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We had the absolute pleasure of attending the London Korean Film Festival over the last few days… and it has been INCREDIBLE! Here are some of the highlights!

The festival featured an array of films and in-depth Special Focus Features entitled 'A Slice of Everyday Life', along with an exciting mix of UK and International premieres, guests and events across a diverse set of strands; Cinema Now, Women's Voices, Indie Firepower, Contemporary Classics, Artists Video, Animation and Shorts.

The London Korean Film Festival had been showing between 1- 14 November in London, and will continue around the country with the annual UK Tour, from 16-25 November 2018, including Belfast, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Manchester and Nottingham.

Many Korean films have been the top of our MUST WATCH list for decades now, so to be able to watch a variety was an absolute joy!

“Bleak Night” (2010)

by director: Yoon Sung-hyun, stars Lee Je-Hoon, Seo Jun-Young, and Park Jung-Min.

The film follows a grieving father searching for answers into his son’s suicide, Ki-tae (Lee Je-hoon). He manages to track down two friends Dong Yoon (Seo Jun Young) and Baek Hee (Park Jung Min) and contacts them in a bid to find out what has really happened?

In a series of flashbacks, it’s revealed what happened over time; at different points we see the three friends fight and betray each other, with Ki-tae's needling and bullying being the main culprit of the friendship groups shifting dynamics and ultimate demise.

“No single motive emerges for the tragedy, and while this may frustrate audiences seeking pat answers, it's certainly a deliberate and valid choice on Yoon's part as suicides are inevitably complex affairs. If nothing else, it's intriguing to find a tale of bullying and teen suicide where it's the bully, rather than the bullied, who emerges as the real victim”*

The character development of Ki-tae was an intriguing one; Ki-tae is charismatic, fun, but his mother is dead, and father estranged meaning he has to fend for himself, his friends are therefore ‘the world’ to him - even turning down a potential love interest who Baek Hee fancies.

The film is incredibly slow, however… as a student film.. or just a film in general, it’s pretty great! It manages to capture all the tension and emotions in the failing friendship group rip to shreds by stubborn male pride – the performances from the young cast was spectacular!

Rating: 4/5

If you have a bit more time, please read the 2013 Pop Dramatic review of Bleak Night which gives a detailed breakdown review of the film https://popdramatic.blogspot.com/2013/12/k-movie-review-bleak-night.html

“Heart Blackened” (2017)

by director Jung Ji-woo, starring Choi Min-sik, Park Shin Hye, Ryu Jun Yeol.

A remake of the Chinese film Silent Witness, Jung Ji-woo’s courtroom drama follows the mysterious death of celebrated singer Park Yu-na (Lee-Ha-nui) who is killed in a car accident.

The accident quickly becomes a homicide investigation when the prime suspect is her fiance’s daughter, Mi-ra (Lee Soo-kyung). Mi-ra’s dad and Park Yun-na’s fiancé is a super-rich CEO businessman Yim Tae-san (Choi Min-shik) who hires lawyer and family friend Choi Hee-jung (Park Shin-hye) to clear his daughter’s name.

“Heart Blackened establishes a twisty dialectic between money and love, upending our expectations of its characters. Here the legal system is exposed to be an institution of smoke and mirrors, where the right budget can manipulate anyone.”*

Evidence is stacking against Mi-ra - a spoilt party girl who despises Park’s and her involvement with her father – but he believes "Money is everything," and is sure he can pay his way out of any problem and embarks in orchestrating a risky plot to find his fiancee's real killer. The man who has the world is about to change it with the help of Yuna's stalker, Dong-myung, who knows the truth about the accident, and Hee-jung at his disposal for the right price.

This is a really good film, though slow in some parts, but makes for a great courtroom/crime thriller with some twists and powerful performances from the cast that keep you guessing (I flip flopped who I thought was the killer for hours, and to be completely honest… I’m still not 100% sure I even know now).

Rating: 3.5/5

“Jealousy Is My Middle Name” (2002)

by director Park Chan-ok (Paju). Starring Bae Jong-ok, Park Hae-il, Moon Sung-Keun

In this directorial debut film from South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-ok, the film follows Lee Won-sang (Park Hae-il), a heartbroken graduate student who finds himself writing for the married editor who his girlfriend recently dumped him for. Instead of hating him, Lee soon finds himself bonding with the editor (played by legendary actor Mun Sung-kun). However, it’s not long before Lee’s new crush - part-time veterinarian and photographer - Park Seong-yeon (Bae Jong-ok) ends up falling for the same editor. Lee is fascinating, as on the surface he seems a little passive, melancholy and timid, however despite his sulking and wonderment, his jealousy translates into “emotional aggression towards others, especially his naive young landlady Ahn”* (who was a little annoying to me).

Technically, film is fine, with fine performances all round, however, it’s slow. Really very slow. And perhaps doesn’t really pick up until the second half when/after Lee is pleasing with Park not to sleep with the editor.

Rating: 3/5

“Jealousy Is My Middle Name” (2002)

“Old Love” (2017)

By director: Park Ki-yong, starring Yoo Jungah, Kim Taehoon, Kim Moonhee

A woman and a man meet by chance at Incheon Airport, they’re old colleges friends who used to date thirty-some years ago. They and agree to see each other again during the coming Lunar New Year holiday.

What should be a sweet gently retrace down memory lane of love and fun times they shared in the past their reunion is clouded by things unsaid about the past (perhaps resentment or regret?) on top of their own real life grown-up problems (divorce, death, a parent with Alzheimer’s, an estranged child, a bankrupt company and a terminally ill business partner). Both are now technically tired, displaced and alone in life.

He muses over the path that life has taken him, mourning over losses and missed opportunities, loves and dream of being an actor, whereas she… doesn’t say much at all even though she’s hurting too. I want them to get together so bad, and live full, happy lives in each other’s arms as they once did… but the ending might come as a bit of a knock back to reality, to some, maybe not for others.

It’s a touching and reflective film in some parts, however (in what seems to be a reoccurring theme now) was too slow! The silences between the couple are painful at times, however, THAT is the point! It’s awkward, and unsure, and although, not to my personal liking is great for the film! Because it’s close to real life! (we’ve all been there!)

“A film about ageing, the passing of time and missed opportunities, the film proceeds with a deliberate pace, an almost mournful quality that hardly makes it a pleasant journey. Yet Park's unadorned style ensures that it feels real”*

Rating 2.5/5

At the end of the London Korean Film Festival I can happily say Korean films are STILL some my favourites types of film, and I’m the newest Ryu Jun-yeol fan! (Catch him in Believer if you can), and I

Find out more on their website (koreanfilm.co.uk) or Twitter: @koreanfilmfest or visit their Instagram page @london_korean_film_festival

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