In collaboration with the London Korean Film Festival and the Essay Film Festival.
‘Detours through the History of Korean Cinema’ is a short focus on essay films that explore and interrogate the history of Korean Cinema. My Korean Cinema is a compelling, eccentric and personal history of Korean cinema, resulting from director Kim Jong-Hoon’s own involvement in the film industry as both critic and filmmaker, and celebrating the work of filmmakers such as Im Kwon-taek, Kim Ki-young or Yu Hyon-Mok. Jang Sun-woo’s Cinema on the Road is a very personal journey through the history of Korea and a defence of Korean independent cinema in the 1990s. The filmmaker travels the country, listening to people's opinions on Korean films, reflecting about the history of the country and interviewing filmmakers such as Im Kwon-Taek, Lee Jang-Ho, Park Kwang-Su or Chung Ji-Young.
My Korean Cinema by Kim Hong-Jun
South Korea, 2002/2006, color, 120 mins.
My Korean Cinema is director Kim Hong-Jun’s own history of Korean cinema told in short episodes that unfold like a series of personal filmic notes. Assembled and selected from his television presentations, these films cover over forty years of cinema and how film culture in Korea has changed over the years. The filmmaker remembers his first steps working in film, from childhood to his time as an assistant to veteran director Im Kwon-Taek in the Chungmuro film studios. He drives through the old neighborhood of Chungmuro looking for the remains of the long gone studios where most classical films in Korea were produced. A restored version of a film from 1975, March of Fools (dir. Ha Kil-jong) brings back the memory of the director’s years as a university student, becoming a reflection about the mechanisms of censorship. Another episode, beautifully edited, looks at what the images of women smoking in classical Korean cinema tell about society, morality and emancipation. Either musing over the consequences of yet another film magazine shutting down, filming the backstage of the reconstruction of a long lost film made by one of Korean’s greatest filmmakers, Yu Hyun-mok, at the cinematic representations of independence hero Kim Ku, or finally, revisiting with emotion La Vie en Rose (1994), one of his earlier films, My Korean Cinema is an ode to cinema, an essay at once personal and unconventional.
Cinema on the Road: A Personal Essay on Cinema in Korea by Jang Sun-woo
South Korea, UK, 1995, video, 52 min.
The end of the 1980’s witnessed profound transformations in the Korean film industry. Some regulatory restrictions on Korean filmmakers were lifted, opening the way for a new generation of directors to seek other modes of expression, production and exhibition. The relaxation of censorship laws allowed filmmakers to work with more freedom and to address more pressing social issues. On the other side market laws looked towards globalisation, opening the exhibition market to foreign film, especially from Hollywood and Hong Kong. It was against this background that Jang Sun-woo, one of the most singular Korean filmmakers, set this excellent essay film about the situation of Korean cinema in the mid-90s. The film was a commission from the British Film Institute for their 1995 series on the “100 Centenary of Cinema” and it is narrated by Tony Rayns. Jang Sun-woo veers off on a journey through the history of Korea and Korean independent cinema, traveling the country, interviewing people he finds along on their impressions of Korean cinema, and making references to recent relevant political events. He edits selected excerpts of films with conversations with some established and new filmmakers such as Im Kwon-Taek, Lee Jang-Ho, Park Kwang-Su or Chung Ji-Young on their impressions of independent film production in Korea. The film makes a strong case for a socially committed cinema in face of the influx of Hollywood imports, a cinema that would be able to keep its independence and push for change, reflecting political and social aspects of Korean life and history.