A quiet look at the LKFF’s 2018 programme

by Philip Gowman on 9 October, 2018

in Film | London Korean Film Festival

LKFF18 logo

The London Korean Film Festival returns for its 13th edition next month with a slightly quieter tone than in some previous years. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s as if the organisers are saying that, as the festival enters its teenage years, the audience is becoming grown-up enough not to require a diet of glitz and glamour. Let the movies speak for themselves, they seem to be saying: we don’t need all the red carpet events.

Having said that, there’s no shortage of guests turning up from Korea for the festival. Two directors – Lee Myung-se and Park Kiyong – will be here for mini-retrospectives of their work; Kim Bo-ram and Jeong Ga-young will be here to introduce their films and participate in the Women’s Voices roundtable discussion; author Jeong You-jeong will be here to discuss Choo Chang-min’s adaptation of her thriller Seven Years of Night; and that’s just for starters.

Christmas in August

Christmas in August – a classic understated weepie from Hur Jin-ho

In keeping with the more grown-up attitude, the main focus of this year’s festival is A Slice of Everyday Life, giving the opportunity to consider a selection of quiet, thoughtful films from the 1990s through to the present day. In this strand are classics such as Christmas in August (1998), the understated romance by Hur Jin-ho with megastars Shim Eun-ha and Han Suk-gyu, and one of the first Korean movies I ever watched; Lee Yoon-ki’s lovely This Charming Girl (2004); Kim So-yong’s Treeless Mountain (2008) and E J-yong’s Bacchus Lady (2015). Thus far I’ve not managed to see Zhang Lu’s well-regarded Grain In Ear (2010), so that’s definitely one I’m going to try to see, and I similarly missed out on Park Jung-bum’s look at the lives of North Korean exiles in South Korea, Journals of Musan (2010) so that and his 2014 drama Alive will also be on the priority list, particularly as director Park will be there to answer questions after both screenings. I’ve already booked for Moon So-ri’s directorial debut The Running Actress (2017), and will certainly try to attend as much of the discussion forum on this strand as I can before shooting off to witness what could be the highlight of the London Korean cultural year courtesy of the K-Music festival – Ahn Sook-sun performing Heungbuga at the Purcell Room (a shame that it clashes with Kim Yang-hee’s The Poet and the Boy (2017)). Lest you feel that the strand is too quiet, Yang Ik-june’s gritty and violent debut feature Breathless also makes a return to a London screen.

Motel Cactus

Motel Cactus – Park Kiyong’s lovely-looking debut, with Christopher Doyle’s camera work

Many of the movies in the main strand have an indie feel to them, but as usual there is also a strand specifically devoted to independent film. For me, the highlight of Tony Rayns’s Indie Firepower strand is the focus on Park Kiyong, whose Camel(s) (2001) I’ve long been trying to track down after seeing his Motel Cactus on DVD; and similarly it’s good to get the opportunity to see some of Lee Myung-se’s earlier work in the company of the director and Mark Morris. For many of us the stylised hard-boiled Nowhere to Hide (1999) will be the first movie of his to have impinged on our consciousness, so the opportunity to see three of his earlier films (along with his most recent, from last year) is not to be missed.

Heart Blackened

Choi Min-sik at the top of his game in Heart Blackened

We’ve already had plenty of recent hits as part of the LKFF’s series of teaser screenings, but there’s still a good selection of movies from the more recent box office on offer in the main festival’s Cinema Now strand. Heart Blackened (2016), directed by Jung Ji-woo (Happy End, Eungyo) and featuring Choi Min-sik at the top of his game, which Paul Quinn describes as “a visually sumptuous, multi-layered and beautifully involved tale of love, hate, sacrifice and murder” has got to be a priority; and thriller-lovers will also enjoy Cho Kyu-jang’s The Witness (2017) and Choo Chang-min’s Seven Years of Night, particularly as author Jeong You-jeong (The Good Son) will be there to discuss it.

Artist Video by Kwon HaYoung

Artist Video by Kwon HaYoung

Other well-established strands in the festival are the Mise-en-Scene short movie selection and the Artist Video focus. This year Kwon Hayoun will be present to discuss her work, which also featured in the Nottingham exhibition The Real DMZ earlier this year. The Women’s Voices strand (in which again the British Museum plays host for part of this strand) officially has three short films and three fuller length movies, but the programme is rounded out by several films elsewhere in the festival with a female interest – for example Mothers in the Slice of Everyday Life strand and the opening and closing galas, Microhabitat and The Return. The latter is of particular interest, following the return to Korea of an adoptee brought up in Denmark as she searches for her birth parents.

The Shower by Studio Meditation with a Pencil

The Shower by Studio Meditation with a Pencil – likely to be a gem

Last but by no means least is the animation strand, with the return of Pororo the penguin in his latest adventure. We had an earlier edition of Pororo’s adventures, a Christmas special, in the first of the film festival organised by the KCC back in 2006, and very fun it was too. But for me the animation of much more interest is the UK premiere of one of the latest classic short story adaptions by Studio Meditation with a Pencil. Their very latest, The Shaman Sorceress, debuted at Busan this month, and in London we will get to see their adaptation of Hang Sun-won’s classic The Shower.

So, while there might not be the red carpet events that there were a few years ago, I’m looking forward to this festival just as much or even more. There’s the chance to reacquaint myself with some old favourites, fill out my coverage of the back catalogue and bring myself up to date with some of the latest releases, as well as the opportunity to hear from experts and the filmmakers themselves. Roll on 1 November.

Set out below is a listing of the films by strand. A listing by screening time can be found here. Visit the official festival site www.koreanfilm.co.uk for latest details and booking information.

Opening Gala

Microhabitat (소공녀) +Q&A
Comedy, Drama, 2017, 104 min
Picturehouse Central Thu 1 Nov 18:30
Dir: Jeon Go-woon
Cast: Lee Som, Ahn Jae-hong

Closing Gala

The Return (회귀) +Q&A
Hybrid, Drama, 2018, 84 min
Regent Street Cinema Wed 14 Nov 19:00
Dir: Malene Choi
Cast: Karoline Sofie Lee, Thomas Hwan, Seong In-ja

Special Focus: A Slice of Everyday Life

The Power Of Kangwon Province (강원도의 힘)
Drama, 1998, 108 min
Regent Street Cinema Thu 8 Nov 18:30
Dir: Hong Sangsoo
Cast: Baik Jong-hak, Oh Yoon-hong, Kim Yu-seok
Christmas In August (8월의 크리스마스)
Romance, Drama, 1998, 97 min
Phoenix Sun 4 Nov 13:00
Dir: Hur Jin-ho
Cast: Han Suk-kyu, Shim Eun-ha
Jealousy is my Middle Name (질투는 나의 힘)
Drama, 2002, 125 min
Regent Street Cinema Sat 10 Nov 14:00
Dir: Park Chan-ok
Cast: Bae Jong-ok, Park Hae-il, Moon Sung-Keun
This Charming Girl (여자, 정혜)
Drama, 2004, 99 min
Regent Street Cinema Sat 10 Nov 16:30
Dir: Lee Yoon-ki
Cast: Kim Ji-soo, Hwang Jung-min
Grain In Ear (망종)
Drama, 2005, 109 min
Regent Street Cinema Sat 10 Nov 18:40
Dir: Zhang Lu
Cast: Liu Lianji, Jin Bo, Zhu Guangxuan
Treeless Mountain (나무없는 산)
Drama, 2008, 89 min
Phoenix Sat 3 Nov 13:00
Dir: Kim So Yong
Cast: Kim Hee Yeon, Kim Song Hee, Lee Soo Ah
Breathless (똥파리)
Drama, 2008, 130 min
Picturehouse Central Sun 4 Nov 14:00
Dir: Yang Ik-june
Cast: Yang Ik-june, Kim Kkobbi and Lee Hwan
The Journals Of Musan (무산일기) +Q&A
Drama, 2010, 127 min
Regent Street Cinema Sun 11 Nov 16:00
Dir: Park Jungbum
Cast: Park Jungbum, Jin Yonguk, Kang Eunjin
Bleak Night (파수꾼)
Drama, 2010, 116 min
Regent Street Cinema Fri 9 Nov 18:20
Dir: Yoon Sung-hyun
Cast: Lee Je-hoon, Seo Jun-young, Park Jung-min
Alive (산다) + Q&A
Drama, 2014, 175 min
Regent Street Cinema Tue 13 Nov 18:30
Dir: Park Jungbum
Cast: Park Jungbum, Lee Seungyeon, Park Myunghoon
The Bacchus Lady (죽여주는 여자)
Drama, 2015, 110 min
Rio Sun 4 Nov 18:30
Dir: E J-yong
Cast: Youn Yuh-jung, Chon Moo-song, Yoon Kye-Sang
The Running Actress (여배우는 오늘도)
Drama, Comedy, 2017, 71 min
Picturehouse Central Fri 2 Nov 18:30
Dir: Moon So-ri
Cast: Moon So-ri, Sung Byoung-sook, Yoon Sang-hwa
The Poet And The Boy (시인의 사랑) +Q&A
Drama, 2017, 110 min
Picturehouse Central Sat 3 Nov 18:45
Dir: Kim Yang-hee
Cast: Yang Ik-june, Jeon Hye-jin, Jung Ga-ram
Possible Faces (얼굴들 )
Drama, 2017, 131 min
Regent Street Cinema Sun 11 Nov 19:00
Dir: Lee Kanghyun
Cast: Kim Saebyeok, Park Jonghwan, Yun Jongseok
Mothers (당신의 부탁) +Q&A
Drama, 2017, 107 min
Picturehouse Central Mon 5 Nov 20:45
Dir: Lee Dong-eun
Cast: Lim Soo-jung, Yoon Chan-young, Lee Sang-hee
The Land Of Seonghye (성혜의 나라 )
Drama, 2018, 117 min
Picturehouse Central Sat 3 Nov 13:00
Dir: Jung Hyung-suk
Cast: Song Ji-in, Kang Doo
Forum On Special Focus: A Slice Of Everyday Life:
Part 1. Microhabitats: Contextualising Everydayness in Film
Exploring the aesthetics of the everyday on screen, and the history of its key examples in Korean and UK cinema
Part 2. Possible Faces Places: Filmmakers on the Everyday and Realism
Discussing how lmmakers approach and materialise the notion of everydayness and its signi cance in contemporary cinema
Picturehouse Central Sat 3 Nov 16:00

Cinema Now

Heart Blackened (침묵)
Crime, Drama, 2016, 125 min
Regent Street Cinema Fri 9 Nov 20:50
Dir: Jung Ji-woo
Cast: Choi Min-sik, Park Shin Hye, Ryu Jun-yeol
Love+Sling (레슬러)
SportsComedy, 2017, 110 min
Regent Street Cinema Sat 10 Nov 21:00
Dir: Kim Dae-woong
Cast: Yoo Hai-jin, Kim Min-jae, Lee Seong-kyung
The Princess And The Matchmaker (궁합)
Period, Romance, Comedy, 2018, 110 min
Picturehouse Central Sun 4 Nov 19:45
Dir: Hong Chang-pyo
Cast: Shim Eun-kyung, Lee Seung-gi
Seven Years Of Night (7년의 밤)
Thriller, 2018, 123 min
Picturehouse Central Fri 2 Nov 20:45
Dir: Choo Chang-min
Cast: Ryu Seung-ryong, Jang Dong-gun, Song Sae-byuk
Little Forest (리틀포레스트)
Drama, 2017, 103 min
Rio Sat 3 Nov 18:30
Dir: Yim Soon-rye
Cast: Kim Tae-ri, Ryu Jun-yeol, Moon Sori
The Witness (목격자)
Thriller, 2017, 111 min
Picturehouse Central Tue 6 Nov 21:00
Dir: Cho Kyu-jang
Cast: Lee Sung-min, Kim Sang-ho, Jin Kyung
Hotel By The River (강변호텔)
Drama, 2018, 96 min
Regent Street Cinema Thu 8 Nov 21:00
Dir: Hong Sangsoo
Cast: Ki Joobong, Kim Minhee, Song Seonmi, Kwon Haehyo, Yu Junsang, Park Ran, Shin Seokho

Women’s Voices

Hit The Night (밤치기) + Q&A
Romance, 2017, 85 min
ICA Tue 6 Nov 18:30
Dir: Jeong Ga-young
Cast: Jeong Ga-young, Park Jong-hwan, Hyung Seul-woo
Director Talk With Jeong Ga-Young
Kingston University Wed 7 Nov 11:30
For Vagina’s Sake (피의 연대기)
Documentary, 2017, 84 min
British Museum Mon 5 Nov 14:00
Dir: Kim Bo-ram
Cast: Kim Bo-ram, Oh Hee-jung
Roundtable Discussion: Exploring female body politics on screen
British Museum Mon 5 Nov 16:00
Grown Up (어른이 되면)
Documentary, 2018, 98 min
Picturehouse Central Wed 7 Nov 18:30
Dir: Jang Hyeyeong
Cast: Jang Hyeyeong, Jang Hyejeong, Yoon Jeongmin
Women’s Voices Shorts Programme
Picturehouse Central Mon 5 Nov 18:30
A Blind Alley (골목길)
Drama, 2017, 27 min
Dir: Oh Suyeon
Cast: Oh Woori, Lee Haeun
Playground (모래 놀이)
Drama, 2017, 29 min
Dir: Choi Cho-ah
Cast: Kim Si-eun, Yoon Hae-bin
Testimony (증언)
Drama, 2018, 29 min
Dir: Woo Gyeng-hee Cast: Mun Hye-in, Han Hae-in

Indie Firepower

Motel Cactus (모텔 선인장)
Romance, 1997, 90 min
KCCUK Sat 10 Nov 15:00
Dir: Park Kiyong
Cast: Lee Mi-yeon, Jin Hee-gyeong, Jung Woo-sung
Camel(s) (낙타(들)) +Q&A
Drama, 2001, 91 min
Regent Street Cinema Sun 11 Nov 12:00
Dir: Park Kiyong
Cast: Lee Dae-yon, Park Myung-shin
Old Love (재회) +Q&A
Romance, 2017, 89 min
Regent Street Cinema Mon 12 Nov 18:30
Dir: Park Kiyong
Cast: Yoo Jungah, Kim Taehoon, Kim Moonhee
Director Talk With Park Kiyong
Regent Street Cinema Sun 11 Nov 14:30
Adulthood (어른도감)
Drama, Comedy, 2017, 91 min
Regent Street Cinema Mon 12 Nov 20:45
Dir: Kim In-seon
Cast: Um Tae-goo, Lee Jae-in, Seo Jeong-yeon
Back From The Beat (내가 사는 세상)
Drama, 2018, 67 min
Picturehouse Central Sun 4 Nov 17:20
Dir: Choi Changhwan
Cast: Kwak Minkyu, Kim See-eun, Park Jihong
+ Even No Shadow (그림자도 없다)
Drama, 2011, 36 min
Dir: Choi Changhwan
Cast: Nguyen Dnc Thu, Mangala Sanjeewa Kodeethwskku, Choi Changhwan

Mise-en-Scène Shorts

Part 1: Picturehouse Central Tue 6 Nov 18:30
The Monologue (자유연기)
Drama, 2018, 29 min
Dir: Kim Do-young
Cast: Kang Mal-geum, Lee Jae-in, Kwon Ji-sook
Morning Of The Dead (시체들의 아침)
Drama, 2018, 29 min
Dir: Lee Seung-ju
Cast: Kang Gil-woo, Park Seo-yun, Jang Jun-whee
Shadower (친구)
Drama, 2018, 20 min
Dir: Kwak Ki-bong
Cast: Hwang Young-gook, Kim Jun-hyung
Part 2: Picturehouse Central Wed 7 Nov 20:45
Tail (꼬리)
Drama, 2018, 28 min
Dir: Kim Hu-jung
Cast: Lee Won-jong, Kim Jong-gu
Hysteria (히스테리아)
Drama, 2018, 26 min
Dir: Jang Man-min
Cast: Song Hee-jun, Lim Hyung-kook, Chang Ha-ran
Passing Over The Hill (그 언덕을 지나는 시간)
Drama, 2018, 24 min
Dir: Bang Sung-jun
Cast: Byun Chung-hee, Lee Ji-soo, Bang Tae-won

Contemporary Classics: Lee Myung-se & the 1990s

My Love, My Bride (나의 사랑, 나의 신부) +Q&A
Drama, Comedy, 1990, 111 min
Close-up Fri 9 Nov 20:00
Dir: Lee Myung-se
Cast: Park Joong-hoon, Choi Jin-sil, Choi Chong-won
First Love (첫사랑) +Q&A
Drama, Romance, 1993, 108 min
Close-up Sat 10 Nov 20:00
Dir: Lee Myung-se
Cast: Kim Hye-soo, Choi Chong-won, Cho Min-ki
Their Last Love Affair (지독한 사랑)
Romance, 1996, 106 min
Close-up Sun 11 Nov 20:00
Dir: Lee Myung-se
Cast: Kang Soo-youn, Kim Kap-soo, Kim Hak-cheol
+ Can’t Live Without You (그대 없이는 못 살아)
Mystery, Romance, Action, 2017, 17 min
Dir: Lee Myung-se
Cast: Yoo In-young, Kim Seoljin

Animation

The Shower (소나기)
Animation, 2016, 48 min
Phoenix Sat 3 Nov 12:00
Dir: Ahn Jae-hoon, Han Hye-jin
Cast: Shin Eun-soo, Noh Kang-min
Pororo, Dinosaur Island Adventure (뽀로로 극장판 공룡섬 대모험)
Animation, 2017, 78 min
Phoenix Sat 10 Nov 12:00
Dir: Kim Hyunho, Yun Jewan
Cast: Lee Sun, Lee Mi-ja, Ham Su-jung

Artist Video

Artist Video: Kim Kyung-Mook
Lux Sun 4 Nov 14:00
Grace Period (유예기간)
Documentary, 2015, 62 min
Dirs: Kim Kyung-Mook + Caroline Key
Me And Doll-Playing (나와 인형놀이)
Documentary, 2004, 20 min
Dir: Kim Kyung-Mook
Artist Video: Kwon Hayoun
Lux Sun 11 Nov 14:00
489 Years
Video, 2016, 11 min
Dir: Kwon Hayoun
Model Village
Video, 2014, 9 min
Dir: Kwon Hayoun
Pan Mun Jom
Video, 2013, 4 min
Dir: Kwon Hayoun
Lack Of Evidence
Video, 2011, 9 min
Dir: Kwon Hayoun

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