Korean interest at the 2021 BFI London Film Festival

The announcement of the BFI Film Festival schedule is usually a cue for me to renew my BFI membership so that I get access to tickets a week before they go on general release.

After the huge disappointment of 2020, when no room could be found in the schedule for any Korean movies, 2021 has one really tempting prospect which I’m hoping will be of limited interest other than to Korea specialists, and one choice which I find frankly rather eccentric: three episodes of a TV series which in due course I assume will turn up on Netflix.

All in all, not enough to make me want to fork out for BFI membership. But it’s nice to see that the blurb of the really tempting prospect is written by Hyun Jin Cho, who until recently was in charge of movie programming at the Korean Cultural Centre. I’ll be logging on to the BFI website tomorrow morning in the hope that there’s still some tickets left for that one.

Humidity Alert (습도 다소 높음)

Dir Ko Bong-soo (2021, 77 mins)
Cast: Baek Seung Hwan | Lee Hee Jun | Ko Joo Hwan
Wednesday 06 October 2021 21:00 | ICA, Screen 1
Thursday 07 October 2021 12:30 | BFI Southbank, NFT3

Humidity Alert

A farcical yet highly perceptive satire of the indie film scene in South Korea, set on one long, hot summer’s day.

July 2020. A hot and humid day in Seoul. We enter an arthouse cinema preparing for the premiere of indie film The Youthful You. Usher Charles – the cinema’s only remaining employee – is having a grueling, sweaty time of it trying to follow the COVID safety procedures, dealing with his unsympathetic boss, the malfunctioning A/C and a series of demanding industry guests. But at least there is no audience.

Packed with absurd characters and wonderfully silly dialogue, prolific writer-director-cinematographer-editor Bong Soo Ko’s ninth feature since his 2016 debut is a sharp, insightful comedy about a film industry grappling with the new normal.

Featuring an excellent ensemble cast with terrific central performances by Ko’s regular gang of actors, Humidity Alert is absorbing and hilarious in equal measure.

Hyun Jin Cho

Hellbound (지옥)

Dir Yeon Sang-ho (2021, 3 episodes, 150mins)
Cast: Yoo Ah-in | Park Jeong-min | Kim Hyun-joo
Friday 15 October 2021 20:20 | BFI Southbank, NFT2
Sunday 17 October 2021 12:45 | Prince Charles Cinema, Downstairs Screen

Hellbound

Supernatural fantasy, police procedural and social satire merge in this genre-hopping South Korean mini-series from the director of Train to Busan.

South Korea is in the grip of a strange epidemic: people are receiving text messages announcing the exact date and time at which they are going to hell. And sure enough, at the allotted time, a demon shows up to claim them with gory gusto. Amid the ensuing media frenzy and social panic, detective Jin Kyung-hoon (Yang Ik-joon) tries to work out what the hell is going on. Meanwhile a fanatical religious sect is taking advantage of this new climate of fear.

Adapted by director Yeon Sang-ho from his own Korean webtoon (co-authored with cartoonist Choi Gyu-Seok), the series skitters blithely across genres, but always underpinned by biting social commentary. It’s exhilarating to see one of contemporary cinema’s most thrilling directors tackling long-form storytelling with such relish.

Rowan Woods

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