While 2016 has a been a difficult year in many regards, one area where it has excelled has been Korean cinema. With big auteurs returning with some of their best work, younger filmmakers making their presence felt and another new batch of promising indies, the industry has put out its best crop of films in years.
Films with strong social messages featured prominently and it's also been a strong year for women directors, with four names featured in the 20 titles below (which include five honorable mentions). While indie films were as strong as ever, compared to previous lists, far more commercial films appear here. This is partly because of the number of name filmmakers with a new title in 2016 but perhaps also due to the success of foreign companies venturing into the Korean market, such as Fox and Warner Bros.
Given the riches on display it hardly seemed fair to cut out several films that might have made the top five or so in other years so I've expanded this year's list to an indulgent 15 titles. I've seen just over 100 local films in 2016, a little less than usual but I don't think I've missed anything major. As usual, the criteria for films were those that screened for the first time this year, either at a festival or directly in theaters.
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Happy New Year!