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London Korean Film Festival Announces 2023 Programme

Yesterday the KCC released the final programme for the 2023 London Korean Film Festival. While in general 2023 has not so far been a stand-out year for Korean film, there’s plenty to enjoy here.

I’m looking forward to seeing Hur Jin-ho’s latest, as his Christmas in August was one of the first Korean movies I watched. The two adaptations of recent short stories – Ha Seong-nan’s Flowers of Mold and Choi Eun-young’s The Summer will also be on my watch-list. And Innocent Witness comes with a strong recommendation from Hangul Celluloid’s Paul Quinn. The programme includes six Q&A sessions and a discussion forum.

We’ve posted the detailed schedule here. A week or so ago, the KCC announced its special focus for this festival – films by alumni of the Korean Acadeny of Film Arts. You can find that announcement here. And here comes the official press release:

London Korean Film Festival Announces 2023 Programme

  • Opening Red Carpet Gala Film: Hur Jin-ho’s A Normal Family
  • Closing Gala Film: Kim Seong-sik’s Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman
  • Special Presentation of Anthony Shim’s Riceboy Sleeps
  • Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA)

(London, 5 October 2023). Following the announcement of the London Korean Film Festival’s (LKFF) upcoming 18th edition which gives special commemoration to the 40th Anniversary of the Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA), the festival is delighted to reveal its 2023 programme. At the BFI Southbank, the London Korean Film Festival will host the Opening and Closing ceremonies in celebration of the 140th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the UK and Korea.

The Festival runs from 2 November – 16 November 2023 with a programme of 40 films comprising the following strands: Cinema Now, Special Focus : 40th Anniversary of KAFA, Women’s Voices, Special Screenings and Korea Season.

Galas and special screenings

A Normal Family
A Normal Family

A Normal Family by Hur Jin-ho will open the festival on the 2nd November at BFI Southbank with the director in attendance. The story is based on the celebrated Dutch novel Het Diner (The Dinner) by Herman Koch, which has sold over a million copies. The latest feature from veteran director Hur Jin-ho is a deft family portrait and a twisty melodrama in which roles reverse, exposing interfraternal and intergenerational rifts through various moral conundrums.

Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman closes the festival on 16th November at BFI Southbank. Based on the Korean webtoon ‘Possessed’ by Hoo and Kim Hong-tae, the comedy action film revolves around a fake exorcist who ends up facing a real case of demonic possession. Starring actor Gang Dong-won (Broker, Peninsula), portrays a fake exorcist, Dr. Cheon. The film is the directorial feature debut of Director Kim Seong-sik, an assistant director to Bong Joon-ho on Parasite (2019) and Park Chan-wook on Decision to Leave (2022).

Special Screenings include Riceboy Sleeps by Korean-Canadian writer-director Anthony Shim. Loosely based on his own life, Riceboy Sleeps is a drama about a Korean single mother raising her young son in Canada in the 1990s.

Cinema Now

Still from Phantom

Cinema Now offers an exciting range of contemporary films, the very latest in Korean cinema. First up, the LKFF’s annual presentation of the latest work of much-loved auteur Hong Sangsoo, Walk Up sees the director reunited with actor Kwon Haehyo and In Front of Your Face (2020) star Lee Hyeyoung. Hong’s monochrome tale of talk and time shows us where private and public selves differ, and how relationships shift. Hail to Hell is a fascinating adventure story and an ironic moral drama created by Writer/director Lim Oh-jeong who combines outlandish planning and imagination. Director Lim will be attending the Q&A and talk event. Chang Hang-jun’s taut neo noir Open The Door looks back over the disintegrating lives of a migrant Korean family across two generations in New Jersey, while inverting its own episodic chronology to suggest inevitable, with every opened door closing on a brighter future. Lee Hae-young’s beautifully stylised Phantom is a spy adventure set during the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945) yet coming with all manner of modern sensibilities. GreenHouse, writer-director-editor Lee Sol-hui’s debut feature, portrays Moon-jung (Kim Seo-hyung)’s struggles as a caregiver to raise enough funds to move from the greenhouse where she lives into a real home for her and her son. Park Sang-min’s I haven’t Done Anything begins with a YouTube-style video documentary about former child actor Oh Tae-kyung, known as “Little Oh Dae-su” for his role as the younger version of Choi Min-sik’s character in Oldboy (2003).

Women’s Voices

Still from The Summer
The Summer

With its Women’s Voices strand, the festival has consistently championed female filmmakers, showcasing the country’s extensive talents. The documentary A Table for Two, directed by Kim Bo-ram (For Vagina’s Sake), shows how the anorexia symptoms experienced by women’s bodies are deeply connected to both surrounding social conditions and one’s close relationships. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Cinematographer Kim Min-ju (A Letter from Kyoto). The Summer, from the director Han Ji-won (Sundance Film Festival Short Film Award Nominee) and based on a short story by Choi Eun-young (Shoko’s Smile, Someone Who Can’t Hurt Me) is the depiction of a queer romance shaped by the conditions of the world and personal ambitions. LKL takes a look at Choi Eun-young’s story here.

Four shorts complete the strand: My Little Aunt, by An Sunyou, is centred on intergenerational women topics and the acceptance of disharmony in a male-centred space. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director An Sunyou and actor Oh Jihoo. A Room of Two Women’s Own by Joan Ji Yey Hui is a horror-fantasy drama short that examines what it means to take care of someone else’s domestic tasks. My Annoying Mother by Lee Hyeji is a short film about a daughter and her mother considering each other’s positions and lives. Finally, Noh Gyeongmu’s How to Get Your Man Pregnant is an animated short that addresses the topic of pregnancy and childbirth through a brilliant and colourful new lens.

Special Focus

Still from Tinker Ticker
Tinker Ticker

The Special Focus Strand will commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Korean Film Academy of Film Arts (KAFA). Created by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) in 1984. KAFA is Korea’s top educational film institution having produced over 700 prominent film-industry talents, including directors such as Bong Joon-ho (Parasite), Hur Jin-ho (Christmas in August, A Normal Family), Choi Dong-hoon (Alienoid), and Jo Sung-hee (Space Sweepers).

As part of the 40th Anniversary of KAFA strand, the festival will host a forum at the Korean Cultural Centre UK on 10th November. Directors Lim Oh-jeong (Hail to Hell) and Kim Min-ju (A Letter from Kyoto), both former students of the Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA), will examine the history of the Korean Film Academy and offer insights into the broader trends of the Korean film industry.

The KAFA strand, programmed by Mo Eunyoung (Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival programmer), includes four feature films and 11 short films. Tinker Ticker (2013) by Kim Jung-hoon – an unconventional exploration into the social anxiety of young people in modern society. Mother Land (2022) by Park Jae-beom – the first feature-length Korean stop-motion feature film since 1978, INGtoogi: The Battle of Internet Trolls (2013) by Um Tae-hwa, his directorial debut, a startling portrayal of the violence keyboard warriors can express in the real world, based on a true story and Our Body (2018) by Han Ka-ram – a fascinating psychological drama on the female body and mind.

KAFA Shorts showcases a selection of short films created by KAFA students and alumni. Some of these films have been screened at both domestic and international film festivals, while others will be new to audiences. Separated in two programmes: the first, A Midsummer’s Fantasia: Films That Break the Norms of Imagination is a section of groundbreaking films that explore the boundaries of cinema. These films are characterised by their strong genre elements and their willingness to experiment with form and style. The screening includes 2001 Imagine (1994) by Jang Joon-hwan, who was lauded for having amazing creative power when the film was released, Scissors (1998) by Lee Gi-cheol, whose works penetrate Korean modern history and Giant’ Room (2012), a creative animated film by Kim Si-jin. The second programme of KAFA shorts includes Kim Se-in‘s short film that preceded her great success The Apartment with Two Women (2022), Container (2018), an urban drama in which we see a young girl who cannot find her place in the world, despite living in a shipping container. The program also includes Don’t Step Out of the House (2008), directed by Jo Sung-hee (Space Sweepers), which won the 3rd Prize at the Cannes Film Festival Cinefondation in 2009.

Korea Season

Still from Innocent Witness
Innocent Witness

Korea Season showcases eight films in two separate strands: four films curated by Choi Eun-young (Programmer of the Persons with Disabilities Film Festival in Korea) that address the theme of disability, and four films that form the Indie Talent strand devoted to highlighting new voices and the work of established directors who are pushing themselves in new directions.

Korea Season – Persons with Disabilities

The first strand includes two feature films and two documentaries. As for the features: My Lovely Angel tells the story of a man who finds new meaning in his life when he learns to communicate with a child who has overlapping audiovisual impairments. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the film directors, Lee Chang-won and Kwon Sung-mo. BSL interpretation will be provided for the introduction and Q&A. Innocent Witness, by Lee Han and co-written by Moon Ji-won (who wrote K-drama “Extraordinary Attorney Woo”), tells the story of Ji-woo, an autistic teenage girl as she stands witness in a murder trial. Corydoras by Ryu Hyungseok examines trust, solidarity, prejudice, and understanding whilst chronicling a Disabled man’s odyssey to search for the meaning of his own life, whereas Jeong Gwanjo’s Nocturne looks at disability in the realms of family, history and art, showing a family in discord reconciling and musical talent.

Korea Season – Indie Talent

Still from A Letter from Kyoto
A Letter from Kyoto

As part of the Indie Talent strand, Kim Min-ju’s family drama A Letter from Kyoto delves into all the complicated tension, affection and misunderstanding that can exist among three grown sisters and their mother. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the director. By the laureate Lee Kwang-kuk, former assistant for Hong Sangsoo, LKFF will show the International premiere of A Wing and a Prayer, his fourth feature film, about two friends and their impulsive trip to Korea’s east coast to make a wish at sunrise. In Flowers of Mold, by the director Shim Hye Jung (A Bedsore, screened at LKFF 2019) and based on Ha Seong-nan’s short story with the same name, a woman has a rather disturbing relationship with rubbish and the information it contains. A Wild Roomer, Lee Jeong-hong’s debut feature, is very much about ordinary, flawed, contradictory human beings and claimed the New Currents Awards, NETPAC Award, Critic b Award and KBS Independent at Busan International Film Festival 2022.

Korea Season is organised by Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Korea Foundation for International Cultural Exchange, and the Korean Cultural Centre UK. Korea Season launched last year to enhance mutual cultural exchanges with other countries. The UK has been selected for this year’s edition to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the nation’s diplomatic ties with Korea.

This year’s festival will be hosted at BFI Southbank, Picturehouse Central, ICA, Ciné Lumière, Rio Cinema, Rich Mix and the Garden Cinema.


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