Documentary with Essay Film Festival
2002. Directed by Kim Hong-joon , 112 mins.
My Korean Cinema is director Kim Hong-joon’s own history of Korean cinema told in short episodes that unfold like a series of personal filmic notes. Assembled and selected from his television presentations, these films cover over forty years of cinema and how film culture in Korea has changed over the years. The filmmaker remembers his first steps working in film, from childhood to his time as an assistant to veteran director Im Kwon-taek in the Chungmuro film studios. He drives through the old neighborhood of Chungmuro looking for the remains of the long gone studios where most classical films in Korea were produced. A restored version of a film from 1975, March of Fools (dir. Ha Kil-jong) brings back the memory of the director’s years as a university student, becoming a reflection about the mechanisms of censorship. Another episode, beautifully edited, looks at what the images of women smoking in classical Korean cinema tell about society, morality and emancipation. Either musing over the consequences of yet another film magazine shutting down, filming the backstage of the reconstruction of a long lost film made by one of Korean’s greatest filmmakers, Yu Hyun-mok, at the cinematic representations of independence hero Kim Ku, or finally, revisiting with emotion La Vie en Rose (1994), one of his earlier films, My Korean Cinema is an ode to cinema, an essay at once personal and unconventional.
Birkbeck Cinema, 07 Nov 16 7:30 pm
1995. Directed by Jang Sun-woo , starring Im Kwon-taek, Lee ChJang-ho, Chung Ji-young, Park Kwang-su , 52 mins.
The end of the 1980’s witnessed profound transformations in the Korean film industry. Some regulatory restrictions on Korean filmmakers were lifted, opening the way for a new generation of directors to seek other modes of expression, production and exhibition. The relaxation of censorship laws allowed filmmakers to work with more freedom and to address more pressing social issues. On the other side market laws looked towards globalisation, opening the exhibition market to foreign film, especially from Hollywood and Hong Kong. It was against this background that Jang Sun-woo, one of the most singular Korean filmmakers, set this excellent essay film about the situation of Korean cinema in the mid-90s. The film was a commission from the British Film Institute for their 1995 series on the “100 Centenary of Cinema” and it is narrated by Tony Rayns. Jang Sun-woo veers off on a journey through the history of Korea and Korean independent cinema, traveling the country, interviewing people he finds along on their impressions of Korean cinema, and making references to recent relevant political events. He edits selected excerpts of films with conversations with some established and new filmmakers such as Im Kwon-taek, Lee Chang-ho, Park Kwang-su or Chung Ji-young on their impressions of independent film production in Korea. The film makes a strong case for a socially committed cinema in face of the influx of Hollywood imports, a cinema that would be able to keep its independence and push for change, reflecting political and social aspects of Korean life and history.
Birkbeck Cinema, 07 Nov 16 6:00 pm
2014. Directed by Yi Seung-jun , starring Kim Ye-ji, Kim Mi-young, Kim Ja-yeop, Kim Ha-neul , 101 mins.
Following Yi’s award winning Planet of Snail (2012) and a decade of creating documentaries for TV and the cinema this new film is an observational portrait of the 19 year old Ye-ji. Born deaf and blind Ye-ji struggles to communicate and her path is assisted by her mother whose perspective much of the documentary is presented from. Ye-ji’s mother has enlisted her in a special school for the blind aimed at assisting her assimilation into society. The film lacks any voiceover or commentary from the director, instead Ye-ji’s mother reads from her diary which acts as a structuring device and reveals the fears, experiences and expectations she has for her disabled daughter. The result is a film which covers a difficult subject with a sincerity and calmness displaying a preference for the quotidian and the everyday downplaying overly emotive gestures.
Odeon Camden, 13 Nov 16 2:00 pm
2014. Directed by Im Heung-soon , starring Shin Soon-ae, Lee Chong-gak, Lee Ki-bok, Kim Young-mi, Kang Myung-ja , 80 mins.
There has within the last few years been an increasing trend in contemporary Korean documentaries for exploring issues of unionisation and using the form to present issues of exploitation and marginalisation within post-war period of industrialisation. Factory Complex is an excellent example of this trend receiving the Silver Lion at the 56th Venice Biennale. The focus of the film in part historical providing an insight into the plight of domestic female workers engaged in the textile industry in the 1960’s. Mixing experimental elements alongside interviews and archival footage the film demonstrates Im’s background as a visual artist as well as his own working-class family background. The arguments of the director come across through the juxtapositioning of images resulting in an essayistic work which attempts to complicate the discourse surrounding labour issues, preferring a multitude of voices over a singular narrator.
Regent Street Cinema, 09 Nov 16 9:00 pm