If you’re not keeping an eye on South Korean cinema, you’re doing yourself a disservice. The SK film scene is bold, vibrant, and thriving, with an impressive focus on genre movies, impressive production value, and an ensemble of top notch talent both in front of and behind the camera. Korean cinema is, pound for pound the best in the world right now. Don’t believe us? Get along to the 9th annual Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA to the cool kids) and find out for yourself.
Presented by the Korean Cultural Centre Australia, KOFFIA showcases the very best of Korean culture through film, running the gamut from big-budget blockbusters to intimate art-house flicks, coming to Australia direct from a booming film industry – Hallyuwood. 22 films are on the slate this year, with screenings in Sydney (9-18 August), Brisbane (15-16 August), Melbourne (6-13 September) and Canberra (21-23 September).
Opening the Festival in each city is the feel-good flick Little Forest. Starring Kim Tae-ri (The Handmaiden), the film follows a young woman as she leaves the big city behind and returns to her country hometown, reuniting with childhood friends. Cosy, relaxing and satisfying, Little Forest will have audiences yearning for the simple life.
The closing night film is the poignant and lively Korean art-house smash Microhabitat. The directorial debut of Jeon Go-woon, the film follows aging housekeeper Mi-so, who is happy as long as she can afford her three greatest pleasures – whisky, cigarettes and her boyfriend. When her landlord raises the rent and the cost of cigarettes increases, she decides to ditch the roof over her head and journey through Seoul to reconnect with her old college friends and crash on their couches.
Microhabitat’s Jeon Go-woon (Director), Ahn Jae-hong (Actor) and Kim Soon-mo (Producer) will be guests of the Festival for the Sydney screening and will hold a Q&A following the film’s screening.
This year’s headlining films are A Taxi Driver and Keys to the Heart. The former, South Korea’s pick for the Foreign-Language category at the 2018 Academy Awards and based off the real-life Gwangju Uprising of 1980, stars Kang-ho Song (Snowpiercer) as he drives a German journalist from Seoul to Gwangju city in the middle of a political uprising, while dramedy Keys to the Heart stars Lee Byung-hun (The Magnificent Seven) and Park Jung-mun as two men who enter each other’s lives when they discover they’re half-brothers.
Other highlights include:
7 Years of Night, a thriller which follows a man as he struggles to cope with his guilt and paranoia after accidentally killing a young woman.
The Vanished, the directorial debut from Lee Chang-hee, a stylish psychological thriller that draws on Alfred Hitchcock and classic European Noir, as the body of a powerful businesswoman vanishes from the morgue and her trophy-husband becomes the key suspect.
Champion, a drama following a lonely former arm-wrestler as he returns to Korea from the United States to resume his sports career and search for his biological family.
Believer, a remake of Hong Kong director Johnnie To’s Drug War, that sees a troubled and obsessed detective hell-bent on arresting the main crime lord of Asia’s largest drug cartel.
I Can Speak, a delightful comedy tracking the unlikely friendship between a young, eager-to-please civil servant Min-jae and an elderly lady, nicknamed ‘Goblin Granny’.
What a Man Wants, a delicious dramedy that sees a habitual womaniser fall into a deep depression when his wife suddenly dies; his brother-in-law is miserable in his own marriage and finds his eyes wandering on an enchanting stranger.
Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum, a found footage horror tale which follows a team exploring an allegedly haunted asylum for a YouTube horror web-series. Unbeknownst to the team, the leader has staged a hoax to boost the video’s views – but when the scares veer off-script, they realise legitimate supernatural forces may be at work.
KOFFIA Director David Park says, “The past year for Korean cinema has been one of the best and most accomplished in recent memory – making this a very, very special year for the Festival. With such an enormous range, audiences are able to pick out a film for whatever tickles their fancy: a comedy, a thriller, a horror, a drama – you name it!”