Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Korean Cinema News (04/05-04/11, 2012)

A fair amount of news this week and a handful of major announcements.  A short while ago, Darcy Paquet mentioned on his twitter that Jeon Do-yeon may be starring in Lee Chang-dong's next picture.  This would reunite them for the first time since Secret Sunshine (2007) which won Jeon a best actress prize at Cannes.  Darcy also revealed that Jeon may be collaborating with Lee Yoon-ki (This Charming Girl, 2004; My Dear Enemy, 2008; Come Rain, Come Shine, 2011) following that.  If these materialize they will projects to be very excited about!

Another major announcement is the unveiling of the 14th Udine Far East Film Festival (20-28 April, 2012) lineup.  The press conference was streamed yesterday and MKC live-tweeted as much as it could understand (the broadcast was in Italian).  The program looks great and I'm really looking forward to the event which I will covering on site.  Particularly interesting is the European premiere of Dangerously Excited and of course Darcy Paquet's 1970s cinema retrospective.  Lineup is available below:



The other big news this week is the upcoming Terracotta Far East Film Festival in London which will open with a presentation of Kang Je-gyu's My Way.  Below are some great previews of the event, wish I could be there!




KOREAN CINEMA NEWS

Third Time With Director Lee Myeong-se
Ahn Seong-ki will make an appearance as the senior of Cheol-soo (Seol Kyeong-gu), a National Intelligence agent, in the new Lee Myeong-se film.  He won't appear much but it's a key role that will add weight to the overall film.  It seems that Ahn Seong-ki decided to star in this movie for his friendship with the director.  The two met on the 1999 movie Nowhere To Hide and also in the 2005 movie Duelist.  (hancinema.net, April 4, 2012)

Lectures on Local Films for Foreigners
The Korea Foundation will hold a series of six lectures on Korean films this month. "Open Lectures on Korean Culture for Foreigners: Treasures of Korean Cinema".  The Foundation was established in 1991 by the Korean National Assembly with the aim of enhancing the image of Korea to people around the world who have Internet Explorer and Adobe Flash Player version 10.1.0 or greater installed on their computers.  (The Dokdo Times, April 4, 2012)

Actress Im’s Upcoming Film Revealed to Be Argentinean Remake
Upcoming romantic comedy Everything about My Wife, starring stars Im Soo-jung and Lee Sun-kyun, was belatedly found to be a remake of an Argentinean movie released in 2008.  The production house has never mentioned the flick being an adaptation of Un novio para mi mujer (A Boyfriend for My Wife) by director Juan Taratuto. Some websites have even credited director Min Kyu-dong as the screenwriter.  Zip Cinema, the producer of the film, confirmed the fact Wednesday only when asked by The Korea Herald.  (The Korea Herald, April 5, 2012)

South Korean Company Wants You to Feel, Smell, and Taste Titanic as it Sinks. Have They Gone Overboard?
One South Korean company is taking movie-going…to the next level.  The company: CJ 4DPlex Co., which almost certainly boasts an all-robot staff.  The movie: Titanic, of course.  As millions of Americans drink in the sights and sounds of James Cameron’s masterpiece in just three lousy Ds, their thrill-seeking brethren in South Korea, Mexico, China, and Thailand will be enjoying Titanic in 4DX.  (Entertainment Weekly, April 5, 2012)

Emirates Korean Film Fest Begins
The second Emirates Korean Film Festival got underway in Abu Dhabi under the patronage of Shaikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President’s Representative and Chairman of the Sultan bin Zayed Centre for Culture and Information.  The festival, which will run until Sunday at the Abu Dhabi Theatre, features a remarkably rich lineup of recent Korean films.  Seven feature films are being shown, providing an opportunity for the UAE’s film audience to experience some of South Korea’s dynamic film culture.  (Khaleej Times, April 7, 2012)

Sports Flick As One Targets Patriots
It was the beginning of 1991, when the South and North Korean governments made an unprecedented attempt to warm relations by fusing their national sports teams together.  After a couple of months, the unified Korean table tennis team broke the Chinese stranglehold on the highest podium of the world championships.  Coming to theaters in May is a film that tries to recreate the gold-medal-winning chemistry, titled As One.  (The Korea Times, April 10, 2012)


ESSAY

Vengeance Violence and the Sentimental in Korean Film - Part I
A man holding a hatchet chases a car full of gangsters down an empty, wide boulevard. He looks down and sees blood pouring from a bullet wound in his abdomen. He approaches the first car he sees. A man on a phone screams and flees. He continues to chase the car of gangsters. But he is bleeding heavily. He must find something to stem the tide of blood before he passes out. He needs to find the girl. But first he needs to get the bullet out. Darkness is closing in. Fade out.  (Heso Magazine, April 9, 2012)


TRAILERS

Dangerously Excited


Don't Click



POSTERS

All About My Wife

A Muse

Dangerously Excited

Forest of Time

Red Maria

Taste of Money



BOX OFFICE

(Modern Korean Cinema, April 8, 2012)


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, April 10, 2012

Wanna Help Make a Korean Film? Here's Your Chance!

There's a new and exciting Korean film on the way and you can help make it happen!  Lee Yoon-jung is looking to turn her excellent short Remember O Goddess into a feature this summer.  The 25-minute piece, a polished and intriguing affair, can be viewed below:



You may recognize the lead actor, the versatile character actor Kim Jung-tae whose lengthy career stretched all the way back to Park Kwang-su's Uprising (1999) and also includes such highlights as Kwak Kyung-taek's Friend (2001) and Lee Myung-se's Duelist (2005).  However, perhaps my favorite of his roles is in Banga? Banga! (2010) as the larger-then-life owner of a karaoke bar.

Lee's upcoming feature has a strong team of professionals assembled, including the editor of Bong Joon-ho's magnificent Mother (2009), and seems poised to be one of the most interesting Korean independent films on the horizon.

The production is looking for a little funding and has launched a Kickstarter project to raise the $30,000 by May 10 to complete this summer's shoot.  Please consider supporting this exciting project and remember that you can donate however much you feel comfortable with and if you've ever wanted to see your name in the credits of a Korean film, this is your chance!

I really enjoyed the short version of Remember O Goddess and I want to know what happens next so I'll be looking forward to seeing Lee's vision in its entirety.





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.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Korean Box Office Update (04/06-04/08, 2012)

Hunger Games Loses Out to Architecture 101 Threepeat



Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Architecture 101 3/22/12 29.00% 454,154 2,332,422 555
2 Hunger Games (us) 4/5/12 17.30% 273,598 317,191 511
3 Untouchable (fr) 3/22/12 13.70% 216,085 1,291,048 343
4 Over My Dead Body 3/29/12 12.50% 195,313 704,753 353
5 Wrath of the Titans (us) 3/29/12 10.80% 163,299 836,105 402
6 Titanic 3D (us) 2/20/98 12.10% 119,705 140,050 271
7 Helpless 3/8/12 1.70% 27,076 2,406,861 163
8 Conan (us) 4/5/12 1.20% 18,998 23,947 198
9 Space Dog 3D (ru) 3/22/12 0.30% 4,690 40,910 41
10 The Scent 4/11/12 0.30% 4,479 8,855 11


This past weekend was the first without a major Korean release in some time and also heralded the entry of the year's biggest film to date Hunger Games, which has already accumulated over $400 million worldwide.  Surprisingly, business was down 25% from last weekend, though it was up 50% over last year as 1.5 million tickets were sold.  The Korean market slipped slightly to 45%, the first time it has gone under the 50% threshold since mid-January, though it still bested Hollywood.

The surprise number one was Architecture 101 which claimed its third straight victory with a resounding 454,154 admissions, off a mere 20% despite heavy competition.  With over 2.3 million tickets sold already, the three million mark is all but assured and if it stays competitive it will look to overtake Unbowed's 3.4 million total to become the year's third-highest grossing film.

Hunger Games just posted its third straight win at the US box office but in Korea its result was disappointing as it took only 273,598 admissions and failed to stop the streak of domestic first places finishes which now stands at 11.  With a lot more big releases slated for the next few weeks don't bet on this hanging around either, it will likely take a big tumble next weekend.

Staying strong at number three was the French hit Untouchable which had a very healthy 30% drop for a 216,085 weekend.  It is now well over the one million mark and may have another milestone ahead of it.

Korean comedy Over My Dead Body may not have had a brilliant start but it posted a better-than-expected 195,313 in its sophomore stint as it was off only 35%.  At this rate it should cross the one million mark which will certainly save it some face.  Who knows, maybe word of mouth will settle in.

Wrath of the Titans followed its disappointing start with a huge 70% drop as it fell three places with its 163,299 take.  However it will likely have just enough gas left in the tank to make it over the one million mark.

James Cameron's 1998 megahit Titanic debuted with its 3D makeover to the tune of 119,705.  This result is not as impressive as the brisk business it did in its native market this past weekend but still a decent result for a rerelease.

March hit Helpless is quickly making its way down the chart after a very strong couple of weeks.  It added another 27,076 over the frame and may be gone from the chart next week.  It will likely fall just short of 2.5 million but it has had a great run.

Hollywood remake Conan started its run with a disastrous 18,998.  The film was a big flop when it opened last August in the US and the elapsed time as not been kind.  This will probably be the film's only chart position.

Russian animation Space Dog 3D slowed 60% to 4,690 as it winds up its decent run.  Korean thriller The Scent opened in very limited previews for 4,479 to squeeze into number 10.

Next weekend should be interesting as two Korean films open, the aforementioned The Scent and long time in the making Kim Jee-woon and Lim Pil-sung omnibus feature Doomsday Book.  Also being released will be Battleship, the Peter Berg-directed Hollywood Blockbuster based on the popular game.  Battleship had a premier event in Korea with cast and crew in attendance and will likely launch the summer season (which keeps arriving earlier each year).  It should take first place as I don't think either of the new Korean releases will open to huge figures.  However, if it misses its chance, Architecture 101 probably won't be too far behind.

Source: kobis.or.kr


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 Sunday evening or 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, April 6, 2012

Weekly Review Round-up (03/31-04/06, 2012)

Great cross-section of reviews this week including for a number of new releases.

Enjoy!


CURRENT KOREAN RELEASES


(Film Business Asia, April 6, 2012)

(Hanguk Yeonghwa, April 5, 2012)

(Variety, March 29, 2012 - Paid Subscription)

Stateless Things


RECENT RELEASES


(Film in Asian, April 2, 2012)

(Digital Retribution, April 4, 2012)

(The One One Four, April 1, 2012)

(Hanguk Yeonghwa, April 1, 2012)

(China.org.cn, March 30, 2012)

(Variety, March 30, 2012 - Paid Subscrition)

My Way

(hancinema.net, March 31, 2012)

The Yellow Sea


PAST FILMS


(Init_Scene, March 31, 2012)

(Korean Class Massive, April 2, 2012)

(Init_Scenes, March 30, 2012)

My Love, 2007
(Init_Scenes, April 1, 2012)

(Init_Scenes, April 5, 2012)

(Korean Grindhouse, March 31, 2012)

(Seen in Jeonju, April 1, 2012)


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, April 4, 2012

Korean Cinema News Turns 1! (03/29-04/04, 2012)


This week's Korean Cinema News marks the feature's one-year anniversary!  Thank you all so much for visiting the site, I really appreciate your continued support.

Unfortunately this is a rather slow week for Korean cinema news, bar the rumours of big new films premiering at Cannes and a very exciting trailer for Im Sang-soo's latest.

I'm sure there will be much more to chew on next week as the Udine Far East Film Festival (which MKC will be covering on site) lineup is announced and we learn more about these tantalizing Cannes selections.

Thanks again and as always, enjoy!


KOREAN CINEMA NEWS

Son Ye Jin's Next Project is Upcoming Film, Accomplice
After her successful film, Chilling Romance, actress Son Ye Jin has chosen her next project, Accomplice, which will be directed by a rookie director.  While Chilling Romance was also shot by a rookie director, Accomplice will be Son Ye Jin's third straight project with a rookie director.  People are wondering whether this is mere coincidence or if Son Ye Jin has certain preferences.  (soompi, March 28, 2012)

New Hong Sang-soo and Park Chan-wook Films Set For Cannes?
A list has been leaked which purports to be the official selection for the upcoming Cannes Film Festival and features the new oeuvres from both Hong Sang-soo (In Another Country) and Park Chan-wook (Stoker), both Cannes stalwarts.  The rest of the picks are equally impressive, all we need now is official confirmation.  (cinema-licious, April 2, 2012)

Bollywood Invasion Coming to Seoul
Three Bollywood films are opening in local theaters this month, only about a month after the Indian Film Festival in Seoul, expanding Indian films’ presence in Korea’s movie market.  The release of the three films – Stanley’s Tiffin Box, God’s Own Child, and The Robot – comes after a surprisingly successful year for Bollywood pictures in Korea.  (The Korea Herald, April 3, 2012)

Hyun Jung Hwa Requested Ha Ji Won to Portray Her for Korea
The table tennis coach and gold medalist, Hyun Jung Hwa (who is being portrayed in the upcoming Korea) revealed that she requested to be portrayed by Ha Ji Won.  She joined the actresses Ha Ji Won and Bae Doo Na for a Korea press conference.  (soompi, April 3, 2012)


INTERVIEW

Matthew Goode Talks Chan-wook Park’s Stoker
There’s little doubt that Chan-wook Park’s first foray into English-language filmmaking will be of great interest to the many fans the South Korean director has attracted over the years, not least for his brutal and brilliant Vengeance trilogy, and there’s a distinct air of mystery around Stoker.  (heyuguys.co.uk, March 6, 2012)

Huh Jong-ho Interview
Last Friday morning, during my coverage of the Fribourg International Film Festival, I had the opportunity to sit down with Huh Jong-ho, the director of Countdown, which was screening in the main competition of the festival.  His film was awarded the FIPRESCI award during Saturday's closing ceremony.  We covered a range of topics in our long discussion, including film schools, first time directors in Korea, the future of the industry, plans for his next project and much more.  (Modern Korean Cinema, April 3, 2012)


TRAILER

The Taste of Money



BOX OFFICE


(Modern Korean Cinema, April 2, 2012)


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, April 3, 2012

Fribourg Intl. Film Festival: Huh Jong-ho Interview

Last Friday morning I had the opportunity to sit down with Huh Jong-ho, the director of Countdown, which was screening in the main competition of the festival.  His film was awarded the FIPRESCI award during Saturday's closing ceremony.

Born in 1975, Huh is a graduate of the Korea National University of Arts and was an assistant director on Park Kwang-su's Meet Mr. Daddy (2007) prior to making Countdown, which is his debut film.

We covered a range of topics in our long discussion, including film schools, first time directors in Korea, the future of the industry, plans for his next project and much more.

I would like to thank Director Huh and his translator Kyung Roh Brannwart for their time, as well as Gunnar Gilden, the Press contact for the FIFF for setting up the interview.


INTERVIEW

Was it your choice to cast Jeong Jae-yeon and Jeon Do-yeon?  And if so, why did you cast them?

It’s really difficult to work with big stars.  As I was writing the scenario I already had these two actors in mind and after finishing it I worked with my producer to get in touch with them and luckily it worked out.  Jeong Jae-yeong, the main actor of the film, has had many roles, often playing soft characters.  The way I saw him as a director, I felt he had a very urban feel with a lot of solitude.  I was interested in him from the beginning and he was the first person to be cast in the film.

What was it like to work with them?

With Jeong Jae-yeong, at first the relationship was very professional but now we have become very good friends.

In the last few years, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of Korean films from first time directors and often we don’t hear from them again.  Could you comment on why this happens so often?

As you know there are a few very famous directors who have met with success from critics but are also commercially successful.  This commercial success is a very important factor nowadays, a lot of young directors try to make something great and successful but it has become difficult to meet both of these demands.

With first time directors, is it true that there is an element of control from the studio, where they may not be completely free to pursue the project the way they want to?

Luckily, in my case I was afforded the freedom to do what I wanted to do.  The studios have adopted the system of Hollywood, where the producers are very much involved from the writing itself to the filming where they make comments after each first shot.  So it’s very controlled.  But it’s not just the producers, the investors have a lot of say too.

With Countdown we were very lucky to have a very well known producer, Oh Jung-wan, who has worked a lot with Kim Jee-woon.  He has also worked on many other big films, like E. J. Yong’s Untold Scandal (2003).

South Korea has an extraordinary film school system that has done much to bring the industry to a very high technical level.  As a graduate of the Korea National University of Arts (K’Arts) how do you view the role of these institutions in the industry?

I was very much influenced by my school especially since while I was there, the equipment we used was actually better than that used in the industry.  The ex-president of the school saw Jurassic Park (1993) and then realized that movies have much greater commercial potential than say, selling a car.  So he created the school and made a lot of investments to improve it and made sure it was stocked with the very best equipment.  While I was there I made short films and had access to the best possible equipment for editing and sound.  After I left I didn’t feel that there was much of a gap with what was being used in the industry.  It was an easy transition.

On the subject of K’Arts, your first big job in the industry was as an assistance director for Park Kwang-su’s Meet Mr. Daddy (2007).  Was he your teacher in K’Arts and is that how you got involved in the project?

That’s true, during my last year at the school he was a professor.  Lee Chang-dong was also an assistant director for Park back in the 1990s and after I graduated he became a professor at the school.

After having him as a teacher, what was it like to work for him on set?

It is impossible to theoretically learn how to make a movie so while I was in school I would take my camera, go out and film and I would then talk with professor Park.  Later, as I worked for him, it was great to witness how he works on his own projects.


What are your influences as a filmmaker and which ones did you draw on for Countdown?

I couldn’t find many references for my film as the main character isn’t really a good person and he undergoes a transformation at the end.  I wasn’t able to find a textbook example of this.  But I’m sure that the many Hollywood, Japanese and French films, especially crime ones that I’ve seen have influenced me and can be seen on screen.

Some Western spectators have had trouble with the end of Countdown, namely the melodramatic conclusion that brings to light the backstory of Jeong Jae-yeong’s character.  There are also many other recent Korean films that are similarly constructed.  Could you comment on this phenomenon?

I understand and agree that there are many films that have this melodramatic aspect that is commercially motivated.  But for me the initial inspiration was the ending of the movie, the relationship between the man and the son.  At first the movie wasn’t called Countdown, its initial title was ‘My Son.’  For the beginning of the movie I adopted the action and crime genres as a way to tell the story. 

That’s very interesting, personally my favorite part of the film was the end.  So is there an element, and I'm not necessarily talking about your film, that studios like to throw in melodrama to attract audiences?

In my case it was different, as the studio had already agreed to the initial idea before the script was even written.  The car chases and various actions scenes actually account for very little screen time in the film and they were low budget and thankfully effective.  The studio was surprised to have these scenes added and in any case as a director I am interested in these genres so the film became a bigger project.

In other cases though, as you say, I’m quite sure the studio is very interested in adding these elements.

I was very happy to hear you mention during your film’s introduction at last night’s screening that you are working on a second film.  Could you tell us a little bit about it?

Even last night and when I was making my first movie I realized that there is a complication when different genres are mixed up.  For my second movie I want to be more straightforward and focus on one genre.  The film does not have an official English title yet but its literal name is Happy Country.  It’s set during 1979 and based on the events surrounding the assassination of the Korean president Park Chung-hee by his chief of intelligence.  The main character is not going to be one of the people responsible for the assassination but one of their lawyers who has completely different political convictions but defends his client nonetheless.

That’s very interesting, as there have been a number of successful courtroom films coming out of Korea recently, including Unbowed (2012) and The Client (2011).  Park Chung-hee’s assassination has already been captured in the famous Im Sang-soo film The President’s Last Bang (2005), how will your film compare to that?

Im Sang-soo’s film is more of a black comedy whereas with my point-of-view I’m trying to give an honest account of the characters involved, it will be more dramatic.

The Korean film industry, in its modern incarnation, is still quite young and undergoes constant change.  What do you think the next few years have in store for the business?

It’s true that we had a big setback between 2006 and 2009, less movies were made during that period.  Now it’s coming back again and a lot more movies are being made.  I think that the investment companies have settled down now, before it was a little shakier but it has become more solid.

Before we used to call the film industry ‘yeonghwa pan’ which means it’s a small place where we used to know everyone.  But now there are a lot more people working on different projects.  We even have a big Chinese market and some projects are specifically made for that country.  So commercially we are stronger and I think things will continue that way.  Although with this increasing industrialization we may run a risk of losing the special character of the Korean film industry.  What investors want is for the Korean film industry to become the Asian Hollywood so there is a bit of a danger.

CJ Entertainment is such a huge company and sometimes it seems like their trying to take over the entire world.

Now we don’t always film with 35mm as there are a lot of digital movies and as a result it has become possible to produce movies with very low budgets.  Because of this the contrast has also become quite big.  There are the big budget movies made by CJ but at the same time there are a lot of smaller independent films.  Sadly there is nothing in between.

Yes and that’s a bit of worry.  Although a lot of these smaller films are also being funded by bigger companies.  For instance the Korean Academy of Film Arts’ (KAFA) student features are all partly funded by CJ.

It’s a bit like a big supermarket trying to control everything!

I actually have a question from one of our readers.  Lauren, an English teacher currently based near Busan, wants to know what your favorite Kimchi is!

Kimchi? (laughs)  My favorite is baechu, this is the most common type of kimchi.

Finally, could you please tell us what some of your favorite Korean films are?

I really appreciate Lee Chang-dong’s older movies, especially his humanity which is really profound, not to mention his research.  Whenever I watch his movies I think ‘I’m going to do the opposite, I’m going to make a commercial movie!’ 

Thank you so much for your time, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you.


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, April 2, 2012

Fribourg International Film Festival - Final Thoughts, Top 10 and Awards


Ongoing reports on the 26th Fribourg International Film Festival which Modern Korean Cinema will be covering all week.


It's been a long week and after 35 screenings which included nearly 50 films, my time at the festival comes to an end.  As I had mentioned in the preview this was the first time I've been able to attend the festival despite living so nearby.  From what I understand the direction of the FIFF has changed somewhat under the guidance of its new director Thierry Jobin.  I was lucky to speak with him a few times during the week and I appreciated his thought process behind the selections on display at this year's event.

We spoke a little about Korean films and he seems to be just as excited as I am about Bong Joon-ho's upcoming Snow Piercer (which everyone should be)!  I also asked him what his favorite Korean films were and he professed great admiration for Bong and Park Chan-wook, choosing Oldboy (2003), Memories of Murder (2003), Lady Vengeance (2005) and The Host (2006).  In addition, he was particularly excited to be presenting The Raid (2011) as a midnight screening and he plans to expand the midnight section for next year's edition, a commendable decision!

There was a lot on offer at this year's festival, the program was deep and particularly strong.  Typically when you go to a festival, unless you cherry-pick the films that are most likely to impress, you wind up with a mixed bag of films.  The brilliant coexists with the drivel and there's always a number of wild cards which will entrance some and infuriate others.  At this year's FIFF there was very little I didn't enjoy and there was a lot that I outright loved.  There were a number of films I didn't have the chance to see that I was interested in and after experiencing such a wonderful week of cinema it saddens me a little to think of what I may have missed.

A film festival is about the joy of cinema and the beauty of discovery and this is where this event stood apart.  There were many films which celebrated the medium, but in much more intelligent and energizing ways than say the pleasant nostalgia of The Artist (2011) or Hugo (2011).  Films like Cut, Golden Slumbers, Salt and This Is Not a Film (all 2011) were great reminders of why I was there in the first place.  As far as discovering new areas of cinema goes, I will be seeking out the works of Khoo, Labaki, Naderi, Ouedraogo, Panahi and Xiaoshuai and I will be trying to get my hands on more Bangladeshi cinema and, if at all possible, Golden Age Cambodian films.

Below I offer my favorites of the festival and beneath that the festival's press release listing the prize winners of the 26th Fribourg International Film Festival.

As a final word I'd like to offer a big thank you to the festival for hosting such a wonderful event and giving me a press pass to attend it!  Particularly Thierry Jobin for a great program and Gunnar Gilden for all his help with my press queries.


Festival Picks


Top 10

1. Cut (Japan, France, USA, South Korea, Turkey; 2011) - Day V
2. The Raid (Indonesia, 2011) - Day VIII
3. This Is Not a Film (Iran, 2011) - Day VIII
4. Tatsumi (Singapore, 2011) - Day VII
5. Where Do We Go Now? (France, Lebanon, Egypt, Italy; 2011) - Day IV
6. 11 Flowers (China, 2011) - Day I
7. Historias Que So Existem Quando Lembradas (Argentina, Brazil, France; 2011) - Day I
8. Asmaa (Egypt, 2011) - Day VI
9. Honey Pupu (Taiwan, 2011) - Day VII
10. Romance (Switzerland, 2011) - Day VII


26th FIFF Prize Winners (FIFF Press Release)


Never Too Late by Ido Fluk wins 'Regard d’Or' 2012

Israeli-born director Ido Fluk‘s film debut was an International Premiere at FIFF.  Brazilian director Julia Murat won a total of four awards for her first full-length feature film Historias Que Se Existem Quando Lembradas, including the highly endowed Talent Tape Award.  The Egyptian film Asmaa by Amr Salama is the winner of this year’s Audience Award.  The award ceremony took place in Fribourg last night.

Never Too Late, winner of the Grand Prize "Regard d’Or" 2012, is a touching story of a personal quest:  A young man by the name of Hertzel comes back to Israel broke after years abroad and finds work hanging advertising posters.  He drives across the country from north to south in his deceased father’s old Volvo until his journey brings him face to face with himself.  The award "Regard d’Or" is endowed with 30'000 Swiss Francs.

On stage during the ceremony, Ido Fluk declared how touched he was by this award and that his film is not about politics, that it shows different realities:  He pointed out that there are a lot of Israelis like him who want withdrawal from the occupied territories and peace.

The Special Jury Award, worth CHF 10’000 goes to The Last Friday by Yahya Al-Abdallah, a co-production between Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

The Talent Tape Award worth 19'000 CHF was awarded to the producers of Historias Que Se Existem Quando Lembradas, a co-production between Brazil, Argen-tina and France.  The film by director Julia Murat also wins the Exchange Award (Youth Jury), the Don Quijote Award of the International Federation of the Film Societies (FICC Award) as well as the Ecumenical Jury Award.

Taiwanese film Honey Pupu received a special mention by the International Jury, while the film Asmaa by Amr Salama (Egypt) won the audience award.  The International Federation of the Cinematographic Press FIPRESCI awarded the South Korean director Huh Jong-ho for his film Countdown.

The 26th edition of the FIFF, the first under the artistic direction of Thierry Jobin, recorded steady audience numbers: More than 30’000 tickets were issued.  Filmmakers from all over the world found their way to Fribourg.  Panel discussions, evening events and a masterclass with Ivan Passer also generated interest.  Thanks to very successful screenings at local schools and video workshops for multimedia students the festival keeps in touch with future festival generations.

The 27th edition of the Fribourg International Film Festival will take place from March 16 – 23, 2013.
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).

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Korean Box Office Update (03/30-04/01, 2012)

Architecture 101 Weathers the Wrath of the Titans



Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Architecture 101 3/22/12 29.30% 570,915 1,609,046 579
2 Wrath of the Titans (us) 3/29/12 28.80% 482,485 554,488 536
3 Untouchable (fr) 3/22/12 16.20% 315,940 940,461 411
4 Over My Dead Body 3/29/12 16.20% 312,872 368,065 433
5 Helpless 3/8/12 5.70% 110,312 2,339,242 326
6 This Means War (us) 2/29/12 0.80% 15,435 857,344 103
7 John Carter (us) 3/8/12 0.60% 11,427 831,555 152
8 Space Dogs 3D (ru) 3/22/12 0.50% 11,167 35,826 89
9 Chronicle (us) 3/15/12 0.30% 6,761 381,410 109
10 Nameless Gangster 2/2/12 0.10% 2,394 4,681,429 26


Business was up this weekend as nearly two million tickets were sold which was almost twice as many as last year's similar frame.   The Korean market also share came in at a healthy 52%.   Korean films have topped the chart for eleven weeks now but unfortunately this will mark the end of the streak as the season's biggest international blockbuster bows next weekend.

Repeating at number one was Architecture 101 which saw a slight increase to 570,915 admissions.  Word of mouth seems strong for this romance pic and it could continue to play well though next weekend will be a difficult test for all the films in the marketplace.   In any case it will have no trouble crossing the two million mark but looking at the similar trajectory it has had to Helpless, any further milestone is uncertain for the moment.  However, while it does have to compete with Hollywood next weekend, the next major Korean release doesn't open until April 11 so this may work in its favor.

Wrath of the Titans came in a relatively close second with 482,485 which seems strong but was actually about half of what its predecessor Clash of the Titans achieved in 2010.   I can't imagine this film will stick around for long and will probably suffer some very sharp declines in the following weeks.

The French film Untouchable, which has been breaking all sorts of records in its native country, dropped one spot and slowed only 20% for a strong 315,940 sophomore frame.   This may stick around for a little while and with similar declines it could come close to the two million mark which may be the first time a French film has done so at the Korean box office.

The major Korean opener this weekend was Over My Dead Body, the black comedy starring Ryoo Seung-beom and Lee Beom-su.  It's 312,872 debut isn't bad but given how recent films have performed this picture may see an early grave.  Strong word of mouth could save it but more than likely it will suffer a sharp decline along with most of the marketplace next week.

Helpless lost about two thirds of its business in its fourth weekend, adding another 110,312.  The Three million mark seemed within reach only ten days ago but now it will have to settle for 2.5 million.   Still a very strong result but this is also evidence of the volatility of the Korean market as it played very well for two weeks, especially as it increased in its second frame but was then immediately forgotten as another local film captured the public's imagination.

The rest of the marketplace was negligible as the bottom half of the top 10 took a combined 2.2% market share.  At no. 6 This Means War dropped 70% for 15,435 and the one million milestone is now out of reach.  John Carter, at no. 7, saw an 87% drop for a measly 11,427 weekend as it exits the chart.   Space Dogs 3D jumped up one spot to 8 though it actually saw its business cut in half for a 11,167 frame.  Chronicle took 6,761 after a 90% for no. 9.  Rounding out the chart was Nameless Gangster which reappeared on the chart with 2,394.

The behemoth Hunger Games opens next week and though I am not sure exactly how it will perform in Korea it will certainly barge into first place.  The only question is how big it will be, a one million opening is a distinct possibility and would dominate everything else.  The next big Korean film will be The Scent which opens on the 11th but this will have some trouble ascending to first place.

Source: kobis.or.kr


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 Sunday evening or 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. 

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Fribourg International Film Festival - Day VIII Report


Ongoing reports on the 26th Fribourg International Film Festival which Modern Korean Cinema will be covering all week.


The Zebra
(Mexico, 2011)


Dir:  Fernando Leon

This Mexican western, my final pick from the 'Once Upon a Time in the South' section, was a nice surprise.   It is an enjoyable road movie (with a zebra substituting for a vehicle) featuring a healthy dollop of wry humour.  Two bandits are vaguely making their way to the Obregon camp in Mexico circa the 1910s.   Along the way they make a few stops and meet some obstacles, all the while encountering various characters.

The plot is very episodic but benefits from the strong performances of the two protagonists who seem to suit each other very well, even though they can’t seem to trust one another.  For the most I enjoyed myself with The Zebra but after a while the directionless of its narrative caused it to overstay its welcome.  By the film’s end I had become a bit restless but this was by no means catastrophic.

Leon's film is a worthy addition to the genre and as has been the case with a number of films this week, I feel as though I would have gotten a little more out of it were I more familiar with its context.


Golden Slumbers
(Cambodia, France; 2011)


Dir:  Davy Chou

This documentary sheds lights on a forgotten part of film history, a golden age of Cambodian cinema that began in 1960 and abruptly ended in 1975 with the ascension of the Khmer Rouge.  Most of the industry’s leading lights died subsequently during Pol Pot’s brutal regime and almost the entire body of their work was destroyed.

Chou’s beautifully filmed and wonderfully paced documentary features the stories of some of the period’s few remaining directors, producers and stars and celebrates a era of film that brought hope to a nation’s populace and seeks to revive it through remembrance.

The first hour of the film is strong but it is in the final stages, which recount the decimation of the industry, that I was really drawn into it.   One producer breaks down in tears as he recounts the ordeals he went through and his sudden realization after escaping to France that after being a respected artist in his native country, he had become nothing, reduced to working in a factory.

The photography is particularly strong for a documentary and is utilized to gorgeous effect in some of the work’s more whimsical and nostalgic moments.  Phnom Penh and its nearby surroundings are saturated with colour but also heavy with a bloody history.  A fantastic discovery and I only wish I could see some of the films mentioned in Golden Slumbers.   As an avid cinephile, Chou’s work of cinematic remembrance struck a chord with me.


La Désintégration
(France, 2011)


Dir:  Philippe Faucon

The first half of this French film motored along very nicely and I was intrigued with its Muslim youths who were trying to get by in a fractured society.  Especially one young man who seems to be on the right path but suffers many setbacks due to his name and the colour of his skin.

However the second half of Faucon’s film alienated me as a viewer and by the film’s end I must say that I was quite annoyed.  The three youths end up recruited by a terrorism cell and you can guess what happens from there.  The subject is extremely topical, not just because of its terrorism elements but particularly due to the rising racial tensions in France, which recently have been the focus of much news coverage.

The problem is that La Désintégration feels like a topic of the month effort.   It puts an alarmingly simplistic spin on a very delicate matter and in its attempt to be relevant and weighty it comes off as redundant and a little conceited.  Interestingly, I noticed that in the opening credits I had some trouble identifying any Arab names among the producers and other makers of the film.  As I was worried before going into it, Faucon’s film is one that thinks it can coast by on the merit of its dark subject amtter without earning any of its audience’s respect.


This Is Not a Film
(Iran, 2011)


Dir:  Jafar Panahi, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb

I had heard great things before going into This Is Not a Film but I had no idea what kind of a film I was sitting down to watch.   Sure enough, this pseudo day-in-the-life documentary is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and stands as one of the most progressive, unique, challenging and important films of the past few years.

The famed Iranian director Jafar Panahi is under house arrest, he is banned from making films for 20 years.  He calls his friend Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, asking him to come over.  He wants to make a film and yet he is not allowed to so he begins to act out a script he had been meaning to make.

This staged documentary is a veritable tour-the-force which shows off Panahi’s brilliant intellect and bristling artistic temperament.   His passion for the medium is vivid and makes his arrest and thus the raison d’être of the film all the more poignant.  Full of charm, wit and character, this singular effort is both a love letter and a brilliant act of defiance.  An extraordinary work which becomes more intricate each time I think about it.  Be sure to seek this one out.


The Raid 
(Indonesia, 2011) 


Dir:  Gareth Evans

Without a doubt, of all screenings I had booked for my week at the FIFF, this was the one I was most excited about.   The final film to play at the festival was the much ballyhooed Indonesian action film The Raid.   Thierry Jobin, the director of the event presented the film.  Clearly very excited to be screening it, he introduced it as the best action film of the last 20 years and further mentioned that this would be the first and only screening he was actually going to sit down for after his busy week.

Gareth Evans’ blistering film did not disappoint.  It features the simplest set-up imaginable, features almost not plot and character development and instead launches almost immediately into the relentless and eye-melting action.  It’s like a cross between Johnny To’s Breaking News (2004) and the excellent horror film The Descent (2005), except with a breakneck pace and the best and most inventive marital arts in choreography to come along in some time.  Not to mention that it is an excellent cherry-picked amalgam of the genre’s very best, borrowing from Die Hard (1988) to Oldboy (2003) and featuring the freshest incarnations of the most basic elements of the genre.  Never have I seen people thrown through windows with such gusto.

All I can say is that The Raid understands what makes an action film tick.  It was the most exhilarating cinema experience I’ve had in some time and I urge you to see it if it comes along your way.


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.