Preview: London Korean Film Festival

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Credit: London Korean Film Festival

Manon Haag
Deputy Culture Editor – Film & TV

Glasgow welcomes the UK’s celebration of Korean cinema in reduced circumstances following a two-week run in London. The GFT will be showing festival opener Microhabitat / 소공녀 (Jeon Go-woon, 2018) as well as LGBT drama The Poet and the Boy / 시인의 사랑 (Kim Yang-hee, 2017). Both films are UK exclusives despite having received high praises back home – performances by model Esom (Microhabitat) and Yang Yk-june (The Poet and the Boy) are especially noteworthy.

The London Korean Film Festival is one of the many efforts of the Korean government to promote the vibrant national culture and creativity. The festival has grown from humble beginnings 13 years ago, to become one of the longest running and most respected festivals dedicated to Korean cinema in the world. Its expansion to regional venues, although limited, is great news for the diversity of contents on Scottish screens. Festival curator Hyun Jin Cho stresses the importance of the touring programme:

We’ve always had a touring aspect to the festival, which we feel we’ve strengthened in the past few years by forming partnerships with some exceptional cinemas in major cities across the UK. Despite it being slightly more difficult to find an audience for Korean cinema outside of London, we feel it’s important to keep returning to these locations to foster an appetite for exceptional, out-of-the-ordinary cinema”.

As with the Korean showcase at the Edinburgh Fringe every year and the many events organised to promote its TV contents, the Korean government always does an admirable job of showcasing the wonderful diversity and vibrancy of their national culture. Having myself attended a few of the events, I am always impressed by the generosity and genuine excitement reciprocated by both organisers and audiences. Korea’s strategy for promoting its culture worldwide has been implemented since 2008 and has been a fruitful and delightful one. No doubt the two Glasgow screenings will provide those interested in Korean filmmaking with new thrills and convert neophytes to hallyu – the korean term for the ‘Korean cultural wave’.

Jeon Go-woon’s Microhabitat follows a young woman (former model Lee Som) on a journey across the city and back into the lives of her former bandmates after being forced from her apartment. Having already picked up awards at the high-profile Busan Film Festival, this offbeat tour through the troubled lives of Korea’s struggling thirty-something’s raises a number of topical issues relatable to the UK’s own inhabitants. It will be shown at GFT on Friday 16 November (6pm).

Having received its UK Premiere in London, comedy-drama The Poet and the Boy tells the story of a second-rate poet whose life is turned upside down when he falls for a doughnut selling teenage boy. The film features a transformative performance from actor Yang Ik-june, best known to UK audiences for his role as a violent gangster in 2008’s Breathless. It will be presented at GFT on Saturday 24 November (3.30pm).

For the most motivated audiences, Edinburgh is also on the LKFF tour with Little Forest / 리틀 포레스트 (Yim Soon-rye, 2017) playing at Filmhouse on Friday 16 (6pm).

More information about the London Korean Film Festival can be found on http://koreanfilm.co.uk/

More information about Korean cultural events in the UK at large can be found at www.kccuk.org.uk.