The Slug 태어나길 잘했어 (2020) Dir: Choi Jin-young (South Korea) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

The Slug 

태어나길 잘했어 Taeeonagil Jalhaesseo

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 99 mins.

Director: Choi Jin-young

Writer: Choi Jin-young (Script), 

Starring: Kang Jin-a, Park Hye-jin, Hong Sang-pyo, Byeon Jung-hi, Kim Geum-soon, Lim Ho-jun, Hwang Mi-young, Yoo Kyung-sang,

OAFF Korean Movie Database Website

The Slug is the English-language title for South Korean filmmaker Choi Jin-young’s debut feature. While it may be a reference to the main character who suffers from excessive sweat or the slugs she finds, it pales in comparison to the Korean title which loosely translates as “it was good that you were born,” or “thank you for being born.” This positive affirmation is thematically important and something that the film’s protagonist needs to hear as shown in a story that mixes a tragic background, coming-of-age tropes, and first love as brought together by a fantastical time-slip twist to create a life-affirming story that finds hope in an indifferent world.

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Three Sisters 세자매 Director: Lee Seung-won (2020) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

Three Sisters    Three Sisters Film Poster

세자매 Se Ja-mae

Release Date: January 27th, 2021

Duration: 115 mins.

Director: Lee Seung-won

Writer: Lee Seung-won (Script), 

Starring: Moon So-ri, Kim Sun-young, Jang Yoon-ju, Cho Han-cheul, Hyun Bong-sik, Kim Ga-hee,

OAFF IMDB KoBiz

Three Sisters is the latest feature from Lee Seung-won, a writer and director with a background in theatre. Much like his two previous films, Communication & Lies (2015) and especially Happy Bus Day (2017), it plies the territory of damaged people and broken family relations. The main difference with Three Sisters compared to Lee’s earlier works is that it is less abrasive due to its finely polished visual sheen and also its script which sneaks tragedy on audiences behind black comedy and a non-linear narrative. These varying tones serve Lee’s desire to show acting at its best as he provides his leads with drama found through well-realised characters dealing with an explosive legacy.

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Beasts Clawing at Straws 지푸라기라도 잡고 싶은 짐승들 Dir: Kim Yong-hoon (2020)

Beasts Clawing at Straws    Beasts Clawing at Straws Film poster

지푸라기라도 잡고 싶은 짐승들「Jipuragirado Jabgo Sipeun Jibseungdeul

Running Time: 108 mins.

Release Date: February 19th, 2020

Director: Kim Yong-hoon

Writer: Kim Yong-hoon (Screenplay), Keisuke Sone (Original Novel – 藁にもすがる獣たち)

Starring: Jeon Do-yeon (Yeon-hee), Jung Woo-sing (Tae-young), Bae Sung-woo (Jung-man), Jung Ga-ram (Jin-Tae), Kyung Jin (Young-Seon),

IMDB

Crime thriller Beasts Clawing at Straws is the debut feature of director Kim Yong-hoon and while he may be new name on the scene what is on the screen has all of the narrative slickness and stylistic panache associated with Korean cinema to ensure it stands with the best of his nation’s crime films.

Based on a Japanese novel by Keisuke Sone, it’s hard to imagine a director from Japan, outside of Takeshi Kitano or Tetsuya Nakashima, being able to do this hard-boiled story with the grit, the grue, the darkness, the bouncy pacing and the wry sense of humour that seems more natural for modern Korean film-makers and Kim applies these elements to a collection of morally compromised characters colliding with each other as they all chase a Louis Vuitton Boston bag stuffed to the brim with cash.

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Way Back Home 비밀의 정원 Dir: Park Sun-joo (2019) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

Way Back Home    Way Back Home Film Poster

비밀의 정원 Bimilui jeongwon

Release Date: October 05th, 2019

Duration: 113 mins.

Director: Park Sun-joo

Writer: Park Sun-joo (Script), 

Starring: Han Woo-yun, Jun Suk-ho, Jung Da-eun, Oh Min-ae, Yeom Hye-ran, Yoo Jae-myung,

OAFF IMDB Korean Film

Director Park Sun-joo graduated from making short films to her debut feature by adapting her 2017 short Mild Fever, winner of the Asian Short Film & Video Competition Grand Prize at the 19th Seoul International Women’s Film Festival, to make Way Back Home. Taking on the potentially incendiary topic of a woman confronting the emotional fallout from her rape, the film uses a more subdued tone to deliver a realistic depiction of survivors moving on.

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Lucky Chan-sil 찬실이는 복도 많지 Director: Kim Cho-hee (South Korea, 2019) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

Lucky Chan-sil    Lucky Chan-sil Film Poster

찬실이는 복도 많지 Chan-sil-i-neun Bok-do-man-ji

Release Date: October 04th, 2019

Duration: 96 mins.

Director: Kim Cho-hee

Writer: Kim Cho-hee (Script), 

Starring: Kang Mal-geum, Youn Yuh-jung, Kim Young-min, Yoon Seung-ah, Bae Yu-ram,

OAFF IMDB Korean Film

The old writer’s adage that it is better to write what you know is put into perfect effect by director Kim Cho-hee in her sprightly and amusing debut feature film, a somewhat autobiographical movie full of wry comedy and existential angst which won both the KBS Independent Film and CGV Arthouse awards at the 2019 Busan International Film Festival. 

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The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil 악인전 Dir: Lee Won-Tae (South Korea, 2019)

The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil    TheGangsterTheCopTheDevil_Poster

악인전  Akinjeon

Release Date: May 15th, 2019

Duration: 110 mins.

Director: Lee Won-Tae

Writer: Lee Won-Tae (Screenplay),

Starring: Ma Dong-Seok, Kim Moo-Yul, Kim Sung-Kyu, Yoo Seung-Mok, Choi Min-Chul, Kim Yoon-Sung, Heo Dong-Won, Oh Hee-Joon, Kim Gyu-Ri,

IMDB

“Don’t let the devil win!” reads the tag-line of the film and it’s down to two bad guys to catch the worst man in this glossy thriller where a gangster and a loose-cannon of a cop team up to catch a serial killer.

Apparently based on a true story, the film is set in 2005/6 (best shown by the flip-phones and stubby cameras) and opens with the Devil (Kim Sung-Kyu) cruising the streets of Cheonan city looking for a victim for his murderous impulses. We see his M.O. of rear-ending cars on lonely roads and viciously knifing the unsuspecting driver when pretending to check on their safety. The narrative then shuffles him into the background to quickly sketch out the rivalry between two rogues, hulking gang boss Jang Dong-Su (Ma Dong-Seok aka Don Lee) and loud-mouth Detective Jung Tae-Seok (Kim Moo Yul). Jang Dong-Su is seen amidst business negotiations and turf rivalries, usually settling things with his boulder-like fists, while Jung Tae-Seok is a brash character who refuses bribes and has keen detective skills as evidenced by the fact he is the only one to sense that a serial killer is on the loose.

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Maggie 메기 Dir: Yi Ok-seop (2018) South Korea Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

Maggie   

메기

Running Time: 88 mins.

Release Date: October 2018

Director: Yi Ok-seop

Writer: Yi Ok-seop, Koo Kyo-hwan (Screenplay),

Starring: Lee Ju-young, Moon So-ri, Koo Kyo-hwan, Lee Ju-yeong, Mun So-ri, Koo Gyo-Hwan, Myeong Gye-nam, Kim Kkobbi Flowerain,

IMDB

http://www.oaff.jp/2019/en/program/c09.html

Winner of the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019’s Grand Prix (Best Picture Award) as well as Busan International Film Festival 2018’s CGV Art House Award and Citizens’ Critic Award, Maggie heralds a new directing talent in Yi Ok-Seop, someone who brings a lively verve to her examination of how doubt can infect everything and how such an infection should be cured by seeking the truth. It’s a large topic tackled with a disparate range of elements from a talking catfish to mysterious seismic activities and audiences will be forgiven for having doubts of their own as to how everything links up and if it will be satisfying but it works in the end.

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Seoul Station 서울역 Dir: Yeon Sang-Ho (2016)

Seoul Station   

서울역 Seoulyeok

Running Time: 92 mins.

Release Date: August 18th, 2016

Director:  Yeon Sang-Ho

Writer: Yeon Sang-Ho (Screenplay),

Starring: Shim Eun-Kyung, Ryoo Seung-Ryong, Lee Joon, Jang Hyuk-Hin, Lee Sang-Hee, Hwang Suk-Jung, Kim Nam-Jin,

IMDB

Seoul Station is the animated prequel to Train to Busan (TtB). Both made in 2016, the animation was released a couple of months before its more famous live-action sibling according to IMDB. It features similar themes to TtB in its criticism of an unjust society but it does not have a drop of sentimentality. This is a bleak look at life at the bottom in Seoul as the city stands on the cusp of a zombie apocalypse.

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Train to Busan 부산행 Dir: Yeon Sang-Ho (2016)

Train to Busan   Train to Busan Film Poster

부산행 Busanhaeng

Running Time: 118 mins.

Release Date: July 20th, 2016

Director:  Yeon Sang-Ho

Writer: Yeon Sang-Ho, Park Joo-Suk (Screenplay),

Starring: Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-Mi, Ma Dong-Seok, Kim Soo-Ahn, Kim Eui-Sung, Choi Woo-Sik, Ahn So-Hee, Shim Eun-Kyung,

IMDB

Train to Busan was something of a global success for the Korean film industry in 2016 when it played to rave reviews at sold-out screenings in a variety of festivals. Familiarity with director Yeon Sang-Ho’s previous works which are animated dramas The King of Pigs and The Fake (both released in the UK under Terracotta) won’t prepare you for this film which is a non-stop thriller light on horror but never sidelines character development.

The action follows Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo), a handsome fund manager who lives with his daughter Soo-An (Kim Soo-Ahn) and mother in a fancy apartment in Seoul. The demands of his job meant his wife disembarked from the marriage and it is now affecting his relationship with his daughter who he doesn’t spend time with. Indeed, this is shown in how he misses a school recital and tasks a subordinate to get the cute girl a Nintendo Wii for her birthday little realising that he had bought one a few months earlier. Soo-An, feeling neglected, insists on staying with her mother in Busan for her birthday. A heartbreaking, “I won’t waste your time. I can go alone by myself.” uttered by Soo-An gets across the distance between the two.

Seok-Woo feels the gap and the guilt but he has no other choice but to take her on a train to Busan.

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Night Working 夜間勤務 Dir: Kim Jung-eun (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Night Working

夜間勤務 Yakan kinmu

Running Time: 27 mins.

Director: Kim Jung-eun

Writer: Kim Jung-eun (Screenplay),

Starring: Sreng Vuchny, Kim Yae-eun, Gil Hae-yeon,

The Osaka Asian Film Festival is a fun event to attend and also serves as a highly informative window into migration of Asians around the world. One short film that really struck a chord with me was Night Working (2017). Set in Korea, it takes two women, Lyn, a young Cambodian migrant worker, and a working-class Korean named Yeonhee, and shows how the youthful generation are facing the same hardships and have the same desires and are looking for hope elsewhere.

Their stories are told with simplicity and heartfelt kindness through mirroring and parallelism of lives and actions. Both work the night shift at a small port-side factory in Incheon. They are trying to earn as much money as possible to send back to their families and better their lives.

Narration from a letter Lyn is in the process of writing to her mother opens the film along with scenes of her daily life and as she narrates we see how she overcame initial fears of being alone and established a bond with Yeonhee and we get a lovely shot of them cycling to work during the onset of dusk.

Night Working Film Image2

The story shows the friendship the two have built and how, for Lyn, her shared sense of kinship with the seemingly confident Yeonhee helps her cope with their boss’ unfair treatment at work. Lyn is in a stable place. Lyn is happy. This connection means a lot. All she wants is simple. She tells Yeonhee:

“I want to go to the sea. With you.”

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