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Korean movies at LEAFF 2023 (updated)

Date: Wednesday 18 October - Sunday 29 October 2023
Various venues

Tickets: Various | Ticket links below
LEAFF poster

This year, LEAFF presents a special Retrospective strand dedicated to the works of Director Chung Ji-Young (1946-), known to be the Ken Loach of South Korea. The cinema veteran is known for compelling storytelling based on real-life cases. 2023 marks the 40th anniversary since his directorial debut. In order to celebrate, LEAFF brings 8 of his titles to the screens in London.

This post will be updated with details of the other Korean movies screening at LEAFF as and when they become available. Details will be available on the LEAFF website first.

Update 1 26 Sept: As in previous years, LEAFF also has a Stories of Women strand. This year’s strand includes Her Hobby (dir Ha Myung Mi, 2023). Details further down the page. Sadly, the movie clashes with Chung Ji-young’s Black Money. Not sure why LEAFF has to copy LKFF in its inconsiderate scheduling decisions.

Update 2 28 Sept: Other strands announced in the last two days – Classics Restored and Halloween Horror – feature Taiwanese and Japanese movies respectively. But based on previous years, there should be plenty more strands to come which should include some more Korean stuff.

Update 3 29 Sept: LEAFF announced today that its documentary strand this year has an environmental focus, and includes an important documentary on Saemangeum. Details lower down the page. It makes for a nice Korean documentary double bill at Selfridges on 26 October. Oh, and the ticket links for the two Chung Ji-young movies at Selfridges have now been added.

Update 4 30 Sept: The opening and closing movies have been announced – both of them Korean. The opener is also Chung Ji-young’s latest movie and thus kicks off the retrospective of his oeuvre. The closing gala, Concrete Utopia, is Korea’s entry for the 96th Academy Awards. The LGBTQIA+ strand has also been announced – but the BFI Flare and Queer East festivals earlier this year stole any Korean movie that might have featured in this strand.

Update 5 – final 2 Oct: The Official Selection and Competition strands have now been announced. I reckon that makes it a complete line-up now. 16 Korean movies in total across all the strands, including 6 director Q&As. The LKFF I think might struggle to compete in what probably has not been one of the best of recent years for Korean cinema so far.

Opening Gala

The Boys (소년들) + Q&A with the Director [UK premiere]

Dir. Chung Ji-Young | Korea | 2023 | 124 mins | 18+
Wednesday October 18, 18:00 | ODEON Luxe West End, Screen 1 Buy tickets

Still from The BoysDirector Hwang of Wanju Police Station receives a report that the true criminals of ‘Samrye Nara-Supermarket Murder Case’ are not the ones currently arrested. He tries to exonerate the falsely accused suspects but gets intercepted by Choi Woo-sung, the detective in charge, and the cartel of public prosecutors and Yoon Mi-sook, the victim who survived but refused to cooperate due to her trauma, and gets repositioned to a distant island. 15 years later, the three suspects and Yoon Mi-sook come to director Hwang asking for help with retrial, and director Hwang overcomes the past where he could not uncover the truth against political powers and finally draws testimony of the true criminal.

Closing Gala

Concrete Utopia (콘크리트 유토피아) + Closing Gala Ceremony, Introduction and Q&A with Director Um Tae-hwa, Actor Park Bo-young [UK Premiere]

Dir. Um Tae-hwa | Korea | 2023 | 130 mins | 18+
Sunday October 29, 19:00 | ODEON Luxe Leicester Square Buy tickets

Still from Concrete UtopiaThe world has been reduced to rubble by a massive earthquake. While no one knows for sure how far the ruins stretch, or what the cause of the earthquake may be, in the heart of Seoul there is only one apartment building left standing. It is called Hwang Gung Apartments. As time passes, outsiders start coming in to Hwang Gung Apartments trying to escape the extreme cold. Before long, the apartment residents are unable to cope with the increasing numbers. Feeling a threat to their very survival, the residents enact a special measure.

Official Selection

Road to Boston + Q&A with Director Kang Je-gyu

Still from Road to Boston: a head-on shot of runners in a road raceDir. Kang Je-gyu | Korea | 2023 | 108 mins | 18+
Thursday October 19, 18:00 | ODEON Luxe West End Buy tickets

Road to Boston is a biographical sports film that tells the story of Korean athletes who participated in the Boston International Marathon in 1947, the first international marathon held since World War II.

Killing Romance + Q&A with Director Lee Won-Suk

Dir. Lee Won-Suk | Korea | 2023 | 106 mins | 18+
Friday October 20, 18:00 | ODEON Luxe West End Buy tickets

Still from Killing RomanceYeo-rae is a top star who became a laughingstock because of her bad acting skills. To escape from reality, she heads to Qualla Island and is saved by Jonathan. Yeo-rae marries Jonathan and retires from show business. Meanwhile, Bum-woo is a long-time student who used to be part of Yeo-rae’s fan club, so when he learns that Yeo-rae has moved next door to him, he is delighted. Yeo-rae is tired of being Jonathan’s doll. The two of them start scheming to kill Jonathan and take back Yeo-rae’s life.

In Our Day

Dir. Hong Sang-Soo | Korea | 2023 | 83 mins | 18+
Saturday October 21, 12:00 | ODEON Luxe West End Buy tickets

Still from In Our Day: a girl with a persian catA woman in her early 40s, is temporarily living at the home of a friend, who is raising a cat. Another person, a man in his 70s living alone, had his cat die of old age. Today each of them had a visitor — a woman in her 20s for the woman, and a man in his 30s for the old man. Both visitors came with serious questions to ask. The woman answered them rather briefly while standing up, while the old man ended up giving longer answers in an extended conversation. Both of them had ramyun for lunch in front of their guests, and coincidentally enough, they both added hot pepper paste to their ramyun. It’s not a very common thing to add hot pepper paste to ramyun…


Hopeless + Q&A with Director Kim Chang-hoon, Actor Hong Xa-bin

Dir. Kim Chang-hoon | Korea | 2023 | 133 mins | 18+
Saturday October 28, 17:30 | ODEON Luxe West End Buy tickets

Still from Hopeless: two men with dirty faces glare into each other's eyesYeon-gyu is a teenage boy who wants to escape his hometown where violence is commonly enacted among neighbors. He only hopes to have a peaceful life with his mother. However, the world never allows him to have a dream nor hope for life. When Yeon-gyu needs a hand from grown-ups, Chi-geon, a thug of the town, offers a favor. The simple favor leads Yeon-gyu to explore the world of Chi-geon. It ironically results Yeon-gyu gradually falling into Chi-geon’s life. Grasping a hope to run away from where he is, he struggles between the border. Can he escape from the town at the end?

Iron Mask

Dir. Kim Sung-hwan | Korea | 2023 | 100 mins | 18+
Saturday October 28, 15:00 | ODEON Luxe West End Buy tickets

Still from Iron Mask - a close-up of a kendo maskJae-woo, who was selected in the survival process to enter the final entry of the national kendo team, meets Tae-su there, who killed his older brother when he was young. He faces Tae-su as a competitor but Tae-su is invincible. Seeing Tae-su in peace and not being able to outdo him constantly suffocates Jae-woo. He becomes agitated as the training comes to an end and his feelings in his deepest mind starts to burst out.

Chung Ji-young retrospective

Chung Ji-young

The Chung Ji-young films screening are as follows:

The Boys (소년들) + Q&A with the Director [UK premiere]

See Opening Gala above

Life and Death of the Hollywood Kid (헐리우드 키드의 생애) + Q&A with the Director [UK premiere]

Dir. Chung Ji-Young | Korea | 1994 | 120 mins | 18+
Thursday October 19, 20:00 | ODEON Luxe West End, Screen 2 Buy tickets

Still from Life and Death of the Hollywood KidThe story of film director Yun Myoggil and his best friend Lim Byoungsuk whom has obsessive with watching American film. Lim gave his playscript to Yun to make a film. Yun begins to realise that the most of script was replicated.

Nambugun / North Korean Partisans in South Korea (남부군)

Dir. Chung Ji Young | Korea | 1990 | 157 mins | 18+
Friday October 20, 20:00 | ODEON Luxe West End, Screen 2 Buy tickets

Still from North Korean Partisans in South KoreaThis film explores a North Korean perspective of the long, grueling account of the Korean War based on memoirs of Lee Tae, former news agency correspondent who fought for North Korean partisans.

Black Money (블랙머니)

Dir. Chung Ji-Young | Korea | 2019 | 113 mins | 18+
Saturday October 21, 14:00 | ODEON Luxe West End, Screen 2 Buy tickets

Still from Black MoneyYang Min-hyuk works as a prosecutor for the Seoul District Prosecutor’s Office. He deals with case involving Park Soo-kyung, an employee of Daehan Bank, who bumped into multiple cars on the freeway. Days later, Park Soo-kyung is found dead. Prior to her death, her last text message was sent to her younger sister. She claimed that she was sexually assaulted by Prosecutor Yang. Her death is then ruled a suicide, and Min-hyuk attempts to clear his name. With his investigation, he soon learns that Park Soo-kyung was murdered, and she was also a witness to the sale of Daehan Bank for an unusually low price…

White Badge (하얀전쟁)

Dir. Chung Ji-Young | Korea | 1992 | 124 mins | 18+
Sunday October 22, 14:00 | ODEON Luxe West End, Screen 2 Buy tickets

Still from White BadgeKiju Han, a journalist, must face his memories of Vietnam as he writes a series of articles on the subject for his local newspaper. The articles attract a fellow veteran, Chinsu Pyeon, who begins randomly appearing in Han’s life. The film, through a series of flashbacks, depicts both the events in Vietnam and their aftermath in the lives of these two soldiers.

National Security (남영동 1985)

Dir. Chung Ji-Young | Korea | 2012 | 106 mins | 18+
Wednesday October 25, 21:00 | The Cinema at Selfridges Buy tickets

Still from National SecurityIn September 1985, when the brutal military dictatorial regime censors every sound made by the public, KIM Jong-tae, an ordinary father and advocate of democracy, is arrested by the police. Blindfolded, he gets stuck in the interrogation room in Namyoung-dong where the government’s national security HQ is located at. From that day, KIM goes through a series of brutal torture in the dark, small room and is forced to confess that he is under the control of North Korea. While KIM refuses to make false statement, the agency brings LEE Doo-han, an infamous torture artist, nicknamed “The Undertaker”, and the brutal 22 days’ nightmare is going to change KIM’s life as never before.

Ari Ari the Korean Cinema (영화판)

Dir. Heo Chul, Chung Ji-Young | Korea | 2012 | 83 mins | 15+
Thursday October 26, 21:30 | The Cinema at Selfridges Buy tickets

Still from Ari Ari the Korean CinemaActress Yoon Jin-seo and director Chung Ji-young set out on a journey to diagnose Korean cinema’s future. They meet with and listen to many industry professionals, reading various tensions in their talks.

Unbowed (부러진 화살)

Dir. Chung Ji-Young | Korea | 2011 | 110 mins | 18+
Saturday October 28, 11:00 | ODEON Luxe West End, Screen 2 Buy tickets

Still from UnbowedAfter refusing to cover up the affiliated university’s error regarding the university entrance exam, Professor KIM Kyoung-ho is unfairly dismissed. He loses his lawsuit for reinstatement and his appeal is overruled without reason. So he threatens the judge with a crossbow demanding a fair trial and the two wrestle ending up with the judge claiming a blood wound. However, KIM argues that he did not shoot the judge and the trial proceeds with difficulties: a battle at court without concessions, confronting statements, crucial evidences missing. Lawyers give up on KIM due to his uncompromising character. But when he meets an unorthodox lawyer PARK, the trials start to get lively.

Stories of Women strand

Her Hobby (그녀의 취미생활) [UK premiere] + Q&A with the Director

Dir. Ha Myung Mi | Korea | 2023 | 118 mins | 18+
Saturday October 21, 14:30 | ODEON Luxe West End Buy tickets

Still from Her HobbyJeong-in, who recently divorced a violent husband, moves back to her hometown. While suffering from nosy villagers, she is soon drawn to Hye-jung, a newcomer to the town. Two young women soon get closer and Hye-jung’s freewheeling and confident character inspires Jeong-in to break free of her wretched life. One day, Hye-jung suggests Jeong-in share a ‘hobby’ with her, and now their bloody hobby is about to begin. Adapted from a novel of the same name by Seo Mi Ae (also author of The Only Child)

Cherish the World strand

Sura: A Love Song (수라)

Dir. Hwang Yun | Korea | 2022 | 102 mins
Thursday October 26, 19:00 | The Cinema at Selfridges Buy tickets

SuraAfter quitting filmmaking about the tidal flat that underwent Saemangeum Seawall Project a few years ago, she moved to Gunsan, a city of Saemangeum, as she seemed destined to. Sura: A Love Song delivers the course of rediscovering the beauty of the tidal flat working together with the Citizens’ Survey Group on Saemangeum that has continued its research for nearly twenty years.

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