Korean Film Nights 2019

The first Korean Film Nights season of 2019, Home Truths (May - June), ventures into various on-screen Korean homes with a programme of carefully selected titles. We explore how Korean domestic space shapes on-screen identities, and how its architectural structure can reflect the social mores of a time. A house can reveal much about both its residents and the world outside its doors.

The second season, Love Without Boundaries (July - August), invites us to take an even deeper look into the Korean psyche and to open our hearts to love − the kind of love which thrives on the margins of society, that challenges our preconceptions, that shocks us with its intensity and amazes us with its capacity to forgive and transform.

All screenings take place at the Korean Cultural Centre UK and are free to attend (booking required)

KFN 'Home Truths' brochure download here

KFN 'Love Without Boundaries' brochure download here

KFN1: The World of Us

The World Of Us 1
Film info

Director: Yoon Ga-eun
Cast: Choi Soo-in, Seol Hye-in, Lee Seo-yeon
Cert U, 95mins, 2016

Sun is a lonely primary school girl who, though desperate to make friends, has remained socially-outcast. When transfer student Jia joins her class, during the summer vacation the two become close friends, spending time at each others houses. Initially, Jia’s home brings the security and comfort that neither Sun’s own domestic space nor her classroom are able to provide. At the beginning of the new semester, however, their new friendship is tested as Sun continues to be the target of bullying by their other classmates...

Director Yoon Ga-eun invites us to closely observe the dynamic relationship of these two young girls, immersing us in their small world through its simple, unadorned storytelling. Sun’s experiences act as a microcosm through which we can observe how larger issues of social class differences and pressures filter down to affect even the lives of children. Yoon’s confident debut feature picked up numerous nominations and awards both at home and abroad, including Best New Director at South Korea’s prestigious Blue Dragon Film Awards in 2016.

Introduced by Octavian Dăncilă

The World of Us plays as part of the Korean Film Nights 2019 season, Home Truths.

KCCUK, 02 May 2019 7:00 pm

KFN1: An Affair

An Affair
Film info

Director: E J-Yong
Cast: Lee Mi-sook, Lee Jung-jae, Song Young-chang, Kim Min
Cert 18, 108mins, 1998

Architect’s-wife Seo-hyun (Lee Mi-sook), is constrained and muted by domestic life, when one day she meets her younger sister’s 27-year-old fiance, Woo-in (Lee Jung-jae). Seo-hyeon promises to help Woo-in find the perfect home for him and her sister, before her sister returns from the US to marry her fiancé. Some 10 years her junior, Woo-in is refreshingly endearing and charming, bringing Seo-hyun a new lease in life. Emotions simmer and start to crystallise; soon both face an overwhelming desire to risk everything they once held dear....

It’s an oft-told story of desire and betrayal, but An Affair is recounted with crystal clarity and restraint, with a sparklingly metallic nineties colour palette. Just as the bold colours of the classic melodramas’ mise-en-scène spoke to heightened emotions, An Affair’s pre-millennial minimalism echoes the reserved loneliness of the characters within the film. A star-making breakthrough for both Lee Jung-jae and director E J-yong, this beautifully shot film also saw the comeback of one of the biggest actresses of the 1980s, Lee Mi-sook. The film’s ultra-modern interior design, and the different apartments it visits, create a Seoul built up by loveless spaces – but An Affair still cries out for the bliss of companionship, boldly prioritising it above family, children and the home.

Introduced by Valerie Li

An Affair plays as part of the Korean Film Nights 2019 season, Home Truths.

KCCUK, 09 May 2019 7:00 pm

KFN1: The Room Nearby

The Room Nearby2
Film info

Director: Ko Tae-Jeong
Cast: Jung Yu-mi, Ye Soo-jung, Heo Eun-kyoung, Sin Jin-hui, Paik Soo-jang
Cert 15, 106mins, 2009

Private tutor Eon-ju is living rent-free in a tiny box-room of a goshiwon complex (a unique type of dormitory-style single housing, often as small as two-by-two metres) where she works part-time at the weekends. The only visitors allowed in this cramped space are the camera and us; with her well-being constantly under threat by her living conditions, Eon-ju is desperate to break out.

Whilst going door-to-door in search of new students, Eon-ju comes across a large residence  and notices its gate left wide open. Fueled by a strange curiosity and desire to escape the harshness of her reality, she steps inside. Will this be finally the place where Eon-ju can feel at home and protected?

 A Room Nearby features a powerful lead-performance from frequent Hong Sang-soo collaborator Jung Yu-mi, who recently gained international attention through her starring role in the critically acclaimed Train to Busan (2016). Premiering at the prestigious 2008 Busan International Film Festival, Koh Tae-jong’s debut is a touching and absorbing look at the everyday struggles faced by young women in Korea.

Introduced by Annie Mullineux 

A Room Nearby plays as part of the Korean Film Nights 2019 season, Home Truths.

KCCUK, 30 May 2019 7:00 pm

KFN1: Lies

Lies 1
Film info

Director: Jang Sun-woo
Cast: Lee Sang-hyeon, Kim Tae-yeon
Cert NR, 112mins, 2000

Note: this film contains scenes of a highly-explicit sexual nature throughout which some may find disturbing

After some steamy phone calls, J and Y meet and begin exploring each others bodies with a rabid intensity that takes them deep into the realms of shocking sadomasochism. J is a man, a sculptor in his late thirties, and Y an 18 year old girl about to go to college. They enact their transgressive fantasies in bare motel rooms, far away from more traditional dwellings. In company of others they act distant and cordial, but behind closed doors, and within any four walls that will hold them, their passion erupts in an intense exploration of power play, with a strangely tender consensual dimension to it.

When screened at festivals in the 90s, Lies only bolstered director Jang Sun-woo’s reputation as Korea’s enfant terrible of the time, and many critics condemned it as pornographic indulgence. While debate over Jang’s intentions and gaze remain, Lies holds up as a unique depiction of sexual obsession told with a heart on its sleeve and a whip in its hand.

Introduced by Ben Driscoll

Lies plays as part of the Korean Film Nights 2019 season, Home Truths.

KCCUK, 06 Jun 2019 7:00 pm

KFN1: Woman of Fire

Woman Of Fire
Film info

Director: Kim Ki-young
Cast: Youn Yuh-jung, Jeon Gye-hyeon, Nam Koong Won
98mins, 1971

Woman of Fire sees Kim Ki-Young remake his stunning classic The Housemaid (1960) with an energy and passion that would come to define Korean cinema of the 1970s.  Focusing on the role women play within the home, the film follows a composer and his wife, whose lives are thrown into turmoil by the introduction of a new housemaid. The film features stunning cinematography (from regular Kim collaborator Jung Il-Sung), with striking red and blue hues allowing the film to transition seamlessly from moments of peace to ones of manic melodrama.

The small chicken farm forming the backdrop of the film becomes a pressure cooker of contrasts, whether it be divided affections or the stark contrast between urban and rural culture. Tension builds steadily as Kim navigates us through a narrative that keeps the audience guessing at every twist and turn. Woman of Fire can be seen as a high stakes chamber drama: the aesthetic brilliance of Douglas Sirk meeting the intense close quarters of Henrik Ibsen, one of Kim’s favourite playwrights.

Introduced by Joel Whitaker

Woman of Fire plays as part of the Korean Film Nights 2019 season, Home Truths.

KCCUK, 13 Jun 2019 7:00 pm

KFN1: Mother and a Guest

Mother And A Guest High Res
Film info

Director: Shin Sang-ok
Cast: Choi Eun-hee, Jeon Young-sun, Kim Jin-gyu, Han Eun-jin, Do Kum-bong
102mins, 1961

Precocious Ok-hee lives in a household of widowed women: her mother (played by one of 50s’ and 60s’ Korea’s biggest stars, Choi Eun-hee), grandmother and their housekeeper. When a charming friend of her late father arrives at the house as a guest, six-year-old Ok-hee casts her affections toward him, seeing him as the paternal influence sorely absent from her life at home. She quickly takes it upon herself to play cupid between the man and her mother. Featuring touching displays of cinematic yearning, Mother and a Guest reflects on the societal expectations of female fidelity and desire across the divides of generation.

Directed by Shin Sang-ok, one of the most prolific and respected figures of the Golden Age of South Korean Cinema, the film’s use of black-and-white cinematography purposefully contrasts the vast, open spaces and wider shots of the exterior with the smaller, restricted areas and tighter shots within the hanok, where emotions and desires heighten and simmer.

Introduced by Federica Fausto

Mother and a Guest plays as part of the Korean Film Nights 2019 season, Home Truths.

KCCUK, 20 Jun 2019 7:00 pm

KFN2: A Girl at My Door

A Girl At My Door First Choice
Film info

Director: July Jung
Cast: Bae Doona, Kim Sae Ron, Song Sae Byuk
Cert 18, 119mins, 2014

Awards

Best First Film Award
Stockholm International Film Festival.

Following a personal scandal which disgraces her in the eyes of her colleagues, lesbian police officer Young-nam (Bae Doona, The Host) is stationed to a quiet provincial town in Yeosu as the new Police Chief. In a sleepy town beset by drunkenness, narrow-mindedness and corruption, she becomes the reluctant protector of Sun Do-hee (Kim Sae Ron, The Man from Nowhere) - a timid schoolgirl who harbours mysterious secrets and traumas of her own.

July Jung’s film demonstrates the importance of empathy and compassion over blood ties, fully embracing the sometimes ambivalent and unexpected forms of love that can disrupt our lives. This sapphic mystery plays its intimacies out on a political stage, elucidating the prejudices that haunt Korean society through the depiction of the stigma attached to Young-nam’s sexuality, which threatens to totally destroy the life she has built for herself. Screened in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in 2014, this directorial debut also gained the accolade of being the first Korean film to receive the Best First Film Award at the Stockholm International Film Festival.

KCCUK, 04 Jul 2019 7:00 pm

KFN2: No Regret

No Regret First Choice
Film info

Director: Lee Song Hee-il
Cast: Kim Nam-gil, Lee Yeong-hoon, Kim Jung-hwa, Cho Hyun-chul
114mins, 2006

At 18, Su-min is forced to leave the orphanage where he lives. Unable to afford university, he travels to Seoul where he works as a factory worker and as a ‘taeri’- a designated driver for wealthy patrons after a night of drinking. Both of his worlds collide when he runs into former driving patron Jae-min, the factory owner’s son. Jae-min’s interest in Su-min is more than platonic and when he intervenes to save Su-min’s job at the expense of another worker, Su-min’s pride is hurt and he resigns. Forced to take on a job in a gay host bar to survive, he thinks he is free of Jae-min. But Jae-min will not give up so easily...

Based on Lee Song’s early short film Good Romance (2001), No Regret is regarded as the first South Korean feature to be directed by an openly gay filmmaker. Although it was Lee Song’s feature film directorial debut, he had previously explored homosexuality in Korean society with his first short film Sugar Hill (screened as part of the shorts night on 25th July).

KCCUK, 11 Jul 2019 7:00 pm

KFN2: The Hand of Fate

Hand Of Fate 1St Choice
Film info

Director: Han Hyeong-mo
Cast: Yoon In-ja, Lee Hyang, Joo Seon-tae
85 mins, 2019

The opening scenes of The Hand of Fate reveal the ingenious method by which Margaret (Yoon In-ja) covertly passes messages to the North Korean army, by coding the information she has gleaned from others into classical music scores. She befriends a young man, Young-chul (Lee Hyang), a poor student and Margaret decides to help him. It appears she is seducing Young-chul, but is it out of love or to recruit him ? Famous for showing the first onscreen kiss in a South Korean film, this work challenges perceptions of love beyond the boundaries of social status, personal beliefs, geography and politics.

This melodramatic spy-thriller love story - with its visually striking, film-noir style, is not only anti-communist propaganda, but also a commentary on the shifting roles and expectations of Korean women. Made at the time Korean society was only just emerging from the horrors of the Korean War - which left it separated by the Demilitarized Zone, this film reflects the tension, suspicion and uncertainty that would be recognised by the audience in such a recently divided country.

KCCUK, 18 Jul 2019 7:00 pm

KFN2: Love Without Boundaries: Shorts Night

Just Friends First Choice

Love Without Boundaries presents Queer Love: Loving Outside the Mainstream, a night of short films, revolving around a strong central theme of LGBTQ+ struggles within South Korea.

Birkbeck Cinema, 25 Jul 2019 6:30 pm

KFN2: Wanee & Junah

Wanee 1St Choice
Film info

Director: Kim Yong Gyun
Cast: Kim Hee-sun, Joo Jin-mo, Cho Seung-woo, Choi Gang-hee, Kim Soo-jin
Cert 15, 114mins, 2011

Wanee is a disenchanted animator living in the city with her scriptwriter boyfriend Junah. While she seemingly only lives for her successful career, Junah meanwhile, is having less luck as a screenwriter. The cracks in their outwardly peaceful, yet mundane relationship begin to show when childhood friend So-yang visits. This causes old wounds to resurface as Wanee emotionally retreats further. Shrouded in secrecy and guilt, Wanee must confront her troubled past in order to overcome the emotional distance that has consumed her relationship with Junah.

In Wanee and Junah, Kim Yong-gyun shifts between the present and the past and bookends the film with beautifully animated scenes. In a refreshingly original gender reversal, it is the emotionally unavailable woman who has to be won over. With a cast drawn from Korea’s prominent television industry, notable aficionado Kim Hee-sun challenges herself in this forbidden love drama. Confronting the traditional norms of Korean society, the film celebrates the hidden sides of love; from cohabitation to homosexuality to forbidden love, Wanee and Junah is a taboo-breaking debut.

KCCUK, 01 Aug 2019 7:00 pm

KFN2: Oasis

Oasis Second Choice
Film info

Director: Lee Chang-dong
Cast: Moon So-ri, Sul Kyung-gu, Ahn Nae-sang
Cert 15 , 132mins, 2002

Awards

Best Direction
Venice Film Festival Silver Lion

Best Actress
Marcello Mastroianni Award

Jong-du (Sul Kyung-gu, Memoir of a Murderer), introduced to the viewer as he finishes his sentence for manslaughter, traces the family of his victim and meets Gong-ju (Moon So-ri, Little Forest), a woman with cerebral palsy. A surprising maturity occurs as a significant bond grows between the two characters; both considered a burden by their own families. Luckily, they find each other, but how will others react to this unconventional attraction?

Premiering at Busan Festival in 2002, Oasis has been an international success; as have Lee Chang-dong’s other blockbusters - Peppermint Candy (1998) and his recent Burning (2018). It won Lee the 2003 Venice Film Festival Silver Lion for Best Direction and the film’s star, Moon So-ri, the Marcello Mastroianni Award.

Oasis paints a picture of a taboo kind of love; a type of love that is rarely portrayed and is often neglected in cinema. Whilst the love presented in the film is sparked by a moment of confusion and rage, it later blossoms into something life-affirming for both protagonists. It shows a love that only Jong-du and Gong-ju can understand.

KCCUK, 08 Aug 2019 7:00 pm