Showing posts with label park chan-wook. Show all posts
Showing posts with label park chan-wook. Show all posts

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 10 Korean Film Stories of 2011

I started the weekly Korean Cinema News feature at the beginning of April of this year and over the past nine months it has become more comprehensive, grown more popular, and I hope better.  As pleased as I am with its success more than anything it;s been a thrill to cover the wide-ranging news related to the ever-expanding Korean film industry.  It's been a huge year for Korean film news and in 38 weeks of reporting, Modern Korean Cinema has featured nearly 1000 news items, festival reports, articles, interviews, trailers, posters, and box office analyses.

In considering 2011 as a year in Korean film I decided to work up a top 10 for the year's most important pieces of news.  I've stayed within the exclusive scope of Korean film so major stories that are somewhat related, like the continuing global Hallyu takeover or Kim Jong-il's death, have been omitted.  Each entry is followed by a selection of interesting articles that appeared throughout the year.

As always, if you have any comments or think I've missed something, please get in touch.

Enjoy and Happy New Year from Modern Korean Cinema!

1. Reversal of Fortune at the Korean Box Office

The year's biggest story has been the reversal of fortunes at the Korean box office.  Looking at the slate of films in early 2011 for the year ahead, there were a number of blockbusters well-positioned to end the year on or near the top.  Chief among them were CJ's 3D Imax monster feature Sector 7 and the 30 billion won WWII, pan-Asian blockbuster My Way.  Sector 7 was immediately savaged by critics and audiences alike and was quickly out of theaters.  It may be early days for My Way as it has only been released for a week, but the prognosis at this stage is not good and there is a palpable danger that it will not recoup its enormous production costs.  There were also other blockbusters that failed to meet expectations, like Quick and The Front Line, and a great number of star vehicles that did not manage to draw big crowds, like Hindsight and Countdown.

The vast majority of the year's biggest successes turned out to be mid-level productions that boasted strong scripts with an absence of marquee names which struck a chord with audiences.  Sunny had a decent start but an extraordinary word of mouth effect kept it in the top 3 for 11 consecutive weeks as it powered its way to 7,375,110 admissions.  Other mid-size productions that far exceeded expectations included Detective K, Silenced, and Punch, which all landed around the 5 million mark.  Even more unexpected films crossed the 2 million mark, including Meet the In-laws, Blind, Leafie, A Hen Into the Wild, The Client, and Spellbound.

(The Hollywood Reporter, May 13, 2011)

Rookies Directors on the Rise, Stars Lack Drawing Power
(The Chosun Ilbo, July 8, 2011)

Newcomers Trump Established Names at Korean B.O.
(The Hankyoreh, July 23, 2011)

Sunny Holding its Own Against Summer Titles
(Film Business Asia, June 28, 2011)

A Look Back at the Year's Breakout Films
(, December 15, 2011)

2. The Silenced Controversy

The controversy surrounding the release of Silenced (aka The Crucible/Dogani) probably generated more international press coverage than any other Korean film item this year.  The film was based on a non-fiction book of the same by prominent female writer Gong Ji-young which chronicles the serial abuse of deaf children at a school for the hearing-impaired in Gwangju between 2000-2005.  The perpetrators were put on trial six years ago but received light sentences and some even went back to work in the school.

Following the uproar which ensued after Silenced's release, the school was finally shut down.  After viewing the film, South Korean president Lee Myung-bak called for measures to protect the vulnerable from sexual attack.  The film inspired a wave of anger which was reported in the world's major publications such as The Economist, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and many more.

(The Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2011)

(Joong Ang Daily, October 5, 2011)

(The Dong-a Ilbo, October 1, 2011)

(, October 4, 2011)

(The Economist, October 11, 2011)

(The New York Times, October 17, 2011)

(The Washington Post, October 28, 2011)

3. Korean Animation Has Its Biggest Year

Korean cinema is see as a strong producer of films that span a number of genres and formats.  Animation is one of the few production modes that Korean filmmakers have failed to successfully mine, at least that was the case before 2011.  This year was the dawning of a new era for Korean animation, led by the huge success of local animation Leafie, A Hen Into the Wild.  Many other Korean animated films have found success at festivals this year, such as The HouseKing of PigsEarth Rep Rolling Star, and I'm Sorry.  Korean animators of late have also found enormous success abroad, especially Jennifer Yuh, who directed Kung Fu Panda 2 for Dreamworks, incidentally the film became the second-highest grossing non-Korean film of the year.  

With numerous awards and international sales under its belt, Korean animation is looking strong for the near future.

(Animation Insider, June 3, 2011)

Leafie Set to Revitalize Korean Animation
(, July 8, 2011)

Korean Animation Waddles Into China
(Joong Ang Daily, October 1, 2011)

Korean Animators Face Screen, Financing Barriers
(The Hollywood Reporter, October 11, 2011)

Canada's 108 Media to Distribute Korean Toon Leafie
(animation Magazine, November 28, 2011)

4. CJ Poised for World Domination

CJ Entertainment, Korea's largest studio and head of the country's primary exhibition chain, CGV (CJ-Goldstar-Village Roadshow), has made its aims for the future very clear.  It more or less amounts to world domination as the corporation is:  trying to revolutionize cinema with 4D film screening technology (which adds sensations like smell, fog, and vibrations to enhance cinema viewing);  launching direct distribution in Vietnam and Thailand; producing a $100 million budget Rob Cohen Korean War film; clinching a raft of film presales; engaging in a $110 million Korean entertainment project; and keeping strong ties in Korea as well as helping develop emerging talent by partnering with the Korean Academy of Film Arts.

CJ has not been timid about its ambitions and I'm sure that more plans are in the works.  Its CGV theater in LA is getting more popular as are a lot of its international operations and now that its claws are getting stuck into Hollywood, more people may become familiar with their catchy opening logo before long.

(Film Business Asia, October 13, 2011)

KAFA Partners With CJ E&M and CJ CGV
(KOBIZ, December 19, 2011)

Route One Films Enters $110 Million Korean Entertainment Partnership
(The Hollywood Reporter, December 15, 2011)

Lots of Korean Presales as CJ Readies for Cannes
(Screen Daily, May 11, 2011)

CJ's 4D Cinemas to Launch in Thailand
(Bangkok Post, June 14, 2011)

Rob Cohen to Direct Korean War Film Produced by CJ
(indieWIRE, July 29, 2011)

CJ E&M Harbors Global Ambitions
(Asian Media Journal, August 11, 2011)

5. A New-look BIFF Unveils

The 16th edition of Korea's largest film festival opened with a new name, a magnificent new venue, a new director, and a new image.  Previously called the Pusan International Film Festival, the renamed BIFF (Busan International Film Festival) began on October 6 in the brand new $150 million Busan Cinema Center, designd by Coop Himmelblau of Austria.  More than ever, the event, often dubbed the 'Asian Cannes', was seen as a showcase for the emerging strength of Asian film industries.  The event was a flurry of news beginning with the center and the selling out of the opening film in a record seven seconds.

There was much discussion over the new venue (including rain leaks), the type of films being shown, the sales in the film market, the direction the festival was taking, and more.  Every major entertainment news agency ran multiple pieces on the event.

(The Chosun Ilbo, September 20, 2011)

BIFF's Opening Film Sells Out in Seven Seconds
(, September 27, 2011)

Busan: Fest Maps New Future
(Variety, October 3, 2011)

How a New Cinema Center Could Change the Busan Film Festival
(The Hollywood Reporter, Ocotber 1, 2011)

Busan Festival Takes a Bold Step, But Is Asian Cinema Ready?
(The Japan Times, October 14, 2011)

BIFF Organizers Clash Over Festival Expansion
(The Hankyoreh, October 19, 2011)

A New Era for Asia’s Biggest Film Festival
(Joong Ang Daily, October 21, 2011)

6. Korean Films Find a Foothold in China

Recently Korean films have seen their presence increase dramatically in mainland China as numerous works were sold there and have been breaking records.  The Man From Nowhere had a strong showing earlier this year, despite its 18 certificate.  Sector 7 is currently enjoying the best Chinese release of any Korean film, though it has only been released for a few weeks.  Ha Ji-won's K-Drama Secret Garden was immensely popular in China and she is said has become quite a celebrity in the country.

In other news, Kwon Sang-woo and Song Hye-kyo have signed onto Chinese productions and many below the line technicians have been hired into Chinese film crews.  Chinese action and special effects film crews in particular seemed to be populated by Korean professionals.  It would also seem that president Hu Jintao is Hallyu fan, having had very good things to say about Jewel in the Palace, the landmark 2003 K-Drama.
(Korean Cinema Today, November 1, 2011)

Korean Crews in China
(Korean Cinema Today, November 8, 2011)

Sector 7 Hits Box Office Record in China
(KOBIZ, December 20, 2011)

Local Films Foray Into Chinese Market
(The Korea Times, December 26, 2011)

Sky's the Limit for Kwon Sang-woo as He Targets China, Hollywood
(The Chosun Ilbo, August 31, 2011)

7. Korean Directors Abroad

A number of Korea's most well-known filmmakers have embarked on foreign productions, including:  Park Chan-wook, who recently wrapped Stoker (2012), starring Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, and Matthew Goode; Kim Jee-woon, who is currently shooting The Last Stand (2013) with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rodrigo Santoro, Forest Whitaker, Peter Stormare, and Johnny Knoxville; Bong Joon-ho, who is getting prepped for Snow Piercer (2013) which will shoot in March in Hungary with John Hurt and Song Kang-ho; and Ryoo Seung-wan, who is going to shoot his new spy thriller The Berlin File (2012) in Germany with Han Suk-kyu, Ha Jung-woo, Jeon Ji-hyeon, and Ryoo Seung-beom.

(Korean Cinema Today, November 9, 2011)

8. The Korean Film Council in 2011

As in previous years, the Korean Film Council has been involved in a lot of projects and initiatives designed to promote, improve, and aid the Korean film industry.  It has:  offered rebates for foreign films shooting in Seoul; subsidized labour costs on low-budget films; acted as guarantor for films with overseas potential; invested in contents funds; attempted to stop the illegal circulation of films online; and opened a new independent theater.

(Screen Daily, April 14, 2011)

KOFIC Opens New Independent Film Theater
(KOBIZ, May 6, 2011)

KOFIC's Keys to Industry Development
(KOBIZ, May 6, 2011)

Interview with KOFIC Chairman Kim Eui-suk
(KOBIZ, May 6, 2011)

KOFIC to Offer 25% Rebate for Filming in Korea
(Korean Cinema Today, May 13, 2011)

Mandatory Screening Times Could Be Altered
(The Korea Times, July 21, 2011)

Normalization for Online Film Distribution Demanded by Chungmoro
(, August 2, 2011)

9. The Return of Kim Ki-duk

After abruptly disappearing from the director's chair in 2008 following his film Dream and a lengthy attack against distributors' poor handling of independent features, Kim Ki-duk reappeared seemingly out of thin air early in 2011.  His name first appeared in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes film festival where his new, self-reflexive documentary Arirang won an award.  Shortly after, Poongsan, directed by his latest protege Jung Jai-hong, a film he wrote and produced, opened to positive reviews and a solid performance in domestic theaters.  Then in August, another new Kim Ki-duk film, Amen, opened at the San Sebastian International Film Festival.

Kim is a controversial figure in Korean cinema who frequently disparages the establishment and has been part of an acrimonious feud with his former protege Jang Hoon whom he believes has sold out.  Both his new films this year have had a strong presence at international film festivals but have been met with mixed reviews.

(The Korea Herald, May 16, 2011)

Kim Ki-duk Picks up Award at Cannes
(Joong Ang Daily, May 23, 2011)

Kim Ki-duk Produced Film Set for June
(The Korea Times, May 26, 2011)

Kim Ki-duk on the Benefits on Low-Budget Filmmaking
(The Korea Times, Junes 14, 2011)

Jang Hoon Explains The Front Line and Tensions with Mentor Kim Ki-duk
(, June 16, 2011)

Kim Ki-duk's Latest to Premiere at San Sebastian
(Film Business Asia, August 17, 2011)

10. Yun Jung-hee's Global Accolades

Yun Jung-hee, who has astounded audiences the world over this year with her wonderful performance in Lee Chang-dong's Poetry, received some significant accolades from various international sources.  Earlier this year she was awarded the French Cultural Order by French culture minister Frederic Mitterand and recently the Los Angeles Film Critics Association deemed her performance in Poetry the best of the year.

(YonHap News Agency, April 6, 2011)

Yun Jung-hee Wins LA Film Critics Award
(KOBIZ, December 13, 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.

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.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Korean Cinema News (11/03-11/09, 2011)

A number of Korean sales at worldwide film markets this week, along with some festival, casting, and awards news.  Some fantastic features and interviews to boot, as well as some trailers and posters as per usual.  It seems Jang Jin will now be doing the Korean Saturday Night Live, while this sounds interesting does this mean he won't have time to make films anymore?



Finecut Sells Leafie to Italy, Launches New Films at AFM
Major South Korean sales company Finecut has sold hit animation Leafie to Mediterranea Productions for Italian-speaking territories at the Rome Film Festival’s Business Street market.  Mediterranea Productions plans to release the film in Italy on 50 screens with Italian dubbing.  (KOBIZ, November 3, 2011)

Jo Yeo Jeong to Bare it All Again in New Film
Filming for Royal Concubine, which has garnered immense interest from the screenwriting stage to casting, will begin on November 3 with confirmed leads Jo Yeo Jeong and Kim Dong Wook.  (enewsworld, November 3, 2011)

Korean Documentary The Color of Pain Invited to Int'l Film Fests
Korean documentary The Color of Pain has been invited to two upcoming international film festivals, according to the movie's distributor Cinemadal on Friday.  (, November 4, 2011)

Steven Spielberg Praised Park Chan Wook. “I Want to Work With Him.”
A Hollywood director, Steven Spielberg, praised Park Chan Wook who directed Old Boy (2003).  Section TV met Steven Spielberg in Europe on the 6th.  A reporter asked Steven Spielberg if he has ever watched Korean movies and he answered directly. Old Boy.  (, November 6, 2011)

Putting the 'Han' in Korean Cinema: Meta-narratives and Cultural Identity
Where are Korea's happy endings?  If you have ever watched a Korean film you will know that they don't always conclude as they might have done if produced by Hollywood.  The characters and their stories seem to be influenced by an invisible force that marks a film as typically "Korea".  From its melodramas to revenge thrillers, there is something tragic and constant driving the Korean film culture, but what exactly?  (, November 5, 2011)

First Live Comedy Program in the Country, Directed by Jang Jin
Cable channel tvN attempts a live comedy show.  It has recently imported the rights to the American NBC comedy program Saturday Night Live.  The Korean SNL is aiming for the 3rd of December.  Director Jang Jin is the main writer for the Korean 'SNL'.  tvN stated, "He is the main writer and director who is putting his passion in the scripts and continuity."  (, November 8 2011)

Yoo Ji-tae Debuts as Feature Film Director
Actor Yoo Ji-tae is debuting as a movie director.  He is in charge of the movie Sanseberia, which Lotte Entertainment is producing and distributing.  According to his management, he completed the signing of contracts on November 8th and will start shooting sometime at the end of this year or next January.  (, November 8, 2011)

9ers Pre-Sells Miss Conspirator
South Korean sales company 9ers Entertainment has done a raft of sales at the American Film Market (AFM) on titles including Miss Conspirator, starring Ko Hyun-jung (Woman on the Beach, 2006), according to UK-based trade magazine Screen International.  (KOBIZ, November 7, 2011)

The nominations for the upcoming 32nd Blue Dragon Film Awards have been announced and The Front Line, War of the Arrows and Silenced lead the pack.  (AsianMediaWiki, November 6, 2011)

Saving World Through Cinema, Korean Style
In the film A Barefoot Dream, a failed Korean businessman trains a children's soccer team in strife-torn East Timor and helps the nation heal.  Not only this, but four more interesting tales were told at the just concluded Korean Film Festival here.  The tiny nation of South Korea can afford to only help heal a nondescript Timor.  Yet like A Barefoot Dream – based on a true story – shows, it is much more real and tangible than saving the world from aliens.  (, November 5, 2011)

Riding the Wave
Since the first theatrical release in the UK of Lee Myung-Se’s wickedly innovative crime thriller Nowhere to Hide in 2001, South Korean cinema has emerged as one of the most dynamic, if not notorious, foreign national cinemas.  At the time of its release, in the absence of any immediate points of reference, critics compared it with the best known Hong Kong action films and hailed its director as the next John Woo.  (Glass, November 2, 2011)

Lee Byung-hun Mulling Historical Film Role
Actor Lee Byung-hun is considering appearing in a historical film, according to his agency BH Entertainment on Friday.  "He's looking into the movie after being offered a role in it although nothing has been decided as of yet," an official at BH said of the pic tentatively named I am the King of Joseon.
 (, November 4, 2011)

Korean documentary The Color of Pain has been invited to two upcoming international film festivals, according to the movie's distributor Cinemadal on Friday.  The official Facebook webpage of Cinemadal showed that Pain will be screened at the 13th annual Cinemanila International Film Festival to be held in Taguig in the Philippines from November 11 to 17.  (, November 4, 2011)

Actor Cha Seung-won got the title, "The Best Icon of 2011".  The "2011 Style Icon Awards" was held on November 3rd at CJ E&M Center in Seoul. Cha Seung-won won the "Style Icon of the Year" award, which is like the Grand Prize.  The 4th Annual "Style Icon Awards" is one of its kind in Korea, choosing characters who've introduced a new paradigm to life and style within the year.  (, November 3, 2011)

Films Probe Experimentalism, Human Rights
Korea has its fair share of thematic film festivals but a couple of upcoming events will offer moviegoers a unique opportunity to reflect on human rights in North Korea and the spirit of experimentalism in filmmaking.  The Off and Free International Film Festival (OAF) will hold its third edition from Nov. 17 to 23 in Seoul, offering fans zany alternatives to mainstream franchises.  (The Korea Times, November 3, 2011)

Only Second Time Around, but Korean Cinema is Definitely Down Under
South Korea and Australia are celebrating the last stretch of their Year of Friendship, with this year marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, bringing more attention to the second annual Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA).  (Yonhap News Agency, November 7, 2011)

Feel The Film Emotion With These Korean Movie Songs
Korean movie songs rock and it may be quite hard to choose which the best song because there are so many to choose from.  Nevertheless, here are six absolutely amazing songs you'll hear from your favorite Korean movies.  (Screen Junkies, November 8, 2011)
Kwon Soon Keun, 70, went from one of South Korea’s biggest celebrities to a Canadian immigrant, working in obscurity in a factory and running a variety store, far from the spotlight. But through seven decades of drastic change, his love for drums and percussion persisted. His story will be featured in a short documentary called A Drummer’s Passion, part of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. (, November 7, 2011)

CJ Adds in the Pipeline Trio
South Korean major CJ Entertainment Inc. has added three new titles to its already bulging American Film Market sales line-up.  The additions are headed by sports drama As One, a period piece about North and South Korea playing table tennis in a United Korea team.  (Film Business Asia, November 4, 2011)


Judy Ahn, Head of International Business, Showbox / MediaplexJudy AHhn is Head of International Business at Showbox / Mediaplex, the company responsible for the hit Korean War film The Front Line. Directed by Jang Hun, the film has been selected as South Korea’s entry for consideration to be nominated to the Oscars foreign language film category.  Kim Seong-hoon met with Ahn to talk about Showbox’s films and The Front Line in particular.  (KOBIZ, Nobember 7, 2011)

Dark, Brutal King of Pigs no Milquetoast Cartoon
You may love it or hate it. Regardless, animation director Yuen Sang-ho’s debut feature film The King of Pigs is different from anything you’ve been watching. (Joong Ang Daily, November 4, 2011)

The ‘Catcher’: Yoon Sung-hyun
Director Yoon Sung-hyun has been watching a lot of soccer games on TV lately.  It’s always been his favorite sport, and he’s been an avid fan since he was a child.  And though it’s only been two weeks since he won a prestigious film award, what pops in his head, when asked about recent days, is watching the sport, not winning his trophy.  (The Korea Herald, November 8, 2011)



(Modern Korean Cinema, November 7, 2011)

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

What Should be on the Radar for Korean Cinema Fans

My last post got me thinking, perhaps people haven't had the same opportunity as they've had before to see Korean films because they don't known about them. It could be that the passive fans who found out about Korean cinema from The New York Times or The Guardian don't know what else is out there since most publications that have mentioned these films in the past seldom mention them today.

To give people a chance to catch up, here is a list of films that have recently come out of Korea and those to keep on eye out for in the near future:

The Man From NowhereI wasn't very exited about this project when I first heard about it but now I'm looking forward to seeing it. It still has a relatively low profile but the word of mouth is very strong for this action thriller that seems the channel Leon and Taken.

Available on Blu-ray & DVD in the US, out on DVD in UK on April 11.

Bedevilled - By all accounts an exciting addition to the Korean 'revenge drama' cannon from first time director Yang Chul-soo.

Available on Blu-ray & DVD in the UK. Currently no plans for release in the US.

I Saw the Devil - Another revenge drama, this time from Kim Ji-woon, one of the most marketable Korean directors abroad. It features great performances from powerhouse leads Choi Min-sik and Lee Byung-hun and is a refreshing and uncompromising take on the revenge narrative.

Currently on limited release in US, out on Blu-ray & DVD on May 10. To be released in theaters in the UK on April 29 and on Blu-ray & DVD on May 9.

Poetry - The latest from Lee Chang-dong,  about a grandmother who tries to write a poem as she deals with a failing body and the consequences of an act of her grandchild's.

Currently on limited release in NY. No plans for the UK, but this is only a matter of time.

HaHaHa and Oki's Movie - Both of these well-received Hong Sang-soo films were well received in Korea last year.

Will make the rounds at the festivals this year, perhaps these will see release by the end of the year.

The Yellow Sea - The sophomore effort from the director of The Chaser. It's about a Chinese man goes to Korea to find his wife and ends up on the run after being framed for a murder.

Will be in competition at Cannes this year, so there will be a wait before this becomes available.

Glove - From veteran filmmaker Kang Woo-suk, a story about a hot-tempered former professional baseball player, is sent to the countryside to coach a team of hearing-impaired players.

Recently released in Korea.

The Journals of Musan - The debut from Lee Chang-dong's former assistant director, Park Jung-bum. A North Korean defector has a hard time coping in society.

Will be released in Korea on April 7.

My Way - From the maker of Taegukgi, Kang Je-gyu, comes another war film, this time about a Korean man who dons a german uniform during WWII. It is the most expensive Korean film of all time.

Currently in production, to be released this December in Korea.

Hanji - Im Kwon-taek's 101st feature film.

To be released on March 17 in Korea.

The Battle of Yellow SeaFrom Kwak Kyung-taek, the director of Friend, comes A 3D action film based on the true story of the 2002 gun battle between the North and South Korean navies.

To be released in Korea in 2011.

Snow Piercer - Based on a French comic, this Bong Joon-ho helmed picture, to be produced by Park Chan-wook, will chronicle a train of 1001 cars, which has to carry a large group of the last human beings on Earth after a nuclear war. It's time to start getting very exited about this.

Most Likely will be released in late 2012 in Korea.

The Host 2 - A sequel to the 2006 megahit, is being made in 3D. Bong Joon-ho is not attached to this project.

Aiming for a summer 2012 release in Korea.

Let me know if there is anything you would add to this list.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Decline in Western Interest for Korean Cinema?

See my companion piece: Decline in Domestic Interest in Korean Cinema?

It is my impression that of late, there has been a lack of enthusiasm for Korean cinema in the west. While I Saw the Devil was recently released in the US and is gaining in popularity, the exposure it is receiving pales in comparison to those which preceded it, like The Host and Oldboy. I suppose it was only a matter of time before this happened and to be honest the recognition that Korean cinema receives now is still far greater than anything it experienced prior to the new millenium.

However some high profile directors are transitioning to making films in the US, we can expect Hollywood debuts from:

Park Chan-wook - He is directing the Wentworth Miller's blacklisted Stocker starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mia Wasikowski.

Kim Ji-woon - Attached to helm Lionsgate's The Last Stand, another blacklisted script starring Liam Neeson.

*UPDATE* Bong Joon-ho - I've heard that after he completes Snow Piercer, Bong will embark on his first US film with J.J. Abrams on board to produce. This will not start until he finishes Snow Piercer, which is said to be in production until 2012.

These directors, as well as Bong Joon-ho, are established but I worry that it will be difficult for other Korean filmmakers to make a similar mark on the international scene. Na Hong-jin made some strides with The Chaser and one hopes that his new effort, The Yellow Sea, can bolster his reputation but I doubt that he will become as popular as the aforementioned filmmakers.

The question though, is why are Korean films losing steam? There has been a decline in attendance in Korea lately but the quality of the work is still very strong. Modern western audiences have notoriously short attention spans and it is quite possible that they have moved on to the new thing. The wow factor of the Asia Extreme branding (an invention courtesy of western distribution companies) has worn off and audiences may have moved on for there sensory thrills. Kim's I Saw the Devil is a case in point, it is very violent, original, and certainly depraved, all prerequisites of this supposed subgenre, but coming after films such as Oldboy, A Bittersweet Life, and Save the Green Planet, which are all surpassed by it in terms of brutality, it lacks novelty.

I think this was the problem to begin with, Korean cinema had so much more to offer than violent revenge thrillers, but everything else was peppered underneath them. Had audiences been exposed to the larger, more substantive Korean industry as a whole, perhaps this could have ensured for longevity. Instead it seems that some mid-level distribution companies (such as Tartan) capitalized on the visceral thrill of the new and unknown and sailed on this short wind of popularity.

As I said I still believe that Korean cinema has a lot to offer and it is only a matter of time before another film can have a significant impact on the international market. I just hope that when this does happen a few perspicacious people will be able to foster a culture of growth and enrich themselves and our viewing habits in the process.