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Ko - production in Busan
  • Korean Films at TIFF 2013
  • by June KIM /  Sep 30, 2013
  • 5 Korean Films that Enriched the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival

    At the 38th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), held from September 5th to the 15th, five promising Korean titles were selected for the lineup. The domestic box office success Cold Eyes is an action-thriller directed by JOH Ui-seok and KIM Byeong-seo which found its way into the Gala selection, where only the most prestigious titles are featured. TIFF’s favorite Korean auteurs, HONG Sangsoo and KIM Ki-duk, sent their latest titles: Our Sunhi from HONG and Moebius from KIM, which were both included in the Masters program. NOH Young-seok’s Intruders was in the Contemporary World Cinema lineup and The Fake by YEON Sang-ho was featured in Vanguard. From these titles, one can assume that the audiences in Toronto were exposed to a variety of Korean films, ranging from blockbuster and art-house to animation.
     
     
    The Gala program may not so be familiar to Korean filmmakers as the festival has had only featured three Korean titles in the section in the past. The first was Chihwaseon in 2002, The Good, the Bad and the Weird followed in 2008, and The Housemaid was picked in 2010. Making its mark as the 4th Korean film in this prestigious program, Cold Eyes was well received even ahead of its red carpet bow. Directors CHO and KIM, along with the four main actors - SEOL Kyung-gu, JUNG Woo-sung, HAN Hyo-joo, and LEE Jun-ho - were welcomed by a massive crowd of fans along the barricades. Upon stepping into the Roy Thomson Hall, the cast was awestruck even further by the sight of spectators almost filling up the 2000-seat theatre. During the credits, the filmmakers and cast received a loud wave of applause and a standing ovation. This remake of Johnnie To’s Eye in the Sky (2007) has since been praised for its success and received attention from major international media such as Screen Daily, becoming a favorite for many festival goers.
     
    Toronto audiences are familiar with the soft yet provoking dramas of director HONG Sangsoo, which consistently portray the mundane. The familiarity comes from HONG’s retrospective programs at TIFF Cinematheque in previous years and his inclusions in the festival’s program year after year. Our Sunhi brought about new buzz as the film stars more mainstream actors, unlike his usual preferences for indie stars. Audiences were delighted by HONG’s typical light jokes and stylistic choices as three male characters discuss their own perspectives on the heroine, Sunhi.
     
    Another familiar name to Toronto is director KIM Ki-duk. Alongside being programmed regularly at the festival, his Pieta was a sensational at TIFF 2012, largely due to its shocking visuals. This year, Moebius unravels sadism and bodily mutilations to a heightened level. This story of a father, mother, and son is one that might be compared to the greek mythology of Oedipus. Blood, castration, masturbation and rape are some of the keywords that could describe this unconventional, dialogue-free film.
     
     
    The mystery thriller Intruders is the second feature of director NOH whose first feature, Daytime Drinking, was also featured at TIFF. Director NOH has conquered a new genre in the intervening five years, but viewers can still expect to see him undermining his indie background.
    After the international success of The King of Pigs, director YEON was quick to return with his 2nd feature animation, The Fake. Once again, YEON’s work explores mature subjects, this time focusing on Christianity and religion while intertwining them with the stereotypes of physical traits. Through The Fake, YEON has definitely become a staple of Korean animation.
     
    Following the immense success of the five Korean films at TIFF, the festival closed the curtains for 2013. Many will surely look forward to more prominent and diverse Korean film programming in the coming years.
     
    June KIM
     
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