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

Website 

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.

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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),

IMDB

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.

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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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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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Korea Independent Animation Festival 2019 in Japan

For fans of Asian animation in the English-speaking world, Korea is a bit of an unknown quantity. Despite a few brave bloggers trying to keep track of various titles that get released, actually getting to see the films is pretty hard to do. So, if you are interested in Korean animation and are in Japan, this event will be perfect for you.

Korean Independent Animation Festival 2019 Image

With the onset of Spring, cherry blossom petals will shower the streets whilst on cinema screens will be the delightful sight of Korean animation. Throughout April, at three different locations, the Korea Independent Animation Film Festival will take place.

Osaka goes first from April 06th to the 10th at the Planet +1 cinema, which is located in the bohemian neighbourhood of Nakazakicho near Umeda,

Tokyo gets it from April 19th to the 21st at the Uplink Theatre in trendy Shibuya,

Nagoya is a bit later from July 06th to the 07th at the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, near Sakae station.

A collection of 29 films will be screened and there will be talks over the course of the festival. The films consist of two programmes dedicated to Korean animated shorts, a programme of shorts from creators based in Asia, and a feature film. These are mainly award films of “Indie-AniFest2018”, which took place in Seoul, and there’s a real variety to the techniques used in animation from stop-motion to 2D in various artistic styles, 3D, CG and even rotoscoping. Each of the shorts programmes and the feature clocks in at around an hour, making this an easily digestible series of screenings. Furthermore, the Osaka run has special guests and a special programme dedicated to the Kansai region – Kansai short program (62 minutes / 8 films) “Kansai Resident! Animator Special Feature”!

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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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London Korean Film Festival 2017 Will Screen “The Villainess” at the Regent Street Cinema on Monday September 11th, 19:30

A screening of The Villainess will take place on Monday, September 11th at 19:30 at the Regent Street Cinema. This is the final teaser screening in the run-up to the London Korean Film Festival which will be held from October 26th to November 19th. The film screening coincides with the programme launch so attendees will be able to see what else has been programmed for the festival!

The Villainess has got glowing reviews for its action making it one of the Here’s the first paragraph from Maggie Lee’s review over at Variety.

Channeling “La femme Nikita,” “Kill Bill,” Nikkatsu’s ’70s female exploitation films and a gazillion Hong Kong martial arts heroines, “The Villainess” nonetheless succeeds in being one-of-a-kind for its delirious action choreography and overall narrative dementia. Writer-director Jung Byung-gil indulges in all the excesses of South Korean screen violence, punishing his avenging angel played by Kim Ok-vin as much as she does her foes, the cumulative effect of which is a brain-melting daze for the audience.” (Maggie Lee, Variety)

Kim Ok-Vin is Gorgeous

It stars Kim Ok-Vin, who I adore but I’ve only reviewed two of her films: Thirst (in which she gives a barnstorming performance as a woman freshly turned into a vampire and insane with the lust and power) and Behind the Camera (a comedy involving the top actors in Korea making a train-wreck of a film.

The Villainess was at FrightFest where a couple of friends of mine saw it and one wrote a review which you can read here.

Here are the details on The Villainess:

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