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Thursday, March 14, 2013

New Korean Films: The Coming of New Indie Filmmakers (2013 Week 11)

(by Fabien Schneider)

This week is all to the glory of independent cinema since the Korean Academy of Art Films delivers two films from its students and a third debut movie completes the series. But don't get your hopes up, success will only smile upon My Paparoti, as this one has all the cards in hand to propel itself to the top of the box office. There is also a particular challenger that I decided not to include in my article despite being quite interesting for what it tells about the foreign interests in the Korean market: The Fifth Execution, a Russian film co-produced with South Korea and the U.S., where the main character is embodied by Kim Bo-seong, a famous actor of the 90s who starred in the trilogy of Two Cops, a few comedies and some soap operas.

Your Time is Up 

(누구나 제 명 에 죽고 싶다)


Seok-ho and Jin-ho are two brothers living together since the death of their parents. One day, Jin-ho takes the money his brother had given him to pay for his university scholarship and lends it to a bar manager. Seok-ho does not take long to discover and asks him to retrieve the money. A few days later, he learns that his brother has been found dead along with another man with whom he fought. Seok-ho thinks then that the explanation lies in the bar his brother always used to go to.

As any film officially produced by KAFA, it is a first feature film for the director who is a former student of the prestigious film school. I do not stop to think that KAFA does an admirable job in allowing young directors, producers and scriptwriters to get an invaluable experience in the film industry, since these films are usually proof of financial means and show a professional production value. They’re also for the most part distributed by none other than the largest distributor and exhibitor in South-Korea, CJ Entertainment. In this case, it will not have a great influence, since the distribution is limited to less than a dozen screens spread between Seoul, Incheon and Busan. Among the main actors, you may only recognize Choi Won-yeong, who played in Cheaters (2007), and Shin Hyeon-tak who has so far played only small roles, such as in The Scent (2011) or Sunny (2008 ). The economic future of this film is of course limited, but it is in the festivals that it should be known: after its presence at the last Busan festival, it will also be presented at the Fribourg festival that MKC covered last year.

Watch the english-subtitled trailer here.

When Winter Screams 


Yeon-soo comes to spend a few nights in a hotel that he occupied a few years ago on a trip with a friend from college. He has just learned that the baby that his wife is expecting will be disabled for life, and that an accident at work led to his dismissal. The next day, a girl named An-na arrives at the hotel. She is looking for her missing father. The two are suddenly threatened by Jo and Park, two other mysterious residents of that hotel. Yeon-soo and An-na manage to get away and go hide themselves in the snowy mountains.

This other film, also produced by KAFA and distributed by CJ Entertainment, seems promising too. Indeed, just the fact that this film school puts its name to the production is a sign of quality, or at least shows that there is an interesting raw talent just waiting to be discovered. You should remember perhaps that it is the KAFA that must be thanked for films like Bleak Night (2010), which became a phenomenon in the universe of festivals (Busan, Hong Kong, Mar Del Plata, Rotterdam) and won numerous awards. This one film is the first by Samuel Lee, and features Kim Tae-hoon, an actor that we saw recently in An Ethics Lesson, and who primarily features in independent productions and television series. As with Your Time is Up, the film will be limited by its low distribution, with less than a dozen screens, and should also seek a better career on the festival circuit.

Watch the Korean trailer here.

Beautiful Miss Jin 

(미스진은 예쁘다)

Soo-dong is a station master in Dongrae who must safeguard the crossing of 20 trains a day. His life is thus punctuated by daily train passages. Fortunately for him, the monotony is broken by his daily encounters with some marginalized people, such as Dong-jin, a talkative alcoholic, or Miss Jin, who is always hanging around with a little girl.

Another independent film, actually the debut film for director Jang Hee-chul, but this has nothing to do with KAFA. Distributed by the small company Amuse, which broadcasts locally independent Korean cinema, this film has already achieved a good career in festivals, having figured in Busan and Deauville (the latter usually meaning that the film will be distributed in France ). All actors are unknown to the general audience, but this didn’t prevent the film from being courted by many independent cinemas, as well as some Lotte multiplexes, which will ensure at least a good geographical spread despite a low number screens.

Watch the Korean trailer here.

My Paparotti 




A music teacher in high school who performed in the past in Italy discovers a huge hidden talent in one of his students, Jang-ho. One minor problem, that student is from a poor family, and has since long abandoned his aspirations of becoming a soloist to instead be part of a street gang.

The unique heavy gauge of the week shows many signs ensuring its future success. First, if you follow my articles since the beginning of the year, you may have noticed that this film combines two themes that have been quite successful for My Little Hero and Man on the Edge: the offset gangster and music. The production company KM Culture was also behind the infamous but no less popular 200 Pounds Beauty (2006), but has since never managed to repeat the feat. With this film, it will depend primarily on the attraction generated by the duo of actors, with in one hand Han Seok-Gyu, who has been recently appreciated in his role in The Berlin File, and in the other one Lee Je-hoon, who was also one of the leading actors in the recent thriller An Ethics Lesson. Showbox is the distributor, which means in practice that the film will potentially reach all cities of South Korea, and that leaves it a wide boulevard for this weekend’s box office. Critics from the magazine Cine21 are so far mixed, but the popular success seems already won, as it already points to second place in bookings.

Watch the Korean trailer here.

New Korean Films is a weekly feature which provide an in-depth look at new local releases in Korea. For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Korean Reviews, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (Korean Standard Time). Reviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

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1 comment:

  1. While you may think that we "may only recognize Choi Won-yeong," I can say for sure that I will be looking forward to seeing "Your Time Is Up" because of him. Sounds like an interesting premise and I'm drawn to it "because of" Choi Won-yeong. Currently viewing his performances in the dramas "Hundred Years Inheritance" and (the mini-drama) "Love in Memory." Dude has "chops!"