Border 경계 (2023) Director: Mai Nakanishi


경계 Geyong-gye

Release Date: 2023

Duration: 6 mins.

Director: Mai Nakanishi

Writer: Mai Nakanishi (Screenplay/Original Story),

Starring: Juhee Lee, Wanmin Chai, Sohee Lee,

Website IMDB

Horror maven Mai Nakanishi provides a quick follow-up to her Taiwan-set supernatural story Swallow (interview) with a six-minute micro-budget short named Border.

Acting as writer, director, editor, and visual effects artist, she shot the film with a team half comprised of women and featuring sound effects from the team who worked on The Wailing. With Border, she has made what is her most violent vision yet, a twist on the home invasion formula where the safety of the domestic space is shattered in a nightmarish manner that surprises both the protagonist and the audience. Slight spoilers ahead.

BORDER_main still R

We are in South Korea watching a young woman (Juhee Lee), home alone late in the evening. She is settling down to watch a drama after getting off the phone. On the screen, the handsome actor (Wanmin Chae) offers flowers to an actress (Sohee Lee). We listen to his honeyed words of love and togetherness. They move the woman watching their televised performance. 

Continue reading “Border 경계 (2023) Director: Mai Nakanishi”

Thoughts on Korean Netflix Shows “Hellbound” and “All of Us Are Dead”

Late to the party, I’ve finally watched a few of Netflix’s Asian output. Due to all the hype surrounding Squid Games, I went with other, lesser-known-to-me Korean titles especially since I had read enough spoilers to dissuade me from pursuing the series when I have limited time.

My first, and most anticipated, was the six-episode show Hellbound. Despite coming from Yeong Sang-ho (King of Pigs, Train to Busan, Seoul Station, Peninsula), I lost interest in it pretty quickly.

The idea of a supernatural disaster movie involving people being condemned to hell and being sent there by way of the fists and flames of three fearsome fire-throwing monsters was intriguing. Initially, at least.

Continue reading “Thoughts on Korean Netflix Shows “Hellbound” and “All of Us Are Dead””

Aloners 혼자 사는 사람들 Director: Hong Sung-eun (South Korea) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Aloners    Aloners Film Poster

혼자 사는 사람들 Honja saneun saramdeul

Release Date: May 19th, 2021

Duration: 91 mins.

Director: Hong Sung-eun

Writer: Hong Sung-eun (Screenplay),

Starring: Gong Seung-yeon, Jung Da-eun, Seo Hyun-woo, Kim Mo-beom, Kim Hannah,

Website IMDB

Winner of Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022‘s Grand Prix (Best Picture) award, Aloners is an accomplished debut film made by Hong Sung-eun after she graduated from the Korean Academy of Film Arts. In her portrait of a young woman living solo in Seoul, Hong broaches the highly global topic of the way people become isolated from others by the demands and distractions of an urban capitalist economy. This convincing portrait of isolation, done without without didacticism or contrivance, is one that can lead viewers to understand how societies become atomised. 

“I’m no good on my own. I just pretend to be.”

Yu Jina (Gong Seung-yeon) is our protagonist and when we meet her we see that she has become the top employee at a credit card company call centre where she does her nine-to-five. The company motto is “Happy Your Life” but this is a sentiment she feigns on the line with her effortlessly breezy but ultimately coldly efficient treatment of the often angry people who call in and how we see that her smooth delivery is a massive contrast to the ire with which she treats others in the real world.

Continue reading “Aloners 혼자 사는 사람들 Director: Hong Sung-eun (South Korea) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]”

Boundary: Flaming Feminist Action 바운더리 Dir: Yun Ga-hyun (South Korea) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Boundary: Flaming Feminist Action

바운더리 Baundeoli

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 107 mins.

Director: Yun Ga-hyun

Writer: N/A

Starring: Lee Ga-hyun, Kim Se-jeong, Kim Mi-hyun,

While misogyny is far from something exclusive to South Korea¹, the recent news of the success of Yoon Suk-yeol will concentrate minds on the country as he ran on some explicitly misogynist and anti-feminist messaging. With his statements that sexism is dead and he will shut down the Ministry of Equality, it seems that the hopes of a more equitable society for women in a nation ranked 102 on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report have been pushed further away for now. However, nothing in life is guaranteed and a blueprint of resistance to patriarchy, conservatism, and misogyny can be found in Yun Ga-hyun’s documentary Boundary: Flaming Feminist Action which records the testimonies of three friends who the director was involved with in the titular Flaming Feminist Action group.

The group had its foundations in the collaboration between female university students who had initially started out in labour organising but became interested in feminism. Soon, they combined networking and learning with sport by forming the Flaming Basketball team. However, they evolved into a vocal vanguard for many women seeking solace and justice after the stabbing of a young woman in 2016 in what became known as the Gangnam Station Toilet Murder Case.

Continue reading “Boundary: Flaming Feminist Action 바운더리 Dir: Yun Ga-hyun (South Korea) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]”

The Girl on a Bulldozer 불도저에 탄 소녀 Director: Park Ri-woong (South Korea) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

The Girl on a Bulldozer    The Girl on a Bulldozer Film Poster

불도저에 탄 소녀 Buldojeoe tan sonyeo

Release Date: April, 2022

Duration: 113 mins.

Director: Park Ri-woong

Writer: Park Ri-woong, (Screenplay)

Starring: Kim Hye-yoon, Park Hyuck-kwon, Yesung,

Over the last five years it feels like South Korean filmmakers have put forth ever increasing numbers of complicated and interesting female lead characters in their films – Lucky Chan-sil and The Slug are my favourites. This tallies with the rise in women sitting in the director’s seat but men are also doing their part as Park Ri-woong’s debut feature, The Girl on a Bulldozer, shows. Although some have billed it as a revenge-thriller (and the poster has those vibes), this is more of a drama of a working-class girl going against the odds to right a wrong done to her family by a rich bad guy. 

Continue reading “The Girl on a Bulldozer 불도저에 탄 소녀 Director: Park Ri-woong (South Korea) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]”

Afternoon Landscape Dir: Sohn Koo-yong (2020) South Korea [Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2021]

Afternoon Landscape

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 73 mins.

Director: Sohn Koo-yong

Writer: N/A

Starring: Noh Seung-hyun


Featured in Yamagata International Film Festival’s New Asian Currents program, a section dedicated to works that invite you “… to worlds captured and imagined by the filmmakers”, Sohn Koo-yong’s Afternoon Landscape draws us into scenes of a town in Seoul on a balmy summer’s day that feel they are drawn from memory.

Life moves at a quiet pace in these scenes, the settings of which feel like a suburban place as we see sleepy sun-dappled streets, riversides, small clothing stores, and more. Mountains form a backdrop for some places and there is a sense that these areas are where the city and countryside meet. The soundscape of cicadas, passing traffic, flowing water, and leaves that rustle together with every gust of wind add to the atmosphere of these slice-of-life moments which feel rife with nostalgia.

Continue reading “Afternoon Landscape Dir: Sohn Koo-yong (2020) South Korea [Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival 2021]”

I Don’t Fire Myself  나는 나를 해고하지 않는다 Director: Lee Tae-Gyeom (2021) [New York Asian Film Festival 2021]

I Don’t Fire Myself    I Don't Fire Myself Film Poster

나는 나를 해고하지 않는다 Na-neun Na-reul Hae-go-ha-ji Ahn-neun-da

Release Date: January 28th, 2021

Duration: 110 mins.

Director: Lee Tae-Gyeom

Writer: Lee Tae-Gyeom, Kim Ja-en, (Script),

Starring: Yoo Da-In (Jung-Eun), Oh Jung-Se (Seo Choong-Sik),


I Don’t Fire Myself is a slow-burn drama depicting resistance against corporate exploitation. It does this through the journey, both mental and physical, of lead character Jeong-eun (Yoo Da-in), a technical administrator whose bosses, in an attempt to make her quit work, force her join a subcontracting company located in the middle of nowhere with the proviso is that if she can stick out her year-long exile she can return to her original job. It will be tough because the tasks Jeong-eun will have to do are a far cry from the admin she specialised in as she joins a team of four rough-and-ready guys in scaling and maintaining pylons along a coastal landscape.

Getting off to an atmospheric start, we see Jeong-eun’s descent from the city to the outer edges of civilisation via a long drive along country roads. Her fancy car and business attire mark her as an outsider to the small-town folk she meets, especially her new colleagues who ride out to work with dirty and battered boots, coveralls, harnesses, hardhats, and ropes while she remains behind to do paperwork in the company’s small office.

The story then moves forward with a depiction of her attempts at getting to know the guys, the economic troubles of their company, and getting past prejudice as she grows into her new role. Resistance to her presence is more complicated than her being a woman, for she is an outsider foisted upon this tight-knit group of men when they are in a dire financial situation. That, and she is relatively untested in the art of pylon climbing. Even if she can cope with the work, someone on the team will lose their job because Jeong-eun’s salary has to be paid from their dwindling budget.

Continue reading “I Don’t Fire Myself  나는 나를 해고하지 않는다 Director: Lee Tae-Gyeom (2021) [New York Asian Film Festival 2021]”

Escape from Mogadishu 모가디슈 (2021) Director: Ryoo Seung-wan [New York Asian Film Festival 2021]

Escape from Mogadishu    EscapeFromMogadishu_WellGoUSA_OfficialPoster_1382x2048

모가디슈 Mogadisyu

Release Date: July 28th 2021

Duration: 121 mins.

Director: Ryoo Seung-wan

Writer: Ryoo Seung-wan, Lee Ki-cheol (Script), 

Starring: Kim Yoon-seok (Han Shin-sung – South Korean ambassador), Zo In-sung (Kang Dae-jin – intelligence officer), Heo Joon-ho (Rim Yong-su – North Korean ambassador), Kim So-jin (Kim Myung-hee – ambassador Han’s wife), Koo Kyo-hwan (Tae Joon-ki – NK intelligence officer), Jung Man-sik,

Website IMDB   Korean Film

Escape From Mogadishu is a based-on-reality ensemble drama set amidst an action movie spectacle. With the backdrop of the Somali Civil War, it provides the pulse-pounding summer entertainment thrills with poignant moments of humanity as a group of opponents must join forces to survive scenes of carnage. 

We are taken Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu, circa 1991. Already unstable, we witness bandits and government forces terrorising the local population and government business done with a massive side-order of corruption. Meanwhile, acting as an undercurrent to life in the city are news reports relaying dispatches from rebellious regions that signal Somalia’s oncoming slide into a decades-long civil war. The whys and wherefores of this turmoil are never gone into detail but what is presented feeds into another conflict, one between the staff of the South Korean embassy and their rivals from North Korea as each seek to curry favour with factions inside the failing Somali government in a diplomatic battle over securing votes for U.N. membership.

Continue reading “Escape from Mogadishu 모가디슈 (2021) Director: Ryoo Seung-wan [New York Asian Film Festival 2021]”

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.

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

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,


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.

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