As I left the cinema after Friday’s closing movie of the 2021 London Korean Film Fest, somewhat on a high because it was such a good film and Q+A, I observed to a friend I happened to bump into: “That was the best closing gala for years!”
As I said that, the most recent decent closing movie I could bring to mind was Im Kwon-taek’s Hwajang. That movie had closed the festival in 2014. Between then and now all I could remember was the infuriatingly wtf-minimalist Love And… (Zhang Lu) and a Hong Sangoo. To be fair, I’ve often been on holiday during the LKFF so I won’t have watched many of the recent closing movies. But I’m fairly diligent in reviewing the schedules, and I couldn’t remember being disappointed at missing any of the final screenings.
So I thought I’d look through the archives and see whether there had indeed been a recent trend of ultra-indie / art-house / minority interest movies closing the festival in recent years.
Here’s the result: a list of opening and closing movies from all London Korean Film Festivals going back to 2003, which is as far back as I have records, though I remember attending a really good festival in 2001 for which I think the closing movie might have been JSA.
|Year||Opening movie||Closing movie||Organiser|
|2003||Hi, Dharma! (Park Chul-Kwan)||YMCA Baseball Team (Kim Hyeon-Seok)||KACC|
|2004||Memories of Murder (Bong Joon-ho)||Oldboy (Park Chan-wook)||KACC|
|2005||Rikidozan (Song Hae-sung)||Windstruck (Kwak Jae-young)||KACC|
|2006||Princess Aurora (Bang Eun-jin)||Rules of Dating (Han Jae-rim)||KACC|
|2006||Typhoon (Kwak Kyung-taek)||Crying Fist (Ryoo Seung-wan)||KCCUK|
|2007||Breath (Kim Ki-duk)||I’m a Cyborg (Park Chan-wook)||KCCUK|
|2008||The Good, the Bad and the Weird (Kim Ji-woon)||Public Enemy Returns (Kang woo-seok)||KCCUK|
|2009||Thirst (Park Chan-wook)||Frozen Flower (Yoo Ha)||KCCUK|
|2010||The Man from Nowhere (Lee Jeong-beom)||The Housemaid (Im Sang-soo)||KCCUK|
|2011||War of the Arrows (Kim Han-min)||The Unjust (Ryoo Seung-wan)||KCCUK|
|2012||The Thieves (Choi Dong-hoon)||Masquerade (Choo Chang-min)||KCCUK|
|2013||Hide and Seek (Huh Jung)||Boomerang Family (Song Hae-sung)||KCCUK|
|2014||Kundo: Age of the Rampant (Yoon Jongbin)||Revivre (Im Kwon-taek)||KCCUK|
|2015||Ode to My Father (JK Youn)||Love And… (Zhang Lu)||KCCUK|
|2016||What Lies Beneath (Lee Kyoung-mi)||Yourself and Yours (Hong Sang-soo)||KCCUK|
|2017||The Day After (Hong Sangsoo)||The First Lap (Kim Dae-hwan)||KCCUK|
|2018||Microhabitat (Jeon Go-woon)||The Return (Malene Choi)||KCCUK|
|2019||The Seashore Village (Kim Soo-yong)||Scattered Night (Lee Jihyoung and Kim Sol)||KCCUK|
|2020||Pawn (Kang Dae kyu)||Bori (Kim Jinyu)||KCCUK|
|2021||Escape From Mogadishu (Ryoo Seung-wan)||Heaven: To the Land of Happiness (Im Sang-soo)||KCCUK|
I haven’t looked at the budget of the various films, or box office statistics, but I think the above list bears out my gut reaction as I left the theatre on Friday. Of course, budget and box office does not guarantee a worthwhile viewing experience. There are plenty of big-budget stinkers and conversely plenty of art-house gems. But from 2015-2020 the only closing movie I’m a little sad to have missed is Marlene Choi’s The Return, which Bella Frey reviewed here.
Everyone has their own preferences, but I’m personally quite happy if we’re returning to slightly more mainstream films as a way to round off the festival in style. Im Sang-soo’s Heaven: To the Land of Happiness was a great way to spend a couple of hours and consequently leaves me with warm feelings about the festival as a whole.