The film festivals approach – as does the annual battle for our diaries

LKFF + LEAFF 2018 schedule
Click for downloadable A3 pdf version

Last year I had a little rant about the hectic and competing schedules of the two overlapping film festivals of interest to the Korean film audience. The London Korean Film Festival has had a long history of packing so many films into their programme that it’s impossible to go to everything you want to see. Last year, the London East Asia Film Festival joined the fun by pitting their own Korean films against each other. The result was that across the three or so weeks that the two festivals ran, even if you cleared your diary and tried to get to everything, you still had to miss a minimum of 18 screenings and discussion forums because of scheduling clashes.

Thankfully this year things feel more manageable, but even so you have to miss a minimum of 17 screenings / forums. So what’s going on?

Well, sensibly, LEAFF has completely eliminated any scheduling conflicts between Korean movies within their own programme.

Lee Myung-se
Lee Myung-se – three early films from the 90s are in the LKFF schedule

LKFF too has (very marginally) fewer clashes too this year, to the extent that if you aren’t interested in the artist videos or the Lee Myung-se retrospective the you can almost get by with missing only a handful of films, a couple of which are readily available on DVD. The problem is, I am interested in the artist videos and the Lee Myung-se retrospective, so I still feel tempted to have a little gripe.

So if the number of scheduling conflicts within each festival is lower this year, why has the total number of films you have to miss only gone down by 1? It’s because the two festivals overlap for four days (in both years), and the scheduling conflicts between the two festivals knock out at least 6 screenings this year, compared with last year’s 3. So here are the complete stats:

LEAFF vs LEAFF internal conflicts3
LKFF vs LKFF internal conflicts1211
LKFF vs LEAFF clashes36
Total clashes1817

In summary: casualties from friendly fire are down 4 this year but those from “hostile” fire are up 3.

Ahn Sook-sun
Ahn Sook-sun: unbeatable competition on 3 November

Last year the problem was made even worse by three competing and compelling music events. The K-music festival and Dance Umbrella between them knocked out 5 film screenings, with LEAFF being the casualty. This year there is, so far, only one music event which really complicates the schedule. This is of course the unmissable appearance of Pansori master Ahn Sook-sun at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the K-music festival on 3 November. This takes out two LEAFF films, two LKFF films and probably part of LKFF’s discussion forum on their main festival theme – A Slice of Everyday Life. Shame.1

So, psychologically, the clashes don’t feel so bad this year. That’s partly because there really is one fewer; partly because many of the clashes relate to films that I’ve already seen or are available on DVD; and also because, as noted in the previous paragraph, the scheduling clashes on 3 November are made totally academic as anyone interested in Korean culture should be at the South Bank at what we think is the first more or less full length Pansori performance ever to take place in London.

Land of Seonghye
Land of Seonghye – lunchtime on the day of Ahn Sook-sun

How am I managing my diary during the four days of festival overlap? Well, of course I’m going to see Ahn Sook-sun on the Saturday. Earlier in the day, the film I most want to see over the whole period, Studio Meditation with a Pencil’s adaptation of Hwang Sun-won’s The Shower (LKFF), is too far away and too early in the day, so I’ll just end up going to LKFF’s Land of Seonghye.

For the previous two days I’ve opted for the LKFF screenings – more because LEAFF were slower in announcing their detailed schedule rather than from any sense of loyalty or preference. I just wanted to make sure I got tickets for the screenings while they were available. Now that LEAFF has finalised their timings, do I regret my early purchasing decisions? To be honest, it could go either way. Negotiation (LEAFF) vs Microhabitat (LKFF); The Witch (LEAFF) vs The Running Actress (LKFF) and Seven Years of Night (LKFF). I’m definitely sorry to miss the two LEAFF features, but you can’t be everywhere at once, and also they’re the sort of films that are likely to make it onto DVD in due course, so I can live with my choices.

Sunset in my Hometown
Lee Joon-ik’s Sunset in my Hometown

The overlap on the Sunday – four movies occupy the late brunch slot – will probably be resolved, for me, by my general policy of avoiding coming into town on a Sunday. But if I do make the effort I’ll be going to Lee Joon-ik’s Sunset in my Home Town (LEAFF) both because it looks interesting and because it’s in a sensible central location.

The other impossible clash for me is Kwon Hayoun’s artist videos (with Q&A) and the screen talk with director Park Kiyong (Camel(s), Motel Cactus), both occupying the early afternoon slot on Sunday 11 November for LKFF. Again, I’ll probably find that Sunday slothfulness resolves it for me, because my preferred screening (the artist videos) is in an inconvenient North London location.

To illustrate all the clashes, here is a downloadable A3 pdf of the LEAFF and LKFF schedules for the Korean film audience. Enjoy the festivals. Despite the scheduling conflicts, there’s much to enjoy, and thanks are due to the hard work of the festival organisers.


  1. For the statistical nerd, the incremental events missed as a result of going to the Pansori night is in fact only two, because of the clashes between the films themselves []

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