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Korean Film Festival 2015: 10 titles

Writer: Casey Lee


Some of the movies screened at the Korean Film Festival this year!

The Korean Film Festival is back in Malaysia after a five year break, bringing delight to fans of Korean movies. Organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, the nation is bringing in 10 selected films that have received either critical acclaim or overwhelming box office support in their home country. Although these selections are not necessarily the latest to make waves in Korea, you can be sure that these picks are some of the best that Korea has to offer, and it would be a missed opportunity to not see them on the big screen.

If the already free admission is not reason enough for you to go and see each of the 10 movies, here's our quick rundown of the movies, so that you can pick and choose which ones you want to see.

After a failed heist many years ago, Marco Pak is gathering old comrades and fresh blood to attempt an even bigger heist that will set them off for life. Their target is the "Tear of the Sun" that is stored in a luxury casino in Macao. To accomplish the heist, Marco Pak would have to assemble an even larger crew from all over the region, but can he keep them from double-crossing each other?

Briefly shown in Malaysian cinemas when it was released in 2012, this is the second chance to catch it again on the big screen where it can fit the expansive cast, led by Kim Yun-Seok and Kim Hye Soo, with veterans like Kim-Hae Sook (who took away two awards for Best Supporting Actress) and Oh Dal-Su and regionally known names like Simon Yam and Angelica Lee having major roles to play. Director Choi Dong-Hoon pulls out his biggest production to date, and if you are a fan of his expansive and cunning plot from "Tazza" or "The Big Swindle", then you would thoroughly enjoy the scale of "The Thieves".

When the statute of limitations on the murder cases has expired, serial killer Lee Doo-Suk publishes a novel claiming responsibility and detailing how he had committed the murders. While Lee enjoys the fanfare of becoming a celebrity and his book becoming a best-seller, disgraced Detective Choi Hyung-Goo who was unable to crack the cases against Lee, is eager to find a new case or evidence so that he can put the killer behind bars.

"Confession of Murder" may sound like it has a twisted and sadistic premise for a thriller, but when you have a heartthrob Park Si Hoon (making his feature debut) playing as a calculating killer opposed by Jung Jae-Young as an unappealing personality, what it is really attacking is the media that can go into a frenzy over a pretty face than the crimes he has committed. This is the first major feature from director Jung Byoung-Gil, which awarded him with the Best Director at the 2013 Daejong Film Awards and Best Screenplay (with co-writers Lee Yong-jong and Hong Won-chan) at the 2013 PaekSang Arts Awards.

When Doo-Hyun first met Jung In, he thought he had found the perfect woman to be his wife until he married her. Seven years later, growing sick and tired of her incessant nagging and complaints, Doo-Hyun decides it is time to ask for a divorce, but he is too afraid to say another word to his wife. When he finds out that his new neighbour, Sung-Ki, is a skillful casanova that have women fighting over him, he pleads for him to seduce his wife so that Jung-In will leave him voluntarily.

While "All About My Wife is a remake of the Argentinian film "A Boyfriend for My Wife", director Min Kyu-Dong has managed to make it his own by putting it well in the Korean setting. This is largely thanks to the passionate lovers played by Ryoo Seung-Ryong, who took the Best Supporting Actor at the Blue Dragon Film Awards and KOFRA Film Awards, while Lim Soo-Jung scores the Best Actress at the Blue Dragon, out of the numerous nominations for director Min Kyu-Dong, screenwriter Heo Sung-Hye, and actor Lee Kwang-Soo.

"Marriage Blue" is an omnibus of four couples who are on their way to getting married, but when the jitters of doubt, incompatibility and physical misfortune start to emerge on the days leading up to the wedding, these couples would have to navigate on what it truly means to be married, in sickness and in health. This romantic comedy is certainly aimed for the ones who are preparing to walk down the aisle and it has already been shown in seven Asian countries, including neighbouring Singapore and Thailand since 2013, but is only making its Malaysian premiere at the festival. So don't miss this chance to see it before you say your 'I do's.

Set during the days preceding to the ceasefire between North and South Korea, Lieutenant Kang Eun-Pyo of the Defense Security Command is ordered to find out who had murdered the commanding officer on Aerok Hill; the eastern front where heavy fighting between North and South Korean armies are still rampant in order to capture a strategic point that will mark a new border for both sides. Upon his arrival, Kang is shocked to find the South Korean troops are being commanded by Kim Soo-Hyuk, an old friend that he had thought for dead.

What Korean Film Festival would be complete without a single war movie? If you had thought that 2011's "My Way" was the best it had to offer in that year, then you would need to see what you have missed in "The Front Line". Sweeping technical awards at the 2011 Daejong and Blue Dragon Awards, "The Front Line" may be the most decorated of the films being shown at the festival, which also came away with the ultimate prize of Best Film at the Daejong and Critics' Choice Awards, which goes to show how it would please high-brow critics and mainstream audiences alike. This is also the second appearance of "All About My Wife" co-star Ryoo Seung-Ryong at the festival.

After having his opera singing career destroyed by a tumour in his throat, Sang-jin now makes a living as a music teacher at a highschool in Gimcheon. One day when he accidentally scratches a car belonging to local gangsters, Sang-jing is rudely acquainted with young Jang-Ho, a local mobster who is transferred to the same highschool where Sang-jing is teaching. After being told that Jang-Ho has musical talents, Sanj-jin is told to take in the ruthless youth to train him as an opera singer.

This is based on the true story of Kim Ho-joong from the Star King variety show where he revealed his story of being involved with gangs before deciding to pursue singing as a profession. Lee Je-Hoon (also seen in "The Front Line") may stun brutes with his swinging fists one minute, and then stun audiences with his tenor-pitch in another, but it is his chemistry with co-star Han Suk-Kyu as his mentor that ties up "My Paparotti" as a touching story of redemption and singing your heart out.

When the National High School of Traditional Arts is selected to participate in a chorus competition, it is up to composer Ham to pick members of the choir. Among his choice are best friends and 3rd year students, Seul-Gi and Ah Reum who have pressure and anxiety issues. Can Ham hope to form a choir that can perform, let alone win the competition?

Shot in a style that makes "Duresori: Voice of the East" feel part documentary and part low-budget filmmaking, this is the most unconventional entry in the festival that hasn't had much buzz around it, when compared to director Cho Jung-rae's documentary "Foulball" / "Wonders". Still, it just goes to show that the Korean movie industry isn't about expensive sets or elaborated plots, so this is certainly for the one who can appreciate the arts of filmmaking and those that fit in the indie niche.

Gwang-Ho is a trusted adviser to his crime boss, and respected by his underlings. When he defended himself from a knife attack with his bare hands, the resulting laceration changes the fate lines on his palm. After endless nightmares of his own death, Gwang-Ho consults a shaman who tells him that he has to be trained in the ways of the shaman to appease the spirit possessing him.

Korea may be well known for their gangster movies (see also "My Paparotti"), but they certainly don't do them without a twist. Park Shin-yang may have already done the gangster turned monk in "Hi! Dharma", but we definitely haven't see him play as a gangster turned cross-dressing shaman. Not only does this result in ensuing hilarity, but we will get to see the rare traditions and practices of the Korean Muism, and the gangster movie taking on a new spin when it meets with spiritualism.

After murdering his wife for going bankrupt, Kyung-min escapes to find his old friend, Jong-suk, who has become a ghostwriter aspiring to be his own novelist. Hiding their current lives from each other, both Kyung-min and Jong-suk reminisce about their past when they were in middle school, where they were bullied and belittled until they met Kim Chul-yi; the King of Pigs.

While the ultra-violence of "The King of Pigs" makes this animation not safe for the kids, this self-directed and self-written piece by Yeon Sang-Ho did put Korea on the animation map when it became the first Korean feature length animation to be screened at the Director's Fortnight of the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. It also took home the Satoshi Kon award at the Fantasia Film Festival. It is not just the violence that makes it hard to watch, but it is also the underlying theme of class gradation that runs the Korean social strata that makes this the one to watch for anyone who are looking for a challenge in this year's festival.

Yi-Rang is a track runner in her small town high school, who dreams that she can be a runner all her life. After falling behind in a race, Park Shin-hye fakes a fall and decides never to run again. Despite efforts to shake her off her depression, she is unrelenting until she meets Soo-Min who transferred from Seoul, and classmate Chul-soo who has dreams to be an astronaut someday.

If the real purpose of this year's Korean Film Festival is to help local audiences find hidden gems of Korean cinema, then "Green Days: Dinosaur and I" is that absolute gem that no one has seen, even in its native Korea. Released in 2011, this animation took 11 years for 14 animators to hand-draw its frames to tell a nostalgic coming-of-age romance story that would be on the same spectrum of a Ghibli production. However, "Green Days: Dinosaur and I" was met with box office failure, partly due to its limited release in its home country; something that should find amends in Malaysia.

Cinema Online, 18 August 2015

Related Movies:
All About My Wife (KFF) (Korean) (20 Aug 2015)
Confession Of Murder (KFF) (Korean) (20 Aug 2015)
Duresori: The Voice Of The East (KFF) (Korean) (20 Aug 2015)
Green Days: Dinosaur And I (KFF) (Korean) (27 Sep 2018)
Marriage Blue (KFF) (Korean) (20 Aug 2015)
My Paparotti (KFF) (Korean) (20 Aug 2015)
The Front Line (KFF) (Korean) (20 Aug 2015)
The King Of Pigs (KFF) (Korean) (20 Aug 2015)
The Thieves (KFF) (Korean) (20 Aug 2015)
Man On The Edge (KFF) (Korean) (20 Aug 2015)

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