Thursday, January 31, 2013

KCN: Jiseul Triumphs while CinDi Bites the Dust (01/24-01/30, 2013)

It's been a little over a month since the weekly Korean Cinema News has appeared on MKC. Apologies for not getting back to it sooner. Work has become a little trickier and I'm still trying to strike the right balance between my personal and work projects.

I've decided to shake things up a little with KCN and try something new. Researching news and then putting them together in an article that is little more than glorified formatting is not the most exciting way to deliver the news (for you as well as myself I imagine). What I will try to do is to sum up what has happened on a weekly basis, give a few of my opinions as well as a couple of links to particularly good articles if there are any. Let's see how it goes, feedback is welcome!


This past week came with both good and bad news for the industry. As you may already be aware, O Muel's Jeju Massacre film Jiseul, which premiered at last October's Busan International Film Festival, has been awarded the Grand Jury Prize in the World Dramatic Competition of the Sundance Film Festival. It's the first time that a Korean film has won an award in Park City and the news concludes a particularly successful week for Korean filmmakers at the event following the positive reception of Park Chan-wook's US debut Stoker.

I don't think that Jiseul was one of last year's best Korean films (though it was a very good one) but its positive reception on the festival circuit (it also won four awards in Busan) actually makes quite a lot of sense. It's an artistic, black & white film that seems to channel Bela Tarr, it focuses on an unknown but deeply traumatic historical event and is also unlike other Korean films. These elements make it fresh and exciting and the thing the programmers hate the most is the same old thing.

Much less welcome was the news that the Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival (CinDi) has finished its run. I was lucky enough to attend the festival this past summer for two days and I greatly admired its wonderful programming and relaxed atmosphere. I'm very sad to know I won't be able to return now that it's funding has been pulled. Korea has plenty of festivals but this was a particularly good event, among the films I saw there last year was Sleepless Night, my favorite of 2012.

Kim Ki-duk won yet another award for his enormously successful 18th feature Pieta. The Korea Film Reporters Association gave it the top prize at its Film of the Year awards on Wednesday. Kim's latest is still redhot, with an active festival circuit calendar while it is also up for a number of prizes in March's Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong.

Also of note is the enormous box office standoff that is now taking place in Korean theaters. Following a massive debut, Miracle in Cell No. 7 has just begun to face off with the hotly-anticipated spy thriller The Berlin File. As of yesterday, the films are almost neck and neck and carving up over 80% of the boosted market between them. It's been a huge month at the marquees and things are looking very strong for February.

Sundance is over and Berlin is on its way next week (10 Korean films are on the program) but there is still plenty of activity for Korean cinema on the international festival scene. Five films are currently playing at the International Film Festival Rotterdam while another six are also on show at the Goteberg Film Festival.

Meanwhile, The Thieves had a strong opening during its Chinese debut, Jang Young-nam won Best actress during the Irvine International Film Festival for Azooma and the Jeonju International Film Festival announced its Short! Short! Short! project for 2013 (you can read all about it here).

That's it for this week, for more detailed news on Korean film including a few items not mentioned here, please visit the KoBiz Homepage. Full disclosure, I am an editor of that website. See you next time, when Berlin will be in full swing!

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 (Korean Standard Time) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at the Korean Box Office Update and the Weekly Korean ReviewsReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

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