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Apr 2016 VOL.60

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  • Everything Starts From Short Films
  • by SONG Soon-jin / 01.25.2016
  • Short Films Reinvigorate Korean Film Industry
     

    Recently, the Korean film industry is focusing on qualified contents. Probably that is why old movies like Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind (2004) and Love Letter (1995) are being re-released in a row, and hot web cartoons such as Secretly Greatly, With God and Inside Men are being cinematized one after another. As local films’ box office performances go to further extremes and production scales grow bigger, internal check-up of the industry becomes more important. Nevertheless, there are new powers in local film industry as well: short films and short film directors that have shown remarkable performances since 2013.
     
    Leading Short Film Directors Make Feature Debuts
     
     
    Two short movie directors came to the spotlight in 2014: LEE Su-jin of HAN Gong-ju; and KIM Tae-yong of Set Me Free (2014).
     
    LEE majored in art in college and gained attention as he received the Korean Film Archive Award for his 14 minute-long film, Papa (2004) at the Seoul Independent Film Festival. The film is about a severely handicapped daughter who opens her eyes to sexual desires and a father who finds himself tormented, watching his own daughter doing so. The film attracted attention with its heavy subject and aesthetic screen composition.
     
    LEE emerged again in the short film industry by releasing Son’s (2006) and Enemy’s Apple (2007). Son’s, a story about an old mother who lives alone in a tidal flat, waiting for her son, was invited to the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Meanwhile, Enemy’s Apple comically portrays a confrontation between a police officer and a laborer in a blind alley on a hot summer day. The film swept various short film fests in Korea.
     
    LEE has built his own picture aesthetics by making shorts, and won the Golden Star award at the Marrakech International Film Festival, the top prize at the Fribourg International Film festival and the Tiger Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam for his feature debut, HAN Gong-ju. The film reflects on the Korean society through a teenage victim of a gang rape, her frustrations and hopes, and other circumstances that surround her. LEE swept awards at the Dae Jong Film Awards, the Blue Dragon Awards, the Buil Film Awards and the Paek Sang Arts Awards for the film.
     
    Also, KIM Tae-yong, who recently made his debut feature Set Me Free, has a brilliant career of short movies as well. KIM had a nick name, “a short film executive,” as he had made a lot of shorts from As Children (2005), Twenty’s Wind (2005), You Can Count on Me (2006) to Frozen Land (2010), which was invited to the 63rd Cannes Film Festival, Cine Foundation. Besides, his shorts including Night Bugs (2012) and Spring Fever (2013) received theatrical releases as omnibus films with other directors’ works.
     
    KIM’s debut feature, Set me Free, was critically acclaimed for its stable scriptwriting and direction. The film is about a teenage boy, Yeong-jae, who runs away from his dysfunctional family and choose to live in a community shelter for youths, dreaming to become a priest. It was invited to many film fests both at home and abroad, including the International Film Festival Rotterdam, and swept the new director awards at the Blue Dragon Awards, the Buil Film Awards and the Korean Association of Film Critics Awards.
     
    Short Films Dream of Feature Films
     
     
    If there had been short film careers behind the rise of the new auteurs in 2014, in 2015, short films literally became feature films: JANG Jae-hyun’s The Priests and LEE Yoon-jeong’s Remember you are the two examples. Both were made into shorts first, due to their poor production conditions, even though they had been planned as feature-length in the beginning, and even had their scripts ready.
     
    JANG made his debut with short film Maley from India (2009), and went on to receive love calls from domestic and international short film festivals, presenting Bus (2010) and 12th Assistant Deacon (2014), the original short film that later became a feature, The Priests. 12th Assistant Deacon, which shows how an exorcist ceremony is put together, an unusual film material in Korea, won the best prize of the Extreme Nightmare section at the Mise-en-scene Short Film Festival.
     
    Last year, it was made into a feature film starring GANG Dong-won and KIM Yun-seok, and did well at the box office. Also, LEE Yoon-jeong’s Remember you was produced as a short film first, due to investment problems, although the original script was written in feature-length. The short Remember O Goddess, which is a story about a man who lost his memory after the car accident, has been transferred to the full-length adaptation with more romance added.
     
    LEE Sang-yong, the programmer of the Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) predicts that such trend will be even stronger in the future. “In the old days as well, there were short films that acted as preliminary stages for features, but they had their own aesthetics and world. However, there is a noticeable change in production paradigm these days: that there are short films specifically made for future feature remakes,” says LEE.
     
    12th Assistant Deacon shows exorcism, the highlight of The Priests, and Remember you was made in order to receive investment for feature production. Both movies obviously show the changes of domestic short film industry. LEE also mentioned that short films produced from the last five to ten years came to have longer running times that are about 20-30 minutes, thanks to the digital photography techniques. “That short films which have longer running times show their strong will to produce feature remakes,” he added.
     
    Such trend is affecting established directors. ZHANG Lu’s Scenery (2013) and LEE Sang-woo’s Speed (2015) are full-length adaptations of their original shorts made through the JIFF Digital Project. Also, a part of SHIN Yeon-shick’s omnibus Like a French Film (2016), A Remaining Time, is being developed into a feature film.
 
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