The London Korean Film Festival 2008

The programme for the 2008 London Korean Film Festival has been announced. A great line-up with something for everyone. From the latest releases, there’s the biggest film of 2008 (The Good, the Bad and the Weird), plus one or two I’d forgotten about, but which with a bit of thought are obvious choices: last year’s picture about the Kwangju incident, May 18; this year’s sports movie Forever the Moment; plus a wildcard which showed at the recent Edinburgh Film Festival, Milky Way Liberation Front, Yoon Seong-ho’s debut comedy about indie film-making. Meanwhile the Public Enemy franchise continues, and there’s another chance to catch Kim Yun-jin in Seven Days.

For those who appreciated Lee Chang-dong’s Secret Sunshine at the BFI London Film Festival last year (and there’s a growing number of people who do, judging by the difficulty in getting hold of a print of this film), there’s a complete retrospective of all Director Lee’s films, while remastered prints of Kim Ki-young’s 1960 masterpiece Housemaid and Yu Hyun-mok’s rather depressing film about post-war Korea Aimless Bullet will satisfy those seeking films from the Golden Age.

As last year, there’s a fair amount of animation, with items ranging from an episode of Pororo the Penguin to the full-length poo feature Aachi and Ssipak.

The Festival runs from 6 – 12 November in London’s Barbican, and then moves to Liverpool for three days. Here are some of the recent features on show:

The Good, The Bad, The Weird (Opening Gala)

Nom Nom NomDirector: Kim Ji-woon
Cert: 15
Year: 2008
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Lee Byeong-ho & Jeong Woo-seong
Times: London: November 6, 7pm (introduced by Kim Ji-woon); November 7, 7pm (with director Q&A, chaired by Tony Rayns) Liverpool: November 13, 6pm

Kim Ji-woon’s wildly spectacular Kimchi Western is a mind blowing mash-up of influences, fusing Sergio Leone with Kurosawa, via Korea’s own brand of frantic shoot ‘em up action and frenetic comedy. Peppered with eye popping set pieces and draw dropping stunts, the plot tracks three very different outlaws, on the hunt for a lost treasure map in 1930’s Japanese controlled Manchuria. Starring Jeong Woo-seong, Lee Byeong-heon and Song Kang-ho as the titular anti-heroes, this genre-bending extravaganza was two years in the making and well worth the wait.

Public Enemy Returns

Director: Kang woo-seok
Cert: 15
Year: 2008
Cast: Seol Kyeong-gu, Jeong Jae-yeong & Kang Shin-il
Time: Wed 12 November, 8:30pm (UK Premiere)

This third installment Kang Woo-seok’s internationally successful series has become one of the biggest hits in Korea this year. Expect plenty of Woo’s trademark wham-bam action as screen legend Sol Kyeong-gu returns as cop Kang Chul-joong, this time taking on high level corruption in the form of a super-successful business man – will Kang get his man this time?

Forever the Moment

Director: Lim Soon-rye
Cert: 15
Year: 2008
Cast: Moon So-ri, Kim Jeong-eun & Eom Tae-woong
Time: Sunday 8 November 8:45pm (UK Premiere)

Based on the true story of Korea’s 2004 women’s Olympic hand-ball team and their moment in the spotlight in Athens, Forever…’s focus is as much on the private affairs of the players as their on court antics, exploring the bittersweet relationship between personal and professional lives, as the women struggle to maintain their families whilst upholding their country’s Olympic dreams. Sensitively handled, beautifully realized and ultimately very moving, this is a sports movie quite unlike any other.

May 18

Director: Kim Ji-hoon
Cert: 15
Year: 2007
Cast: Kim Sang-kyeong, Ahn Seong-gi, Lee Yo-won & Lee Joon-ki
Time: Wednesday 12 November, 6pm (UK Premiere)

May 18 is based on the Gwangju massacre that took place in 1980, which occurred when President Chun Doo-hwan tried to remove rebels by using military force. Starring an all star cast including veteran actor Ahn Sung-ki and rising star Lee Jun-ki who rose to fame following his performance in The King and The Clown; this became an instant hit in South Korea amassing millions of admissions.

Milky Way Liberation Front

Director: Yoon Seong-ho
Cert: TBC
Year: 2007
Cast: Lim Ji-gyoo, Park hyeok-kwon & Seo Yeong-joo
Time: Tuesday 11 November, 6:30pm

Troubled director Yeong-Jae – played to Woody Allen-esque perfection by star Lim Ji-gyu – is trying to get his first film off the ground, whilst negotiating complicated matters of the heart and dealing with myriad comic setbacks, both real and fantastical. This breakthrough Indy delight from first time director Yoon joins a new generation of industry introspective film, descended from US satires The Player and Living in Oblivion but with oodles more heart.

Seven Days

Director: Won Sin-yeon
Cert: 18
Year: 2007
Cast: Kim Yoon-jin, Kim Mi-sook & Park Hee-soon
Times: Tues 11 November 8:45pm (London); Fri 14 November 6pm (Liverpool)

Top lawyer Ji-yeon has just seven days to free a prisoner convicted of a brutal murder, or her young daughter will die. Desperately searching for her kidnapped child amongst Seoul’s dark alleys and dilapidated tenements, Ji-yeon finds herself caught in a deadly conspiracy that stretches from Korea’s savage underworld all the way to City Hall. Starring ‘Lost’ favourite Kim Yun-jin, Won’s sophisticated thriller keeps the adrenaline pumping from start to finish.

Animation Day

On the animation front, the Barbican hosts a whole day, comprising three separate sessions, on Saturday 8 November:

The Pumpkin Family and Friends

Cert: U
Year: 2007/8
Specially for young animation enthusiasts, this collection of Korean creations won’t disappoint! Meet the whacky Pumpkin Family and their ghostly ancestors, join cute Chiro chicken and his friends on their mini-adventures and see Korean superstar penguin Pororo in action!

Korea KO

Cert: 12
Year: 2007/8
A bravura triple-bill of knock-out Korean animation

Don’t miss this stunning and stylish trio for older animation fans, including a magical tale inspired by a real life environmental catastrophe in Korea and the fantastical story of an invincible sword wielding martial-arts master, who learns the true meaning of friendship when he is re-incarnated as a drinks dispenser. Featuring Wanted, Love is Protein and A Coffee Vending Machine and its Sword.

Aachi & Ssipak

Director: Joe Bum-jin
Cert: 15
Year: 2006
Cast: Ryoo Seung-beom, Im Chang-jeong & Hyeon Yeong

Aachi and Ssipak

Described as “Akira meets Tarantino”, Joe Bum-Jin’s frankly bizarre film wins the award for craziest plot hands down.  In Shit City, where all energy is generated by its resident’s sewage, the government rewards each bowel emission with a JuicyBar. Unfortunately, these potent treats are so addictive that the cracked-out citizens will do just about anything to get their next fix…  Hilarious, edgy and deliberately off-colour, this is animated anarchy at its best.


The detailed schedule at a glance is as follows:

London, Barbican Centre
Thu 6 Nov7.00pm Opening Gala: The Good, The Bad & The Weird Introduced by Kim Jee-woon
Fri 7 Nov7.00pm Special Preview: ScreenTalk with Kim Jee-woon: The Good, The Bad & The Weird
Sat 8 Nov11.00am Animation Day! Family Film Club (Shorts programme Ages 5+): Pumpkin Family + Tree Robo + Chiro & Friends + Pororo
Sat 8 Nov12.30pm Animation Day! (Shorts Programme 12+) Wanted + A Coffee Vending Machine & its Sword + Love is Protein
Sat 8 Nov2.15pm Animation Day! Aachi & Ssipak (15)
Sun 8 Nov3.00pm Lee Chang-dong Retrospective: Peppermint Candy
Sun 8 Nov6.00pm Lee Chang-dong Retrospective: Oasis
Sun 8 Nov8.45pm UK Premiere: Forever the Moment
Sun 9 Nov5.00pm Lee Chang-dong Retrospective: Green Fish
Sun 9 Nov7.30pm Lee Chang-dong Retrospective/Contemporary: Secret Sunshine + Intro by Tony Raynes + Short Lee Chang-dong lecture
Mon 10 Nov6.30pm Archive screening: The Housemaid
Mon 10 Nov8.45pm Archive screening: Olbaton
Tue 11 Nov6.30pm Contemporary Korean Cinema: Milky Way Liberation Front
Tue 11 Nov8.45pm Contemporary Korean Cinema: Seven Days
Wed 12 Nov6.00pm UK Premiere: May 18
Wed 12 Nov8.30pm UK Premiere: Public Enemy Returns
Liverpool, FACT Picturehouse
Thu 13 Nov6.00pm The Good, The Bad & The Weird
Fri 14 Nov6.00pm Seven Days
Sat 15 Nov3.30pm Secret Sunshine


(automatically generated) Read LKL’s review of this event here.

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