 2 (1991)
The General's Son 3 (1992)
Beat (1997)
Green Fish (1997)
No. 3 (1997)

If anyone would like to contribute a feature or piece on any Korean gangster films please feel free to drop me a line at pierceconran [at] gmail [dot] com.

Reviews and features on Korean film appear regularly on Modern Korean Cinema.  For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Review Round-up, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (GMT+1).

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Clash of the Families (Wi-heom-han Sang-gyeon-rye) 2011

Korea’s violent history features many atrocities, injustices, and infamous milestones but, aside from the separation of the peninsula, none is more present in the national psyche than the awful Gwangju massacre of 1980, in which students activists were mowed down by the military at the behest of a paranoid and brutal authoritarian regime.  30 years later and it still features prominently in film and television, cineastes can’t help but scratch the itch.  It’s a little like Lady Macbeth’s imagined blood stain which she can never rid herself of, “out damned spot!” she often cries.  Similarly, the Gwangju massacre is a psychological trauma that’s here to stay.

The Busan family
Clash of the Families, the second most successful Korean film of the first quarter of 2011, holds no pretense of being a great Shakespearean tragedy.  Instead, it owes a lot to the Bard’s great comedies, though it does begin as a variation of his Romeo & Juliet.  Here, instead of the Montagues and the Capulets, the warring, disapproving factions of the couple's families are caricatured emblems of the rival Jeolla and Busan regions.

Gwangju is, of course, a major city in the Jeolla province, and it still bears the mark of the massacre it suffered.  Around the nation, natives of the area are sometimes stigmatized because of it, though maybe not consciously.  Similarly to this year’s Sunny, the protagonists from Jeolla are looked down upon by other characters, though they exemplify a hardiness absent from the urbanites.  In both films, strong women hid their Jeolla roots, since they are seen as a source of shame.  Perhaps people would rather not be reminded of one of the country’s lowest points, even more so for those that concealed their identities.

Who's the boss?
Early on in the film we are introduced to the Jeolla contingent of the narrative as they work in a regional nightclub.  A group of young women sitting at a table are harassed by some cocky military recruits who ask that they join them.  Despite being emphatically rebuffed they continue to insist and become increasingly more physical, clearly they believe there status in the military affords them the respect of women, traditionally lower down the pecking order.  Conversely the men are so quickly rejected that perhaps it symbolizes a latent wariness of the military in the region as well as the progressive empowerment of women in recent times.  In any case, the film’s romantic lead, Hyeon-joon (Song Sae-byeok), who is tall, feminine, wiry, and far from dashing, intervenes and when he announces that he was an officer in the marines, the soldiers quickly become apologetic and obsequious.  He is a sign of a superior authority, despite his less than imposing physique, and thus must be respected.  The women also begin to show an interest in him.  Hyeon-joon is in fact not a marine but it serves to demonstrate how Korea is still a country in which citizens fear authority and frequently prostrate before it.

Clash of the Families begins with an innocent romance, Da-hong and Hyeon-joon are penpals who have fallen in love, they are very pure and traditional.  She is from a wealthy family in Busan and he is somewhat poorer and from Jeolla.  They meet in Seoul to go on dates and finally decide that he should meet her parents, but he must pretend to be a Seoulite.  He goes over for a weekend and meanwhile his father sends his brother to spy on him.  Much of the action subsequently takes place in Da-hong’s family home and Busan as Hyeon-joon must be careful to hide his identity from Da-hong’s domineering father (Baek Yoon-shik), who despises Jeolla.

The film was very popular in Korea but foreign viewers will likely have some trouble since a lot of the comedy arises from differences in regional dialects and customs.  I would be curious to examine a breakdown of the box offices returns to see if it was markedly more successful in the Busan and Jeolla regions.

Baek Yoon-shik as the father
As can be expected from this kind of narrative, it is fairly moralistic.  The conclusions are readily evident as the film plays through the habitual cornucopia of contrived machinations, including: playing off of rivalry, role reversal, parallel characters, misunderstandings, inopportune interruptions, hypocrisy, secret identities, etc.  A lot of hidden identifies nevertheless come out before long.  You can anticipate the ‘remaining true to yourself’ conclusion from a mile off.

Melodrama lies at the heart of Clash of the Families and despite never approaching subtlety and being populated by two-note characters, the film manages to be engaging and somewhat endearing, even in its most ridiculous scenes.  Melodrama used to be the most prominent genre in Korean cinema (it still is on TV) but some say that it has fallen from grace.  I believe it is just as entrenched and important as it once was, however, it has been repositioned.  No longer the main genre of most movies, it now serves as part of a balancing act of generic devices.  I would also go as far as saying that it is the glue that holds it all together.

The brilliant Kim Soo-mi
A lot of Korean films will follow a path recognizable to Western audiences until taking a huge detour into melodrama.  Clash of the Families follows this same route:  It goes through the three acts which you expect, culminating in a large event where everything is revealed, but instead of quickly tying everything up, it adds a full fourth act to gently thread the many loose ends.  As is usual for Korean films, this “4th act” is a melodramatic departure.  Perhaps a tough sell for uninitiated foreign audiences, 4th acts seems very common these days in Korean cinema, it’s like a repository for excess melodrama.

While sweet, the main couple is nearly insufferable in their caricatured and cloying naivety.  This was a tough pill for me to swallow at first but as I warmed to the film and its colorful, albeit simply drawn, characters, enough suspension of disbelief set in for me to enjoy the film.  Baek Yoon-shik as the patriarch and Kim Soo-mi as his wife are the standouts in the cast.  They are very reliable comic actors who manage to rein in some of the unbalanced performances of the younger members of the cast.  

Will he or won't he?
The film derives a lot of its laughs from scenes which are independent of the narrative.  This more or less worked because the narrative itself can be at times superfluous, though I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing.  My favorite part of the film was the inevitable scene where Hyeon-joon may or may not confess his origin to Da-hong's father.  They are on a fishing hut in the middle of a lake and the fact that Hyeon-joon can’t swim comes up in discussion.  You know he is debating whether to come clean but the father’s strictness and the surrounding body of water add a nice tension to the scene.  It may not sound like much but it’s little moments like this that allow Clash of the Families to rise above the sum of its less than appealing parts.

Reviews and features on Korean film appear regularly on Modern Korean Cinema.  For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Review Round-up, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (GMT+1).

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Korean Box Office Update (11/25/11/27, 2011)

Weekend of November 25-27:

Title Release Date Weekend Total
1 SIU 11/24/11 346,875 419,042
2 Punch 10/20/11 288,874 4,745,131
3 Arthur Christmas (us) 11/25/11 180,315 187,475
4 Real Steel (us) 10/12/11 119,490 3,398,026
5 Moneyball (us) 11/17/11 117,661 501,195
6 Immortals (us) 11/10/11 103,727 1,241,104
7 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (us) 11/30/11 88,116 90,650
8 50/50 (us) 11/24/11 43,390 53,378
9 You're My Pet 11/10/11 30,600 519,726
10 Penny Pinchers 11/10/11 24,552 407,914
- Perfect Partner 11/17/11 8,943 82,073
- Chilling Romance 12/1/11 5,867 6,147
- Dancing Cat 11/17/11 2,046 8,057
- Secrets, Objets 11/17/11 1,569 6,808

A new champion was crowned this weekend at the Korean box office and business was up over last weekend and last year.  A total of 1.43 million tickets were sold over the frame and Korean market share was an even 50% which represented gains over last years 1.22 million admissions and 44% share.  Despite only holding 4 of the top 10 spots and facing some tough competition from Hollywood, the Korean films fared impressively.

The new king of the box office is the new Korean film SIU which opened with a strong 346,875.  Besides the very present marketing I have not heard much about the film so it is hard to say where it might go from here.  In any case it will most certainly be a one-trick pony in the top spot as it will do battle with Twilight next weekend.

Punch way have gone down a notch after five No. 1 weekends in a row but it only slowed about 20%, leaving it with a 288,874 weekend and a 4,745,131 total, which was enough for it to surpass Silenced for no. 4 on the yearly chart.  It will cross Detective K and clinch no.3 in the coming day or so but any further climbing of the chart will require an additional 2.6 million tickets to catch up with Sunny.  This probably won't happen, especially given some strong competition ahead, but if this year's Korean box office stories have taught us anything it is that it is certainly possible.

The next 6 slots were all occupied by American fare, starting with the seasonal children's movie Arthur Christmas which had an okay start with 180,315.

At No. 4 Real Steel continued to show very impressive legs as it lost less than 15% of its business for a 119,490 weekend.  The Brad Pitt critical darling Moneyball was off a little under 40% for 117,611 and already has half a million admissions, a good result not doubt due to the star presence of Mr. Pitt and the locally popular baseball theme.  Immortals slowed under 50% for 103,727 as it leaped over the one million mark.  Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part I banked 88,116 during its very strong previews.  Finally 50/50 opened to a low but predictable 43,390.

You're My Pet took the penultimate spot with 30,600, a sizable drop from last weekend but it has amassed a decent 519,726 to date.  Finally Penny Pinchers also took a fall to 24,552 for a reasonable 407,914 total.

Outside the top 10:  Perfect Partner crumpled after its lackluster debut and wound up with 8,943.  Chilling Romance took in 5,867 during its previews ahead of next week's opening.  Documentary Dancing Cat stayed nearly level adding 2,046 to its total.  Secrets, Objects sold 1,569 tickets over the weekend, about level with last weekend.

Next weekend:  A big test ahead for domestic films as the new Twilight will open wide after it's already successful previews.  I'm expecting a slightly better opening than the previous installments and then a steep drop-off so look for a opening in the region of 850,000, which will be more than enough for first place.

The Korean Box Office Update is a weekly feature which provides detailed analysis of film box office sales over the Friday to Sunday period in Korea. It appears every Monday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at Korean Cinema News and the Weekly Review Round-upReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Friday, November 25, 2011

32nd Blue Dragon Film Awards

A little over two hours ago the proceedings for the 32nd 'Blue Dragon Awards' show wrapped up at the KBS Hall in Seoul.  Along with the 'Daejong (or Grand Bell) Film Awards', the 48th Edition of which was held last month, this is one of South Korea's most prestigious Film Awards ceremonies.  Unlike 'Daejong', the 'Blue Dragon Awards' has been privately funded since it was launched in 1963 by The Chosun Ilbo, a national newspaper.  It was discontinued in the 1970s but then revived by the Sports Chosun in 1990 and has occurred on a yearly basis since.

When I covered the 'Daejong' awards last month my analysis was somewhat impaired by the fact that I hadn't seen many of the main contenders.  Thankfully, in the time since, I have managed to catch up.  Out of the films that scored three or more nominations, I have only War of the Arrows and Silenced left to see, both of which I am looking forward to.

There was not a great deal of difference between the nominations for both events.  The Front Line led both with the same amount (12).  Silenced was the main difference as it scored 7 nominations, it received none at Daejong as it it was not eligible, having been released too late.  The Yellow Sea wound up with half the nominations it garnered at last month's event (5 vs. 9), and Hindsight was almost completely shut out (1 vs. 5).  Besides that, the main change was a slightly less even distribution outside of the top six or seven contenders.

This year, the most nominated films were (wins in parentheses):

The Front Line - 12 (2)
War of the Arrows - 8 (5)
Sunny - 8 (0)
Silenced - 7 (1)
The Unjust - 6 (3)
The Yellow Sea - 5 (1)
Blind - 4 (1)
Petty Romance - 4 (0)
Bleak Night - 3 (2)
Detective K - 2 (0)
Hello Ghost - 2 (0)
Late Autumn - 2 (0)
The Journals of Musan - 2 (0)

As I mentioned in last month's analysis, this year's roster of films duking it out for the major awards has been poorer than usual.  It has by no means been a bad year for Korean cinema as there have been numerous strong mid-level entries but, without a great many offerings from marquee names like Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho, Kim Jee-woon, Im Sang-soo, or Lee Chang-dong, there have been relatively few breakout films that have made big impressions on critics.  In terms of audiences though 2011 looks to be the best year since the peak of 2006.  Both Sunny and War of the Arrows played long in theaters and attracted over 7 million admissions, well over what was expected of them.  Similarly, the controversial Silenced and the enjoyable but unambitious Detective K both nearly broke the 5 million admissions mark.  Punch, which came out too late to be considered for either of this year's awards looks set to cruise past that mark and may reach further milestones as it shows no signs of abating just yet at the Korean box office.

Jang Hoon's The Front Line came in as a heavy favorite, with 12 nominations and having already bagged the top prizes at the Daejong Awards and the Critics' Film Awards, as well being selected to represent Korea at the Oscars.  In the end it lost out in all of the major categories and only picked up two technical awards, for Best Art Design, which it wasn't even nominated for at 'Daejong', and for Best Cinematography, which it also won last month.  Personally I don't think it deserved that last award as I belive many films featured stronger cinematography this year, including some that weren't even nominated such as Late Blossom and Moby Dick.

The surprise big winner tonight, to my delight, was Ryoo Seung-wan's excellent The Unjust which deservedly took the awards for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.  In the Best Film category it routed some stiff competition from the heavily favored The Front Line and from the immensely popular Sunny, which, despite being loved by critics and audiences alike, has failed to score many accolades (save for Best Director at the 'Daejong Awards') this awards season, and War of the Arrows.  

Ryoo Seung-wan's Best Director win was equally impressive.  While the nominees were identical to the Best Film category, which is quite common, the last time a film has won both awards at a major awards show was Na Hong-jin's The Chaser back in 2008 at Daejong.

Park Hoon-jun walked away with the Best Screenplay prize after the tacky (but enjoyable) Blind had bizarrely picked it up last month.  However, it must be said that in a recent interview with Paul Quinn over at Hangul Celluloid, Ryoo Seung-wan did mention that "I changed the script entirely according to my own style but, in truth, I never actually saw the version that Hoon-jung wrote, and I still haven’t seen it. It had been through the hands of many other writers who had been adapting it and it was only at that point that I saw the script."  Park also wrote last year's popular I Saw the Devil

Park Hae-il won Best Actor for War of the Arrows, as he did last month, against heavy competition from Kim Yun-seok (The Yellow Sea) and Ko Soo (The Front Line) but I think many great performance were shut out of this category like Lee Soo-jae in Late Blossom (who was nominated at 'Daejong') or Hwang Jeong-min in both The Unjust and Moby Dick.

Repeating her Daejong success, Kim Na-heul picked up the Best Actress prize for Blind.  Frankly I don't understand this decision at all, her performance is passable but nothing very noteworthy. Kim Hye-soo (Villain and Widow) or Yun So-jeong (Late Blossom), who sadly wasn't nominated, would have been more deserving.

The fantastic veterans Ryoo Seung-ryong (War of the Arrows) and Kim Soo-mi (Late Blossom) were awarded the supporting actor prizes for their roles.  Ryoo in particular had to fend off some strong competition from Yu Hae-jin (The Unjust) and Jo Sung-ha (The Yellow Sea), though I was disappointed that Kim Sang-ho didn't get a nod for his fantastic turn in Moby Dick.

Bleak Night, which has been hoarding numerous awards these past few weeks, once again picked up prizes for Best New Director, for Yoon Sung-hyun, and Best New Actor, for Lee Je-hoon.  Meanwhile Moon Chae-won was awarded Best New Actress for War of the Arrows.

The blockbuster War of the Arrows won the most prizes of the night (5) including the
Audience Choice Award for Most Popular Movie and the 
Best Technical Award for its action sequences.  However its most impressive accomplishment was scoring three acting prizes, no mean feat for an action film!

Despite all of the hullaballoo and its 7 nominations, Silenced only picked up on award, for Best Music.  The Yellow Sea was similarly unsuccessful with only one win for Best Lighting.  Perhaps the biggest shock of the night was that the wonderful Sunny failed to win in any of the 8 categories it was nominated for.

The other awards went to Yanh Hyo-joo who won Best Short Film for Broken Night and Ko Soo, Gong Yoo, Choi Gang-Hee, and Kim Hye-Soo who shared the Popularity Award.

Petty Romance surprised with 4 nods though it didn't pick up any prizes and the huge critical darling The Journals of Musan was also unable to convert either of its nominations into wins at tonight's ceremony.

Just as I was about to write off this year's Korean film industry awards, the Blue Dragon's managed to surprise me by awarding a great film (The Unjust) some richly deserved accolades.  By and large however, the awards show's nominees and winners were often short-sighted, perplexing, and not very evenly distributed.  Though I must confess that I am looking forward to seeing what will be in the mix next year.

Special thanks to Asian Media Wiki, which live-tweeted the results.

32nd Blue Dragon Film Awards Winners and Nominees:

Best Film
The Unjust
War of the Arrows

Best Director
Ryoo Seung-wan (The Unjust)
Kang Hyung-chul (Sunny)
Kim Han-min (War of the Arrows)
Ryoo Seung-wan (The Unjust)
Jang Hun (The Front Line)
Hwang Dong-hyuk (Silenced)

Best Actor
Park Hae-il (War of the Arrows)
Ko Soo (The Front Line)
Gong Yoo (Silenced)
Kim Yun-seok (The Yellow Sea)
Park Hae-il (War of the Arrows)
Yoon Kye-sang (Poongsan)

Best Actress
Kim Ha-neul (Blind)
Kim Ha-neul (Blind)
Kim Hye-soo (Villain and Widow)
Jung Yu-mi (Silenced)
Choi Gang-hee (Petty Romance)
Wei Tang (Late Autumn)

Best Supporting Actor
Ryoo Seung-ryong (War of the Arrows)
Ko Chang-seok (The Front Line)
Ryoo Seung-ryong (War of the Arrows)
Yu Hae-jin (The Unjust)
Jang Gwang (Silenced)
Jo Sung-ha (The Yellow Sea)

Best Supporting Actress
Kim Soo-mi (Late Blossom)
Kim Soo-mi (Late Blossom)
Ryoo Hyoun-kyoung (Petty Romance)
Yoo Sun (GLove)
Jang Yeong-nam (Hello Ghost)
Cheon Woo-hee (Sunny)

Best New Actor
Lee Je-hoon (Bleak Night)
Park Jung-bum (The Journals of Musan)
Seo Jun-young (Bleak Night)
Song Yoo-ha (Petty Romance)
Lee David (The Front Line)
Lee Je-hoon (Bleak Night)

Best New Actress
Moon Chae-won (War of the Arrows)
Kang So-ra (Sunny)
Moon Chae-won (War of the Arrows)
Baek Jin-hee (Foxy Festival)
Shin Se-kyung (Hindsight)
You Da-in (Re-encounter)

Best New Director
Yoon Sung-hyun (Bleak Night)
Kim Min-suk (Haunters)
Kim Young-tak (Hello Ghost)
Kim Jung-hoon (Petty Romance)
Park Jung-bum (The Journals of Musan)
Yoon Sung-hyun (Bleak Night)

Best Cinematography
Kim Woo-hyung (The Front Line)
Kim Woo-hyung (The Front Line)
Kim Tae-sung (War of the Arrows)
Son Won-ho (Blind)
Lee Sung-jae (The Yellow Sea)
Jung Jung-hoon (The Unjust)

Best Lighting
Hwang Soon-wook (The Yellow Sea)
War of the Arrows
The Yellow Sea

Best Music
Mogue (Silenced)
War of the Arrows
Late Autumn

Best Art Design
Ryoo Sung-hee (The Front Line)
The Front Line
The Yellow Sea
War of the Arrows
Detective K: Secret Of Virtuous Widow

Best Technical Award
Oh Se-young (War of the Arrows) (action)
Detective K: Secret Of Virtuous Widow (costume)
Sunny (edting)
War of the Arrows (action)
Sector 7 (CG)
The Front Line (fx)

Best Screenplay
Park Hoon-jung (The Unjust)
Kang Hyung-chul (Sunny)
Park Sang-yeon (The Front Line)
Park Hoon-jung (The Unjust)
Choi Min-suk (Blind)
Hwang Dong-hyuk (Silenced)

Best Short Film
Yang Hyo-joo (Broken Night)

Popularity Award
Ko Soo
Gong Yoo
Choi Gang-hee
Kim Hye-soo

Audience Choice Award for Most Popular Movie
War of the Arrows

Weekly Review Round-up (11/19-11/25, 2011)

A wealth of reviews for current and past films this week from many sources including multiple write-ups on A Better Tomorrow, The Front Line, and The Yellow Sea.


(The Korea Times, November 24, 2011)


A Better Tomorrow

(Ali Quail, November 22, 2011)

(Modern Korean Cinema, November 22, 2011)

(, November 19, 2011)

(, November 19, 2011)

(Hangul Celluloid, November 22, 2011)

(Film Business Asia, November 20, 2011)

(rainydaymovies, November 24, 2011)

(VCinema Show, November 3, 2011)

(Hanguk Yeonghwa, November 24, 2011)

(Far East Films, November 13, 2011)

The Front Line

(Korean Class Massive, November 19, 2011)

The Yellow Sea

(New Korean Cinema, November 23, 2011)

(Film Business Asia, November 23, 2011)


3-Iron, 2004
(Hanguk Yeonghwa, November 22, 2011)

Arahan, 2004
(Mouth London, November 23, 2011)

Assassins, 1969
(London Korean Links, November 20, 2011)

A Sister's Garden, 1959
(, November 2011)

(Hanguk Yeonghwa, November 17, 2011)

Crossing, 2008
(, November 21, 2011)

(Mouth London, November 23, 2011)

Day Off, 1968
(London Korean Links, November 20, 2011)

(Hanguk Yeonghwa, November 23, 2011)

(Mouth London, November 21, 2011)

(Hanguk Yeonghwa, November 20, 2011)

The Weekly Review Round-up is a weekly feature which brings together all available reviews of Korean films in the English language (and sometimes French) that have recently appeared on the internet. It is by no means a comprehensive feature and additions are welcome (email pierceconran [at] gmail [dot] com). It appears every Friday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at Korean Cinema News, and the Korean Box Office UpdateReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Korean Cinema News (11/17-11/23, 2011)

A wealth of fantastic interviews this week and a variety of trailers, features, and festival news items to boot.



Big Budget Movie Yeongasi Begins Filming
Filming for big-budget disaster movie Yeongasi commenced on Sunday, November 13th in Gyeongbuk province in eastern Korea.  The film, inspired by real-life parasites called Yeongasi or "horsehair worms", is top-billed by award-winning actor Kim Myeong-min (Detective K, 2011; Beethoven Virus, 2008), who plays Jae Hyuk, a pharmaceutical agent who struggles to save his family from the epidemic caused by the mutated worms.  (, November 16, 2011)

Veteran Actor Kim Chu-ryeon Found Dead
Actor Kim Chu-ryeon, who starred in classic films including Lovers in the Rain (1976) and Winter Woman (1977), was found dead in his apartment on Tuesday 8th November in an apparent suicide.  (Hanguk Yeonghwa, November 13, 2011)

Two Different Gay Films to Arrive on K-Film Scene
After this year’s success of Miracle of Jongno Street, the nation’s first gay-themed documentary, Korea’s film scene sees the arrival of two very different queer films.  One is the feature debut of So Joon-moon, one of the four gay men featured in director Lee Hyuk-sang’s documentary released in June.  (The Korea Herald, November 17, 2011)

Korean Film Festival Kicks Off at Alhamra
A two-day Korean Film Festival kicked off at Alhamra here on Thursday. The event was organised by Embassy of the Republic of Korea and Lahore Arts Council (Alhamra). A large number of citizens were present at the occasion.  (The Daily Times, November 18, 2011)

Spotlight on Contemporary Korean Cinema: Part 1
Strategically coinciding with the American Film Market and AFI Fest this year, the Korean Cultural Center of Los Angeles (KOFFLA) organized a three-day spotlight on contemporary Korean cinema, sponsored by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC).  The spotlight consisted of a retrospective of young filmmaker-on-the-rise Jang Hun, who now has three feature films under his belt; two debut feature films, Ordinary Days (2010, Inan) and Re-encounter (2010, Min Yong-geun); and one of Lee Chang-dong’s more recent films, the award-winning Secret Sunshine (2007).  (Next Projection, November 17, 2011)

Korea Film Awards Cancelled
Holiday season means awards season, but this year will have one less ceremony with the cancellation of the Korea Film Awards.  Hosted by MBC, the show would have been in its ninth year after being established in 2002, but ran into issues with “sponsorship and other complicated problems.”  (dramabeans, November 13, 2011)

Mark Morris on Lee Man-hee and the Flowering of Korean Film in the 1960s
In order to get a Western perspective on Korean cinema, I visited the Korean Cultural Centre in London in an event which was part of the 2011 London Korean Film Festival, to listen to Dr. Mark Morris speak on the subject (Friday, November 11).  Dr. Morris is from the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge University.  He normally lectures on Japanese Cultural History, so I was interested in what he thought about Korean cinema.  (London Korea Links, November 21, 2011)

Korean film PUNCH heading for the US
If you’re Stateside, and perhaps just in the mood for something other than gore and things that go bump in the night (you know, those odd occasions) then news that the popular Korean comedy movie Punch, will be punching its way to a U.S theatre near you....may appeal.  CJ entertainment is set to drop it into a nationwide release from Dec 2nd and all the release dates/locations are on the flicks official site.  (, November 18, 2011)

The Crucible sets official English title as Silenced
Korean movie The Crucible has decided on its English title and is being released in North America.
Distributor CJ Entertainment revealed, The Crucible has been released as Silenced in 15 cinemas in major cities in North America.  (, November 20, 2011)

Korean Cinema Today’s November Issue
The Korean Film Council (KOFIC) has launched the November issue of the Korean Cinema Today webzine at and it set to launch the iPad version on Nov. 28.  In the November issue, Korean Cinema Today’s top featurelooks at the overseas projects of four leading Korean directors – Park Chan-wook’s Stoker , Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer, Kim Jee-woon’s The Last Stand, and Ryoo Seung-wan’s The Berlin File.  (KOBIZ, November 21, 2011)

A Mixed Review for Lee Man-hee, the Classic Film Director for LKFF 2011
Most years, the London Korean Film Festival aims to include some classic films, usually from the 1960s, within its schedule.  This is a valuable feature for UK cinemagoers, some of whom may be of the impression that Korean film started with Shiri. This year Lee Man-hee was featured, with two films: A Day Off (1968) and Assassin (1969).  (London Korean Links, November 20, 2011)

Colin Firth Acknowledges Being 'Approached' for Oldboy
Academy Award-winning actor Colin Firth (The King's Speech, 2010; A Single Man, 2008; Love Actually, 2005) acknowledged in an interview with the Moviefone website that he was "approached" to star in Spike Lee's remake of Park Chan-Wook's live-action film Oldboy (2003).  However, he stayed mum on whether he agreed to the role or even if he and the producers are in active discussions.  (animenewsnetwork, November 19, 2011)
With eight feature films and a fair few shorts under his belt, Park has established himself as a force to be reckoned with on the world cinema stage.  He’s a risk-taker, confident enough to throw himself to the wolves knowing that he’ll come out unscathed.  This is, after all, the man whose Berlin Golden Bear-winning short, Night Fishing (2011), was filmed entirely on an iPhone.  Eager to scramble out of his comfort zone, he’s recently launched himself across to Pacific to direct his first English-language film, Stoker, starring Nicole Kidman.  (, November 18, 2011)

Recorder Exam wins DGA Student Filmmaker Award
Korean filmmaker Bora Kim-s The Recorder Exam won the Directors Guild of America (DGA) award for Best Woman Student Filmmaker in the East Region.  A 28-minute short film, The Recorder Exam follows a nine-year-old girl as she learns to play the recorder for a test.  The film portrays the contradictions in Korean society in 1988, conflict between family members, and the girl’s inner development.  (KOBIZ, November 16, 2011)

Rotterdam Claims Asian Trio
A trio of Asian films are among the first five films announced for competition at the upcoming International Film Festival Rotterdam (25 Jan – 5 Feb 2012).  It includes the festival's first 3-D film in competition, A Fish, also a first feature, by South Korea's Park Hong-min.  The film, an absurdist tale about a man seeking his shaman wife, first played in last month's Busan International Film Festival.
 (Film Business Asia, November 21, 2011)

CGV has recently opened two brand new multiplexes equipped with IOSONO’s 3D sound systems.  CGV Cheongdam Cinecity and CGV Yeongdeungpo become the flagship theaters for CGV’s 3D cinema sound.  (Iosono Sound, November 15, 2011)

Opening Gala + K-pop Concert, London Korean Film Festival 2011
A video of the opening proceedings of the recently wrapped London Korean Film Festival, which included a SHINee concert and a War of the Arrows screening. (, November 18, 2011)

Kim Ki-duk's Arirang and Amen Both to Come Out Soon
Kim Ki-duk's Arirang and Amen are being released side by side.  This special event, which is being held at Cinecube in Seoul, will go on for two weeks from December 8th to the 21st.  (, November 22, 2011)

Cinema Nouveau Welcomes the Korean Film Festival
As the only dedicated ‘Art House’ movie complex in South Africa, Cinema Nouveau will screen independent, alternative and art cinema content from cultures all across the world. As such, Cinema Nouveau presents the 'Korean Film Festival', releasing exclusively at the Brooklyn Cinema Nouveau on 28 November and the V&A Cinema Nouveau on 5 December.  (, November 22, 2011)

South Korea’s Silenced Speak
South Korea’s patriarchal society has often pressured victims of sexual crimes to keep quiet.  But a blockbuster movie revealing the abuse of children could help change this.  (The Diplomat, November 22, 2011)


LKFF: Ryoo Seung-wan Interview
Since the release of his first feature film, Die Bad, in 2000, Ryoo Seung-wan has regularly been referred to as the "Action Kid" of Korean Cinema.  However, though a number of his subsequent features could generally be described as action films, that description ultimately does the director and his work rather a dis-service.  (Hangul Celluloid, November 18, 2011)

Listening to Korean Cinema: Podcast Without Honor and Humanity
Launched in early 2011 Podcast Without Honor and Humanity hasn’t even celebrated its first anniversary but having reached its 39th episode has managed to spawn more episodes than some podcasts produce in two or three years.  A consistently entertaining show which has the occasional guest-host but is often helmed solely by self-effacing host Jake Feltner (aka Jake McHugeLarge), Podcast Without Honor and Humanity provides a knowledgeable perspective on Asian cinema in a manner which manages to be both accessible and – on occasion – is unashamedly geeky.  (New Korean Cinema, November 21, 2011)
In just a little over a decade, Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho has achieved no mean feat: with the most minimal filmography among his filmmaker colleagues – only four feature films – he has made his mark as one of the most exciting, articulate, and multifaceted directors, not only of his generation but of contemporary world filmmakers today. (asia pacific arts, November 18, 2011)

Yunjeong Kim, Director of International Sales, Finecut
It’s been 11 years since Yunjeong Kim at Finecut, a Seoul-based film company specializing in overseas sales and financing, has joined the Korean film industry.  From her earlier days at Cineclick Asia to her current title as the Director of International Sales, Kim still enjoys every bit of her job discovering new films.  KOBIZ caught up with Kim after her recent trip to the American Film Market(AFM).  (KOBIZ, November 18, 2011)

Animation Is the Future: Yeun Sang-ho
It is a bright Wednesday morning in Seoul, and a man wearing a pair of thick-framed glasses walks into the quiet cafe near Hongdae.  In spite of his toned-down manner and geek-like vibe, director Yeun Sang-ho cannot hide the twinkle of excitement in his eyes.  (The Korea Herald, November 21, 2011)

Honorary BIFF Chief Awaits His Film Debut
He is soft-spoken, extremely polite and remembers your name only after a quick phone call.  Meet Kim Dong-ho, the founding director of Busan International Film Festival and one of the pioneer figures in the Korean film industry.  (The Korea Herald, November 23, 2011)




(Modern Korean Cinema, November 21, 2011)

Korean Cinema News is a weekly feature which provides wide-ranging news coverage on Korean cinema, including but not limited to: features; festival news; interviews; industry news; trailers; posters; and box office. It appears every Wednesday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at the Korean Box Office Update and the Weekly Review Round-upReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.