The London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) returns to the capital on 6th-21st November for the 9th annual edition. Presented by the Korean Cultural Centre UK, the 2014 programme gives audiences across the capital and select UK venues the very best of contemporary Korean Cinema from this year with over 50 screenings, including UK and European premieres of box office hits, critically acclaimed independent titles, and retrospective programmes spanning epic period action adventures, edge of your seat thrillers, romantic comedies, dramas, documentary and short films. The London Korean Film Festival also offers audiences unique access to the cream of Korean filmmaking talent including directors, producers, actors and programmers.
The Odeon West End, in the heart of cinema-going London, will be the main home for the 2014 London Korean Film Festival. Additional venues include Odeon Covent Garden, Odeon Kingston and the Korean Cultural Centre. For fans of Korean cinema who are not in London, a selection of LKFF programme highlights will travel to Norwich, Hebden Bridge and Aberystwyth between 16th – 21st November.
The key strands for 2014 LKFF programme include: K-Period Drama; BIFF’s Choice; K-Spotlight; K-Focus – Actor Jung Woo-sung; K-Focus – Producer Lee Jun-dong; K-Focus – Director Kim-Ki-duk; K-Literature & Webtoon; K-Actors; K-Classics; and K-Shorts.
The London Korean Film Festival opens on 6th November at the Odeon West End with Kundo: Age of the Rampant. Set in the mid-19th Century, in the last days of the corrupt Joseon Dynasty, Kundo is a period action about a militia group of bandits – Kundo – who rise up against their unjust nobility stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Directed by Yoon Jong-bin (Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time) this film boasts cracking action scenes and sweeping vistas, and stars Ha Jung-woo (The Chaser, Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time) and Kang Dong-won (My Brilliant Life). In an interesting London link, the soundtrack for Kundo by Cho Young Wuk (Oldboy) was recorded and mixed at Abbey Road Studios by Sam Okell who mixed Lord of the Rings. Director Yoon Jong-bin, lead actor Gang Dong-won and producer Han Jae-duk are confirmed to attend Opening Night.
Another highlight of the K-Drama category includes Director Han Jae-rim (Rules of Dating)’s elegant costume drama, The Face Reader, which takes the ancient art of physiognomy as the central narrative device for this gripping tale of court intrigue. The film that stars Song Kang-ho (The Host, Thirst, Snowpiercer) and Lee Jung-jae (New World, The Thieves) tells the story of the rise and fall of a young man from a disgraced noble family whose ability to read faces gets him caught up in the regal power struggle. A fortuneteller who reads people like an open book, he remains blind to the sea changes behind the corridors of power.
BIFF’s Choice, selected by the Busan International Film Festival programmer Nam Dong-chul, includes the multi-award winning feature debut from director Lee Su-jin, Hang Gong-Ju, which has picked up prizes at major festivals including Busan, Rotterdam, Marrakesh and Deauville Asia Film Festival. After an undisclosed incident, a Korean teenage girl is transferred to another school, where she stays with the mother of her new teacher. She soon makes but the trauma from her past will not leave her in peace. The film boasts remarkably understated performances from the leads Chun Woo-hee (Mother, Vampire Idol) who plays the confused teenager and Jung In-sun (Memories of Murder) and has been picked up for UK distribution by Third Window Films. Director Lee Yong-seung’s debut feature drama 10 Minutes accurately encapsulates modern workplace dynamics complete with closed-door bickering and vicious after-hours chatter. When a popular worker Baek Jong-hwan (A Hard Day) is passed over for promotion by a young woman Lee See-won, the balance of the office is upset, inspiring petty jealousy and gossip. BIFF Programmer Nam Dong-chul will be attending the Festival.
K-Spotlight celebrates some of the films this year that have been lauded with critical acclaim at film festivals at home and abroad, including exciting feature debuts. The South Korean city of Gyeongju is known for its hundreds of burial mounds, making this town with its head in the past a fitting backdrop for award-winning director Lu Zhang (Desert Dream, Dooman River)’s exquisitely observed personal drama Gteongju, which is about a Korean college professor living abroad in Beijing who takes a melancholy trip down memory lane when he comes back for a colleague’s funeral. The film which was recently screened at the Locarno Film Festival stars Park Hae-il (The Muse, Boomerang Family) as the professor haunted by lingering questions from his past.
K-Focus: Actor Jung Woo-sung
Played by one of Korea’s biggest film stars Jung Woo-sung (The Good, The Bad, The Weird), Cold Eyes is one of the highest grossing Korean films of the last year and features in a programme focusing on the popular actor’s work. Cold Eyes is a high tech state-of-the-art Korean cop thriller which plays an exciting game with genre conventions. A remake of 2007 Hong Kong thriller Eye in the Sky, the film follows a crack police surveillance team who challenge a brilliant, invincible criminal mastermind. One of South Korea's most commercially successful films of the year, the star-studded action crime thriller, The Devine Move also stars Jung Woo-sung as a professional baduk player, who infiltrates his local underground gambling scene to avenge his brother's death. Jung Woo-sung steps behind the camera to direct one episode of the portmanteau project Three Charmed Lives, alongside actors turned directors Francis Ng and Chang Chen. Jung Woo-sung’s entry into this cinematic triptych; The Killer Behind the Old Man stars Andy Choi as an ultra-methodical hitman who is reluctant to carry out a contract against a lonely elderly man, despite the client – the man’s son – doubling the fee. Jung blurs the line and creates tension between who is the subject/object and who is watching/being watched to great affect.
K-Focus: Producer Lee Jun-dong
Director July Jung previously won the Sonje Award at Busan for her short film A Man Under the Influenza. Her feature debut, produced by Lee Jun-dong, A Girl at My Door was nominated for this year’s Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival. The film bears a resemblance to Lee Chang-dong’s Poetry, (which Lee Jun-dong also produced) in its suggestive evocation of the hidden sins in a close-knit, backward community but with a distinctly feminine angle on female relationships. A Seoul police officer, played by Bae Doona, (Cloud Atlas, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) arrives in a remote fishing town to take up the post of precinct chief. There, the sight of Do-hee (Kim Sae-ron), a scrawny, disheveled waif immediately catches her eye. It doesn’t take long for the newcomer to notice that the girl is a resident scapegoat. She tries to protect Do-hee from her violent stepfather, but the girl hides a secret.
Producer Lee Jun-dong will be attending the Festival. Also screening in this focus on his work as a producer is Hwayi: A Monster Boy, which tells the story of Hwai, a boy with 5 fathers in the criminal underworld; Seok-tae (Kim Yun-seok The Thieves), a cold but charismatic leader, Ki-tae (Jo Jin-woong, A Hard Day), a stammering driver specialist, Jin-seong, an ideal planner, Beom-soo, a guns specialist and Dong-beom a cold actionist. Hwai has been brought up in a unique way, learning skills from his 5 fathers instead of going to school. His past however is about to be revealed as he is embroiled in their killing spree.
K-Focus: Director Kim Ki-duk
LKFF 2014 will celebrate the prolific, idiosyncratic career of one of Korea’s most internationally recognizable independent directors; the provocative enfant terrible of Korean Cinema, Kim Ki-duk. Marking the release of his 20th film One on One, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival this year and was recently released in Korea, the Festival is delighted to be presenting this sometimes controversial, multi award-winning filmmaker’s 3 most recent titles, including the UK premiere of One on One, plus screenings of Moebius (released by Terracotta Distribution on DVD, 13th October) and Pieta. In One on One, seven suspects of the brutal rape and murder of a schoolgirl are terrorized by a sect known as The Shadows.
K-Literature & Webtoon forms another important strand for the 2014 LKFF. Following on from the recent Korean Market Focus Programme at this year’s London Book Fair, with a spotlight on prominent and exciting contemporary Korean writers, the Festival will offer a selection of recent films inspired or adapted from contemporary literature and hugely popular webtoons.
K-Actors showcases the rising stars of young actors and K-Pop stars who are breaking through in Korean Cinema. The young cast of The Youth, an episodic portmanteau project directed by Kim Jun-mu, Park Ka-hi and Joo Sung-su includes K-Pop stars, Lee Donghae of Super Junior, Nam Jihyun of 4Minute and Song Seung-hyun of F.T. Island in a series of interlinking stories which explore aspects of what it means to be young in contemporary Korea. Man on High Heels is a genuinely subversive, noir from Jang Jin, a major innovator in Korean film and television which delivers all the shocks and ultraviolence you expect from Korean crime thrillers but with a truly unexpected twist. Jangmi (Oh Jung-sae, How to Use a Guy With Secret Tips), a female cop is trying to trap a serial rapist. Yoon (Cha Seung-won Jailbreakers) is a battle-scarred cop who gets his man by any means necessary, and is determined to bring down crime boss Huh. But Yoon has a secret and appearances can be deceptive.
The Festival will be showing a number of Korean film classics recommended by Professor Kim Hong-june and the Korean Film Archive. The K-Classics strand will be screened in collaboration with MUBI and includes a screening of The Housemaid (1960) by Kim Ki-young.
K-Shorts will screen a selection of short films recommended by Tony Rayns including I'm Not a Hairdresser directed by Lee Hyong-sok and There is No Forest, directed by Kim Na-kyung.
The Closing Night Gala on 15th November is the multi award-winner Rivivre, the latest film from auteur Im Kwon-taek (Chunhyang) which was selected for this year’s Out of Competition at Venice, Dragon&Tiger at Vancouver, as well as the Gala programme at Busan. His 102nd feature, Rivivre marks an extraordinary career that has spanned nearly six decades. Im Kwon-taek is justly revered as the father of modern Korean cinema. Adapted from a prize-winning short story by Kim Hoon, the film is a skilful and sensitively rendered study of the conflicting and confusing emotions at play when a middle-aged man who is losing his wife to terminal cancer, fantasies about a young woman at his workplace. The film features moving and naturalistic performances from its stars Ahn Sung-ki (The Warrior) and Kim Gyu-ri (Memento Mori).
The 2014 London Korean Film Festival takes place between 6th – 21st November at various locations across London and the UK. For further information visit: www.koreanfilm.co.uk.