Korean Film Newsletter #18 -- October 31, 2003

Welcome to the eighteenth edition of the Korean Film Newsletter. This letter is distributed every few months to inform the reader of the latest events in the industry. An archive of past newsletters is available at http://www.koreanfilm.org. If you wish to be removed from this mailing list, or if you have any questions, send an email message to darcy@koreanfilm.org.

New at Koreanfilm.org: (a) reviews by various contributors of Desire (2004), I Will Survive (1993), Jealousy is My Middle Name (2003), Nightmare (2000), Oh! Happy Day (2003), Please Teach Me English (2003), Three (2002), Tube (2003), Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East? (1989), Wonderful Days (2003); (b) a page devoted to director Yu Hyun-mok, with an essay on School Excursion (1969); (c) a festival report from PIFF 2003; (d) an interview of director E J-yong; and (e) an essay, "Why is Winter Sonata a big hit in Asia?"

* NOTE: After falling far behind schedule, I have decided to simplify the format of the newsletter in order to save time and allow me to keep sending these on a regular basis. I'm sorry to omit the section on TV dramas and sales to international territories, but if time permits I will re-introduce them in the future. This newsletter #18 is obviously very late, but I am currently working on newsletter #19 which will hopefully bring me back on schedule.

NEW RELEASES (June - October 2003)

Crazy First Love ["Cheotsarang sasu gweollidaehoe"] Written and directed by Oh Jong-rok. A bright but problem-causing student wishes for nothing more in the world than to marry his first love. Her father, a teacher, says he can marry his daughter only if he becomes of the top 3000 students in the country. Starring Cha Tae-hyun, Son Ye-jin, Yu Dong-geun, Seong Ji-ry, Lee Byung-wook, Shin Seung-hwan. Cinematography by Jeong Kwang-seok. Produced by Popcorn Film and Storybus. Distributed by Cinema Service. Rating: 12+. 108 min. June 27. (http://www.4rang4ru.co.kr)

Sweet Sex and Love ["Masinneun sekseu geurigo sarang"] Directed by Bong Man-dae. Screenplay by Kwak Jeong-deok. A fashion designer finds a new lover, and they begin a torrid relationship. Will sex be able to keep them together once things start to go wrong? Starring Kim Seo-hyung, Kim Sung-su. Cinematography by Choi Sang-mok. Produced by Keyweck Shidae. Distributed by Korea Pictures. Rating: 18+. 90 min. June 27 . (http://www.yamyamsex.com)

Singles ["Singgeuljeu"] Directed by Kwon Chil-in. Screenplay by Park Heon-su, Noh Hye-young, Seong Ki-young. The story of four people in their late twenties, and their struggles with work, love, and life. Based on a popular Japanese TV series. Starring Jang Jin-young, Lee Beom-soo, Uhm Jung-hwa, Kim Ju-hyuk. Cinematography by Kim Jae-ho. Produced by Sidus Corp. Distributed by Chungeorahm. Rating: 15+. 110 min. July 11. (http://www.4singles.co.kr)

Mutt Boy ["Ddongkae"] Directed by Kwak Kyung-taek. Screenplay by Kwak Kyung-taek and Kim Chang-woo. A boy nicknamed "Mutt" grows up in a rural town, and eventually attracts a small gang of followers due to his fighting skills. However, he keeps getting into trouble with the law, and getting picked up by his father, who works as a police officer. Starring Jung Woo-sung, Kim Ghab-soo, Eom Ji-won, Kim Tae-wook, Hong Ji-young, Yang Joong-kyung. Cinematography by Hong Ki-seok. Produced by Zininsa Films. Distributed by Show East. Rating: 15+. 101 min. July 16. (http://www.ddonggaeya.co.kr)

Sword in the Moon ["Cheongpung-myeongwol"] Directed by Kim Eui-seok. Screenplay by Jang Min-seok. An uprising causes havoc in the Chosun Dynasty, and an elite military unit is formed to secure the peace. As time passes, however, the unit is split by internal divisions, and the unit's two best swordsmen turn into enemies. Starring Choi Min-shik, Cho Jae-hyun, Kim Bo-kyung, Lee Jong-soo, Jeon Seong-hwan, Ki Joo-bong. Cinematography by Moon Yong-sik. Produced by White Lee Entertainment. Distributed by Sinabro Entertainment. Rating: 15+. 102 min. July 16. (http://www.swordinthemoon.com)

Wonderful Days ["Wondeopul deijeu"] Directed by Kim Moon-saeng. Screenplay by Park Jun-yong, Kim Moon-saeng. In a future world where much of civilization has been destroyed, an elite society prospers by feeding off the misfortunes of others. Meanwhile an exile from this city struggles to bring down this society and bring back the blue sky. Featuring the voices of Choi Ji-hoon, Oh In-sung, Eun Young-seon, Kim Sung-min, Si Young-jun, Ki Joo-bong, etc. Cinematography by Lee Sun-kwan. Produced by Tin House. Distributed by Aura Entertainment. Rating: General. 87 min. July 17. (http://www.wonderfuldays.co.kr)

Galgari Family and Dracula ["Galgari paemilliwa deurakyura"] Directed by Nam Ki-nam. Screenplay by Kim Dong-yong. When a village is threatened by evil vampires, a bumbling trio with magical capes arrives to save the day. Starring Park Jun-hyung, Jeong Jong-chul, Lee Seung-hwan, Im Hyuk-pil, Kim Ki-su. Cinematography by Jo Byung-gu. Produced by Smile Mania. Distributed by Chungeoram. Rating: General. 84 min. August 1. (http://www.galgal2.com)

Wishing Stairs ["Yeogo-goedam se beonjje iyagi: Yeo-u-gyedan"] Directed by Yoon Jae-yeon. Screenplay by Kim Su-ah, Lee Yong-yeon, Eun Shi-yeon, and Lee So-young. A mysterious stone stairway in front of a girls' high school domitory can grant wishes. When the wishes of jealous and ambitious students are released, however, they become twisted into evil and violent acts. Starring Song Ji-hyo, Park Han-byul, Jo An, Park Ji-yeon. Cinematography by Seo Jung-min. Produced by Cine2000. Distributed by Cinema Service. Rating: 12+. 97 min. August 1. (http://www.ghost3.co.kr)

The Uninvited ["Sa-inyong siktak"] Written and directed by Lee Su-yeon. An interior designer begins seeing visions of two young dead girls. Later he meets a young woman who has insight into the supernatural, but she is tortured by memories of what her visions have unleashed in the past. Starring Jeon Ji-hyun, Park Shin-yang, Yu Seon, Kim Yeo-jin, Park Won-sang, Jeong Wook. Cinematography by Jo Yong-gyu. Produced by b.o.m. film productions and Sidus HQ. Distributed by CJ Entertainment. Rating: 15+. 126 min. August 8. (http://www.4table.co.kr)

Into the Mirror ["Geoul-sogeuro"] Written and directed by Kim Sung-ho. An upscale department store is preparing to re-open after a deadly fire, but a string of mysterious murders causes widespread controversy and press coverage. A security guard, nephew to the store's owner, realizes that the murders are all connected to mirrors in some way. Starring Yoo Ji-tae, Kim Myung-min, Kim Hye-na, Ki Ju-bong, Kim Myung-su, Lee Young-jin, Jung Eun-pyo. Cinematography by Jeong Han-cheol. Produced by KeyPlus Pictures. Distributed by Cinema Service. Rating: 15+. 114 min. August 14. (http://www.intothemirror.co.kr)

A Good Lawyer's Wife ["Baramnan gajok"] Written and directed by Im Sang-su. A troubled family sees the wife, husband and grandmother all pursuing extra-marital affairs, while more fundamental problems with marital life start to pull the family apart. Starring Moon So-ri, Hwang Jeong-min, Yoon Yeo-jung, Kim In-moon, Bong Tae-gyu, Baek Jeong-rim, Seong Ji-ru. Cinematography by Kim Woo-hyung. Produced by Myung Films. Distributed by Chungeorahm. Rating: 18+. 104 min. August 14. (http://www.baramnan.com)

Elysium ["Ellisium"] Directed by Kwon Jae-woong. Screenplay by Park Jeong-hoon. An animated film set in the year 2113, about a tragic misunderstanding that leads to war between Earth and the planet Elysium. As battle rages, long-kept secrets buried underneath the surface of the Earth begin to reveal themselves. Featuring the voices of Kim Jang, Kim Jeong-ah, Lee Jae-myung, Sa Seong-woong, An Jong-ik, etc. Produced by Big Film. Distributed by Aura Entertainment. Rating: General. 75 min. August 15. (http://www.elysium.co.kr)

Love: Impossible ["Namnam-buknyeo"] Written and directed by Jung Cho-sin. A South Korean archeology student goes on a field trip to China, where he meets a young North Korean woman. Can they overcome their cultural differences to fall in love? A comedy starring Jo In-sung, Kim Sa-rang, Gong Hyung-jin, Heo Young-ran, Hwang Bo, Kim Yong-geon. Cinematography by Goh Su-bok. Produced by Asia Line. Distributed by Tube Entertainment. Rating: 12+. 105 min. August 29. (http://www.nambuklove.co.kr)

Plastic Tree ["Peullaseutik teuri"] Directed by Eo Il-seon. Screenplay by Kim Sung-sil. An impotent barber lives together with his young girlfriend in Busan. When an old acquaintance moves in with them, however, their calm life is shattered. Starring Cho Eun-sook, Kim In-kwon, Kim Jung-hyun. Cinematography by Jo Dong-gwan. Produced by RG Prince Films. Distributed by Moobiz Entertainment. Rating: 18+. 103 min. August 29. (http://www.plastictree2003.co.kr)

Oh! Brothers ["O! Beuradeoseu"] Written and directed by Kim Yong-hwa. The estranged father of a young hustler dies, leaving him with significant debts. Not able to pay them, he tracks down his long lost younger brother, who suffers from a rare aging disease. Starring Lee Jung-jae, Lee Beom-soo, Lee Moon-shik, Ryu Seung-su, Lee Won-jong, Kim Joon-hee. Cinematography by Park Hyun-chul. Produced by KM Culture. Distributed by Showbox. Rating: 15+. 110 min. September 5. (http://www.5brothers.co.kr)

My Wife is a Gangster 2 ["Jopok manura 2: Doraon jeonseol"] Directed by Jeong Heung-soon. Screenplay by Jeong Heung-soon, Choi Hae-chul. The sequel to the 2001 smash hit sees the main character suffer amnesia and end up working at a Chinese restaurant, unable to remember her past profession. Starring Shin Eun-kyung, Park Jun-gyu, Jang Se-jin, Ryu Hyun-kyung, Lee Won-jong, Jo Mi-ryung. Cinematography by Jo Dong-kwan. Produced by Hyunjin Cinema. Distributed by CJ Entertainment. Rating: 15+. 110 min. September 5. (http://www.wifeisgang2.co.kr)

The Spring Breeze ["Bureora bombaram"] Written and directed by Jang Hang-jun. A struggling writer is forced to live with a ditzy hostess because of an agreement signed by his late father. Starring Kim Seung-woo, Kim Jung-eun, Seong Ji-ru, Byun Hee-bong, Jang Hyun-sung, Kim Hye-ok. Cinematography by Moon Yong-sik. Produced by Cinema Service. Distributed by Cinema Service. Rating: 15+. 111 min. September 5. (http://www.bombaram.co.kr)

Mudang: Reconciliation Between the Living and the Dead ["Yeongmae"] Directed by Park Ki-bok. A documentary about women across Korea who practice shamanism, and how their personal and professional lives mix. Featuring Chae Jeong-rye, Chae Doon-gul, Park Young-ja, Park Mi-jung. Cinematography by Park Ki-bok. Produced by M&F. Distributed by M&F. Rating: General. 100 min. September 5. (http://www.youngmae.com)

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring ["Bom-yeoreum-gaeul-gyeoul geurigo bom"] Written and directed by Kim Ki-duk. Set on a remote lake with a floating temple, this film tells the story of five stages in the life of a man who becomes a Buddhist monk. Starring Oh Young-su, Kim Jong-ho, Seo Jae-kyung, Kim Young-min, Kim Ki-duk, and Ha Yeo-jin. Cinematography by Baek Dong-hyun. Produced by LJ Film and Pandora Film [Germany]. Distributed by Korea Pictures. Rating: 15+. 106 min. September 19. (http://www.springagain.co.kr)

Natural City ["Naechyureol siti"] Written and directed by Min Byung-cheon. A sci-fi film set in 2080 about a member of the military police who struggles to extend the life of his cyborg girlfriend, who is scheduled to be decommissioned. Starring Yoo Ji-tae, Lee Jae-eun, Seo Rin, Jung Du-hong, Jung Eun-pyo, Yun Chan, Goh Ju-hee. Cinematography by Lee Jun-gyu. Produced by Jowoo Entertainment. Distributed by Tube Entertainment. Rating: 15+. 114 min. September 26. (http://www.natural-city.co.kr)

Untold Scandal ["Seukaendeul: Joseon-namnyeo-sangyeoljisa"] Directed by E J-yong. Screenplay by Kim Dae-woo, E J-yong, Kim Hyun-jeong. A young nobleman takes up a bet to seduce a widow who is renowned for her chastity. An adaptation of the 18th-century French novel Dangerous Liaisons, transposed to the Chosun Dynasty. Starring Bae Yong-jun, Lee Mi-sook, Jeon Do-yeon, Lee So-yeon, Jo Hyun-jae. Cinematography by Kim Byung-il. Produced by b.o.m. productions. Distributed by CJ Entertainment. Rating: 18+. 120 min. October 2 . (http://www.thescandal.co.kr)

Once Upon a Time in a Battlefield ["Hwang-san-beol"] Directed by Lee Joon-ik. Screenplay by Choi Seok-hwan, Jo Cheol-hyeon. A period comedy set in the Three Kingdoms Era of 7th-century Korea, about an attack on the Baekchae Kingdom by the forces of Shilla. Starring Park Joong-hoon, Jeong Jin-young, Oh Ji-myung, Lee Moon-shik, Kim Sun-ah, Ryu Seung-su, Lee Ho-seong. Cinematography by Kim Gil-woong. Produced by Cineworld. Distributed by Cineworld and Cinema Service. Rating: 15+. 104 min. October 17 . (http://www.hwangsanbul.co.kr)

Acacia ["Akasia"] Directed by Park Ki-hyun. Screenplay by Seong Gi-young, Park Ki-hyung. A married couple have trouble conceiving a child, and so they decide to adopt a young boy. The boy is talented in art but often moody, and he displays a strange attachment to the acacia tree in the front yard. Starring Shim Hye-jin, Kim Jin-geun, Moon Woo-bin, Park Woong, Jeong Na-yun, Lee Young-hee, Min Hye-ryeong. Cinematography by Oh Hyun-jae. Produced by Dada Film and Arundaun Film Company. Distributed by Show East. Rating: 15+. 104 min. October 17 . (http://www.acacia2003.co.kr)

The Road Taken ["Seontaek"] Directed by Hong Ki-seon. Screenplay by Lee Maeng-yu. A dramatization of the experiences of Kim Seon-myung, who served 45 years in a South Korean prison for refusing to renounce his Communist beliefs. Kim eventually became the longest-serving political prisoner on earth, drawing attention from human rights groups. Starring Kim Joong-ki, An Seok-hwan, Choi Il-hwa, Goh Dong-eop, Kim Se-young, Im Il-chan. Cinematography by Oh Jeong-ok. Produced by Shincine and Young Film. Distributed by Chungeorahm. Rating: 15+. 103 min. October 24. (http://www.45years.com)

The Greatest Expectation ["Widaehan yusan"] Directed by Oh Sang-hoon. Screenplay by Lee Hyun-chul, Lee Won-hyung, Lee Won-je, Ko Yun-kyung. Two young unemployed slackers happen to witness a hit and run accident. Later they see a notice promising a reward for witnesses of the accident, and they get caught up in unexpected adventures. Starring Lim Chang-jung, Kim Seon-ah, Shin Yi, Kim Su-mi, Gong Hyung-jin, Jo Mi-ryeong. Cinematography by Lee Seok-hyun. Produced and distributed by CJ Entertainment. Rating: 15+. 115 min. October 24. (http://www.nosenose.co.kr)

Silver Knife ["Eunjangdo"] Directed by Kim Seong-deok. Screenplay by Kim Hyun-hee, Ju Jeong-eun. A woman from a conservative, Confucian upbringing runs away from her father and starts her university studies in Seoul. While there, will she be able to preserve the chastity for which her family line has become famous? Starring Shin Ae, Oh Ji-ho, Song Sun-mi, Yoon Da-hoon, Ham Jae-hee, Choi Yun-so. Cinematography by Lee Dong-sam. Produced by Joy Entertainment. Distributed by Showbox. Rating: 18+. 100 min. October 24. (http://www.2003haja.co.kr)

Spring Bears Love ["Bomnal-ui gomeul joh-ahaseyo?"] Directed by Donald Yong [Yong Yi]. Screenplay by Hwang Jo-yun. A woman goes to the library and takes out an art book for her father, but finds a love note inside. The note leads her to another book, and another... Starring Bae Doona, Kim Nam-jin, Yun Jong-shin, Yoon Ji-hye, Oh Kwang-rok, Eom Tae-woong, Kim Hong-pyo, Lee Eol. Cinematography by Park Ki-woong. Produced by Ison Film. Distributed by Tube Entertainment. Rating: 12+. 97 min. October 24. (http://www.bomgom.co.kr)

* For information about upcoming Korean movies, visit http://www.koreanfilm.org/new.html


Summer and fall at the box-office

Korean cinema enjoyed what may have been its most successful summer season ever, with a number of strong local hits holding off competition from Hollywood blockbusters. Traditionally, July is the strongest month for Hollywood films in Korea, with local cinema usually taking up only 20-30% of the market during this period. In July 2003, however, Korean films took a 45.9% market share, which suggests that Korean releases are beginning to hold their own even in the crowded summer season. Major local hits from June to August include stylish horror film A Tale of Two Sisters, outlandish comedy Crazy First Love, relationship comedy Singles, Kwak Kyung-taek's rural-set Mutt Boy, horror title Wishing Stairs and Venice competition film A Good Lawyer's Wife.

During the Chusok (harvest moon) holiday in September -- which is traditionally a moviegoing week in Korea -- the warm-hearted comedy Oh! Brothers earned the most of the high-profile local and foreign releases with over 3 million admissions. Hollywood film Pirates of the Caribbean also performed strongly, while the much-hyped My Wife is a Gangster 2 failed to live up to audiences' and critics' expectations.

Finally, October saw the release of two more major local hits. E J-yong's costume drama Untold Scandal, which is based on the 18th-century French novel Dangerous Liaisons, had the strongest opening ever for a Korean film, selling over a million tickets in its first weekend. Meanwhile, the "fusion historical comedy" Once Upon a Time in a Battlefield spoofed the 7th-century attack of the Baekjae Kingdom by the Shilla Kingdom, while also poking fun at contemporary regional accents in Korea. The film went on to sell 2.8 million tickets.

The 7th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival

The 7th edition of the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) was held from July 10-19, opening with local animated feature film Wonderful Days. In addition to festival's regular sections, the event featured a number of special retrospectives devoted to Canadian filmmaker John Madden, Shaw Brothers films from Hong Kong, contemporary Bollywood cinema (a particular hit with the local crowd), and the late Japanese director Fukasaku Kinji. As usual, two closing films were featured: Vincenzo Natali's Cypher and the world premiere of local horror film Wishing Stairs.

This year's edition built on the growth shown in the previous year, and also featured a greater number of international guests and journalists -- a total of 90 people from 18 countries. The event is estimated to have drawn over 70,000 admissions -- a significant rise over last year -- with 62 shows completely sold out. There were also a series of well-attended seminars (referred to as MegaTalks) devoted to Bollywood cinema, the Shaw Brothers studio and "The Art of Killing in Horror Films."

The awards ceremony was dominated by two films: Korean-American director Greg Pak's acclaimed Robot Stories, and local director Jang Jun-hwan's Save the Green Planet, which also won an audience award despite bombing earlier in the year in its commercial release. PiFan's next edition is scheduled to be held from July 15-24, 2004.

Best of Puchon -- Save the Green Planet! (Korea), dir. Jang Jun-hwan; Best Director -- Greg Pak, Robot Stories (USA); Best Actress -- Wai Ching Ho, Robot Stories (USA); Best Actor -- Baek Yoon-sik, Save the Green Planet! (Korea); Citizens' Choice -- Save the Green Planet! (Korea), dir. Jang Jun-hwan; Jury's Choice -- They're Watching Us (Spain), dir. Norberto Lopez; Grand Prize for Short Film -- DEF (UK), by Ian Clark; Jury's Choice for Short Film -- United We Stand (Norway), dir. Hans Petter Moland; Citizens' Choice for Short Film -- DEF (UK), dir. Ian Clark.

New print of Robot Taekwon V discovered

In July, a nearly-complete print of the 1976 animated feature Robot Taekwon V was discovered by accident in a vault at the Korean Film Commission. A classic of Korean animation, Robot Taekwon V is remembered fondly by many who grew up in the 1970s. However until this latest discovery, the only surviving print of the film was incomplete and badly damaged, and so it was impossible to screen the film in theaters.

After the discovery, the Korean Film Commission announced that it would undertake an effort to restore the film using the new footage. This will be the first such restoration of an older film in Korea's history. The newer print consists of 8 of the original 10 reels (with the opening and closing reels missing), and the previously-held print will be used to fill in the missing parts. When the restoration is complete, the film is scheduled to be screened for the public.

Mudang sets new documentary record

Commercial screenings of local documentaries are rare in Korea, however in September Park Ki-bok's Mudang: Reconciliation Between the Living and the Dead succeeded in setting a new box-office record for Korean documentaries. The film, which provides a personal view of the lives of modern-day shamans, earned 4,580 admissions in its first week on a single screen to break the previous record set by Byun Young-ju's The Murmuring in 1995.

With audiences showing continued interest in the film, it expanded to several other screens around the country, and eventually even secured a short run in a major multiplex cinema. Winner of the Woonpa Fund for Best Documentary at the 2002 Pusan International Film Festival, the documentary was subequently re-edited in 2003, and new narration was recorded by popular actor Sol Kyung-gu.

Spring, Summer... chosen as official Oscar submission

Kim Ki-duk's ninth film Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring was selected as Korea's official entry into the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Each country is allowed to choose one film to submit for consideration, and in Korea this is chosen by a special outside committee appointed by the Korean Film Commission (KOFIC). A total of 56 countries submitted films this year, and in January a selection committee will choose five official nominations among the group. [Note: ultimately this film was not selected for the final five]

Kim's film depicts five stages in the life of a Buddhist monk, and has been widely praised by foreign critics, although it has not attracted the same level of attention in Korea. The film was also selected to screen as the opening film at the Gwangju and Tokyo FILMeX festivals this fall.

Yi Hyo-in named to head Korean Film Archive

In July, Minister of Culture and Tourism Lee Chang-dong appointed film critic and professor Yi Hyo-in to be the new President of the Korean Film Archive. He takes the place of former KFA President Chung Hong-taek, whose term had expired.

Yi, 42 years old, taught at Kyunghee University in Seoul and was also active in the independent film sector, serving as director of Korea Independent Film & Video (KIFV), festival chairman of the Seoul Independent Film Festival (formerly the Korean Indie & Short Film Festival), editor of the periodical Independent Film, and the author of several books on Korean film history and society. In 2002 he contributed an essay about the film Fly High, Run Far to the English-language publication Im Kwon-Taek: The Making of a Korean National Cinema.

Since taking over his post, Yi has worked to reform various aspects of the Film Archive, including its monthly screenings of classic Korean films. The KFA, which was founded in 1974, is scheduled to move into a new facility in 2007.

The 8th Pusan International Film Festival

The 8th edition of the Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) was held from October 2-10, 2003, and featured a record 242 films. This year the festival moved the majority of its screening and events to the beachside Haeundae district, which provided for a somewhat more upscale mood. Aside from a severe ticket shortage which left some guests very unhappy, the event generally went off smoothly, confirming its status as an important and maturing showcase for the Asian film industry.

Japanese director Kurosawa Kiyoshi's Doppelganger screened as the opening film, and special retrospectives showcased films about Afghanistan, Chinese Independent Films, Canadian Cinema, and Korean director Chung Chang-hwa. Midway through the festival the organizers also announced a surprise: six North Korean films would be given a special screening -- the first time that such an extensive collection of North Korean films would be screened in the South.

Total attendance for 2003 added up to 165,103 admissions, slightly below the level of last year due to fewer seats available. For more detailed information about PIFF 2003, visit Koreanfilm.org's festival report: http://www.koreanfilm.org/piff03.html

New Currents Award ($10,000, tie) -- The Missing (Taiwan), dir. Lee Kang-sheng and Tiny Snow Flakes (Iran), dir. Alireza Amini; Special Mention, New Currents - Osama (Afghanistan), dir. Sedigh Barmak; FIPRESCI Award - Deep Breath (Iran), Parviz Shahbazi; NETPAC Award for Best Korean Film - Untold Scandal, dir. E J-yong; NETPAC Award, Special Mention - If You Were Me, dir. various; PSB (Audience) Award - Osama (Afghanistan), dir. Sedigh Barmak and The Road Taken (Korea), dir. Hong Gi-sun; Sonje Fund (Best Korean Short) - The Spring and the Delight, dir. Park Jung-seon and The Third Tongue, dir. Son Kwang-ju; Woonpa Fund (Best Korean Documentary) - And Thereafter, dir. Lee Ho-sup.


Awards at international film festivals

Jang Jun-hwan's eccentric drama Save the Green Planet was named winner of the Best Director Prize (the Silver St. George) at the 25th Moscow International Film Festival in late June. It was the first award for a Korean film at Moscow since Lee Deok-hwa won the Best Actor award in 1993. Apart from his brilliant film, director Jang will also be remembered for having his award trophy stolen in a public restroom in Moscow.

Kim Ki-duk's The Coast Guard was presented with three awards at the 38th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in early July. Although the festival's main competition jury declined to honor the film, Kim picked up the FIPRESCI prize (Award of International Film Critics), the NETPAC Award for Asian Cinema, and the Prize of the Town Karlovy Vary. The FIPRESCI jury praised the film for its "strong and innovative depiction of the illusion of power which destroys humanity on both sides of the fence."

Korean films won two of the three major awards presented at the 12th Brisbane International Film Festival, which was held from July 29 to August 10 in Australia. Hong Sang-soo's Turning Gate was presented with the FIPRESCI award (considered the festival's top prize), while Lee Chang-dong's Oasis won the NETPAC Award for Asian cinema.

In August, Kim Ki-duk's 9th film Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring won four smaller awards at the Locarno International Film Festival: the Junior Jury award, the CICAE/ARTE prize, the NETPAC Award for Asian Cinema, and the Don Quijote Award from the International Federation of Cinema Clubs. Although the film was given an extremely strong reception, the main competition jury declined to give it any awards (creating a minor controversy, according to some critics).

Kim Hyun-seok's YMCA Baseball Team took home the top prize at the 17th Fukuoka Asian Film Festival, held in Fukuoka, Japan in early July. Other Korean films in competition were Addicted and Oh! Happy Day.

Lee Jeong-hyang's box-office hit The Way Home was the big winner at the inaugural Vladivostok International Film Festival, held in Far Eastern Russia in September. The film won both the festival's Grand Prix and a special prize titled "The Environment and Us," while the festival's award for Best Short Film went to Korean title A Cradle Song by Won Shin-yeon.

After competing at Venice, Im Sang-soo's A Good Lawyer's Wife was presented with the Robert Wise Award for Best Director at the 30th Flanders International Film Festival - Ghent. The festival took place from October 7-18.

Memories of Murder won three awards from three different juries at the prestigious 51st San Sebastian International Film Festival in Spain. Bong Joon-ho's film was presented with the Silver Shell for Best Director, the Altadis New Director Award, and the FIPRESCI award from international film critics. Bong's first film Barking Dogs Never Bite also received its international premiere at the San Sebastian festival in 2000. Meanwhile, Kim Ki-duk's Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring won the festival's Audience Award.

A Good Lawyer's Wife continued to pick at awards at the Bergen International Film Festival in Norway, where it won the Critics' Prize. The festival's top award, the Jury Prize, was presented to the Chinese film Blind Shaft.

Joo Kyung-joong's A Little Monk took home the top prize at the 48th annual Asia-Pacific Film Festival, which was held this year in Shiraz, Iran from October 20-23. Korea's other official entry into the festival was Lee Jeong-wook's Scent of Love.

New DVD releases with English subtitles

The following are the latest releases of Korean films on DVD with English subtitles. I am only listing DVDs made in Korea; many of these titles may have been released in other Asian, European, or North American countries. For more information, visit my wife's online DVD store at http://www.yeondvd.com.

BYUL (2003), from IVision Entertainment
A LETTER FROM MARS (2003), from IVision Entertainment
UNBORN BUT FORGOTTEN (2002), from CJ Entertainment
SAVE THE GREEN PLANET (2003), from CJ Entertainment
OH! HAPPY DAY (2003), from Cinema Service
FAREWELL MY DARLING (1996), from Park Chul-soo Film
301,302 (1995), from Park Chul-soo Film
RUB LOVE (1997), from Park Chul-soo Film
KAZOKU CINEMA (1998), from Park Chul-soo Film
DOGGY POO (2003), from Starmax
TUBE (2003), from KD Media
SWEET SEX AND LOVE (2003), from Bear Entertainment
MR. BUTTERFLY (2003), from Cinema Service
REVERSAL OF FORTUNE (2003), from Metro DVD
WILD CARD (2003), from Cinema Service
ELYSIUM (2003), from EnterOne
OSEAM (2003), from Cinexus
THE QUIET FAMILY (1998), from Myung Films
MUTT BOY (2003), from Starmax
RUN 2U (2002), from Planet Entertainment
MEMORIES OF MURDER (2003), from CJ Entertainment
CRAZY FIRST LOVE (2003), from Starmax
LOVE: IMPOSSIBLE (2003), from KD Media
A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (2003), from Metro DVD
PLASTIC TREE (2003), from Planet Entertainment
WISHING STAIRS (2003), from Cinema Service
SCENT OF SUMMER [TV drama] (2003), from Bitwin

Korean films abroad

In October, Kwak Jae-yong's romance The Classic became the first Korean film ever to be distributed as a revenue-sharing release in China. Each year, China permits only 20 foreign movies to be distributed in this way, such that the foreign company and the Chinese distributor share the profits. (Other films must be sold outright to the Chinese distributor, usually for a low price) The vast majority of revenue-sharing films are from Hollywood, so it ranked as a significant milestone for Korean films' efforts to crack the Chinese market. Hong Kong-based Edko Films was instrumental in setting up the arrangement with Chinese authorities, and so it also shared in the release's profits. Unfortunately, however, the film did much worse than hoped for at the box-office, despite a visit from the film's stars as part of a promotion campaign. One reason may have been the widespread circulation of a pirated DVD shortly before the film's release.

Also in October, Kim Jee-woon's horror film A Tale of Two Sisters enjoyed a highly successful release in Malaysia. The film opened at #1 in the box-office with 50,000 admissions from 20 screens on its first weekend. It was also the first instance in which a Korean film was released directly into the country (through international distributor UIP), rather than being sold to a Malaysian film import company.

In Hong Kong, comedy Marrying the Mafia -- which was Korea's top grossing film in 2002 -- was released on July 10 by Winson, but it grossed a disappointing HK$0.49 million. Kwak Jae-yong's The Classic opened on August 7 amidst a huge promotion campaign by Edko Films and the director's visit to Hong Kong. Well-suited to the Hong Kong market, the film grossed HK$5.3m, the best performance for a Korean film since My Wife is a Gangster in April 2002. Other recent releases included A Tale of Two Sisters, which earned a fair total of HK$1.96m for Golden Scene; and a disappointing score of HK$1.5m for comedy My Tutor Friend in late August despite a large-scale promotional campaign.

Meanwhile, The Isle became the first Korean film to receive commercial distribution in the Czech Republic. Screened as part of a traveling film series called Project 100 (10 years x 10 masterpieces of world cinema), the film racked up 4,268 admissions from January to April, which is considered a respectable number for an arthouse film distributed on one print.

Finally, a number of Korean films were sold to North America, including Kim Ki-duk's Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring. Kim's film became the first film to be bought by respected distributor Sony Pictures Classics, which was responsible for the release of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2001. Sony is planning to release Spring theatrically in April 2004. Meanwhile, remake rights to thriller Tell Me Something were sold to Fox 2000 Pictures, and animated title My Beautiful Girl Mari was sold to ADV Films in Houston, which will give the film a limited theatrical release in 2004 before screening it on its cable channel the Anime Network.

Special thanks to Yeon Hyeon-sook (YeonDVD.com), Ryan Law (Krmdb.com) and Stephen Cremin (Asian Film Library) for their help in compiling this newsletter.

October 31, 2003

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Koreanfilm.org / Posted March 2, 2004