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Event: The Narrow Margin: Revisiting the 1980s Korean Film Collectives

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Birkbeck Cinema

43 Gordon Square

Bloomsbury

London

WC1H 0PD

United Kingdom

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Renowned film critic Yoo Un-seong will explore the activities of the 1980s Korean film collectives, preceded by two of their short films.

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This year’s Documentary strand follows on from the 2018 LKFF ‘Documentary Fortnight’ in focusing on exemplary independent works based around the themes of social justice and resistance. The movement of independent filmmaking in South Korea has its origin in the film collectives and university cine-clubs mostly found in the 1980s. In this associated event, renowned film critic Yoo Un-seong will revisit the wider activities of the 1980s Korean film collectives, before delving into a more in-depth discussion, presenting the Seoul Film Collective as a particular case study.Yoo Un-seong is a Korean film critic and co-publisher of Okulo, a journal of cinema and the moving image. He worked as a programmer of the Jeonju International Film Festival (2004~2012) and the program director of the Moonji Cultural Institute SAII (2012~2014). In 2018, he published Ghost And The Guards, a collection of essays on cinema, art and literature. He co-edited the books Pedro Costa (2010), Roberto Rossellini (2004) and Carl Dreyer (2003), among others.

Two short films produced by the collective will be screened before the lecture: Water Utilisation Tax and Bluebird.

These screenings highlight the work of the Seoul Film Collective. The group, founded in 1982, emerged from the vibrant university cineclub scene that planted the seeds for a new independent cinema. From 1982 to 1987 they made fictional and documentary films, organised a parallel exhibition movement and published manifestos and film theory research books (‘For a New Cinema’, 1983 and ‘Theory on Film Movements’, 1985). They wished to contribute to the collective social and political reform movement that developed in South Korea throughout the 1980s. As such, they wanted to find the means to create what they called a "people's cinema", shot with amateur and easily accessible means, made with, and for, marginalised groups in society. Their practice aligned with that of other artists in music, theatre, visual arts and literature, and participated in a broader cultural movement that rediscovered and adapted traditional Korean folk art with the aim of creating a new national art addressing contemporary social issues. This is reflected in their film, Water Utilization Tax, which reconstructs the four-month struggle of the farmers of the Gurye county area over their demand to pay water taxes with the products of their labour. The film analyses in detail the economic conditions affecting the farmers' activity, exposing how they organised their response and struggle. It uses newspaper clippings, still images of the original events and reenactment sequences played by the farmers themselves, as well as a soundtrack of interviews, traditional songs and voice-over narration. The film reflects the critical concerns of the group, and is related to their interest in Third Cinema (the agitational and theoretical filmic practice of the Bolivian Grupo Ukamau is referred to as a model). Made at the request of and in collaboration with the Korean Catholic Farmers’ Movement, Bluebird , was born from conversations with the farmers about their life and miserable working conditions and is based on a real story. The film addresses the demise of rural activity and livelihood caused by the liberalisation of the agricultural import market. It was shown and discussed with the farmers all over the country, creating an incident with the censorship board that led to the arrest of members of the group. The films made by this remarkable collective offered a blueprint for an independent cinema to emerge, deeply engaged with people's lives and concerns.

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Birkbeck Cinema

43 Gordon Square

Bloomsbury

London

WC1H 0PD

United Kingdom

View Map

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