Korea's Big Year Will Shine at 11th London Korean Film Festival

Contributor; Seoul, South Korea (@pierceconran)
Korea's Big Year Will Shine at 11th London Korean Film Festival

The London Korean Film Festival has revealed the full lineup for its 11th edition, which cherrypicks several top films from what has been a stellar year for Korean film. The festival announced its closing film, which will be Hong Sang-soo's latest film Yourself of Yours, along with several of the year's major Korean hits, such as Yeon Sang-ho's zombie smash Train to Busan, its animated prequel Seoul Station, political thriller Inside Men with Lee Byung-hun, Kim Sung-soo's violent thriller Asura: City of Madness and  Lee Joon-ik's indie Colonial Era drama Dongju: Portrait of a Poet.  

As already announced, Lee Kyoung-mi's thriller The Truth Beneath will open the festival as well as lead the festivals' special strand this year, 'The Lives of Korean Women through the Eyes of Women Directors.' Her first feature, the Park Chan-wook produced Crush and Blush will also play in that prorgram, along with classics Take Care of My Cat, The Way Home, Forever the Moment and Hepless. Among new films, indie queer drama Our Love Story and labor rights drama Cart will also screen.

Asian film critic Tony Rayns will present an 'Indie Firepower' section, and the festival will also include the program Classics Revisited and sections on animations and documentaried. For the first time, LKFF will organize an Artist Video, which will include the work of artists Cho Seungho and Soa Sung-a Yoon.

The festival will run from November 3rd to 27th, first in London before moving on to Glasgow, Belfast, Sheffield, Manchester and Nottingham.

Check out the LKFF release to discover the full program:

Programme Revealed for the 11th edition of the London Korean Film Festival (3-27 November 2016)

London, 21 September 2016: The London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) unveiled the line-up for its 11th edition today as it prepares for its longest run to date, 3 - 27 November. Now entering into its second decade, the festival will present another expansive selection of films from one of the most exciting national cinemas in the world.

The UK Premiere of director Lee Kyoung-mi's The Truth Beneath will kick-off the festival at an Opening Gala on the evening of 3 November. Tying in with this year's Special Focus on Women, this is the first time a female director's film will open the LKFF. After working as scripter and assistant director under Park Chan-wook on Lady Vengeance, Lee made her debut with acclaimed comedy-drama Crush and Blush (2008) before making us wait 8-years for this spectacular second feature. Mixing the personal with the political, the family drama with the thriller; The Truth Beneath blends genres to create a slick, stylish and suspense-filled film. Making the trip from Korea to London, Lee will appear at the Opening Gala and events throughout the festival.

Over a career that has spanned 20-years, Hong Sang-soo has left an indelible mark on Korean Cinema. Ever since his 1996 debut, The Day a Pig Fell Into A Well, Hong has garnered awards and critical acclaim across the global film festival circuit with Cannes, Locarno, Rotterdam and Vancouver all having recognised the contribution to cinema of this leading auteur. After debuting in Toronto Yourself and Yours, the 18th film from an already prolific career, will make its UK premiere at the Closing Gala of the 2016 LKFF. In a typically languid and soju-soaked affair Kim Ju-hyuk, who also features in the opening film The Truth Beneath, plays a painter who wanders the city after a fight with his girlfriend (Lee Yoo-young, Late Spring) and yet can't escape a likeness of her that appears to be meeting men across the city. Reality blurs as Hong explores love, obsession and insecurity in his idiosyncratically playful style.

Aiming to present a new vision of cinema as we enter a new decade, we're looking towards the future as we proudly present a special strand entitled The Lives of Korean Women through the Eyes of Women Directors, showcasing fiction features from a feminine point of view. The Opening Film's director, Lee Kyoung-mi, is spearheading this women's movement by coming to the festival in person with The Truth Beneath (2016), plus we'll be showing her highly acclaimed, Park Chan-Wook produced debut Crush and Blush (2008). Reaching back to 1955 we'll present the first ever film from a female director in South Korea, Park Nam-ok's portrayal of the hardships faced by women post-war, The Widow. It's been nearly 20-years since Korean cinema first started to take the world by storm and our eclectic programme shines a light on the work of women filmmakers over this period. Films include Take Care of My Cat (2001) with its significantly all-female cast (star Bae Doona included) and Yim Soon-rye's hit drama about the South Korean women's handball team, Forever the Moment (2008). Yim, a leading female director in the Korean New Wave, will be appearing at the festival to talk about her work. Other features include Lee Jeong-hyang's story of a young city kid going to live with his elderly grandmother, The Way Home (2002); difficult relations between a woman and her dead sister's husband in Park Chan-ok's Paju (2009) and Kim Min-hee, currently enjoying fame in The Handmaiden, playing a vanishing fianceĢ in taut thriller Helpless (2012). Lee Hyun-ju's new indie lesbian drama Our Love Story (2015, UK Premiere) brings us up to date with a topical modern love affair. Further recent works include Bu Ji-young's protest over the treatment of temporary workers, Cart (2014, UK Premiere) and Kim Soo-jung's emotional family drama, A Blue Mouthed Face (2015, UK Premiere). The themes and importance of this strand are perfectly encapsulated within Yim Soon-rye's documentary Keeping the Vision Alive (2001), which explores the full history of Korea's women filmmakers.

As always, the LKFF has pulled together the biggest Hits From 2015-2016, no small feat after a record-breaking year at the Korean box-office. While Train to Busan (our final festival teaser on 6 October) hurtled to the top of the charts, several surprising independent titles found a place alongside works from the country's most established directors. One such hit is Dongju: Portrait Of An Artist (2015, UK Premiere), which charts the life of a revered poet as he develops his talent under the ever-present threat of Japanese occupation. Fourth Place (2015, UK Premiere) offers equally compelling drama as a young boy is subjected to the aggressive teaching style of a tough swimming coach. As ever there's no shortage of politics and police with a raft of thrillers centered on Korean cinema's favourite topics: in smash-hit A Violent Prosecutor (2016, European Premiere), hard-nosed officer Jae-wook is framed for murder and forced to team up with a charming conman as he plans his jail-break and subsequent revenge; superstar Lee Byung-hun (The Magnificent Seven) is also out for vengeance as a wronged political henchman in Woo Min-hun's conspiracy drama Inside Men (2016, UK Premiere); action-comedy Phantom Detective (2016, European Premiere) treads a lighter path as Lee Je-hoon (Architecture 101) takes the title role of a quirky PI saddled with two young girls as he works an increasingly complex case; shady cops and shadier politicians collide in epic fashion for director Kim Sung-soo's much-anticipated Asura: City of Madness (2016, European Premiere), and four young men fall foul of the law in brutal coming- of-age tale One Way Trip (2015, European Premiere). Trouble of another kind infects the streets around Seoul Station (2016) in Yeon Sang-ho's animated prequel to Train to Busan as the director inflects zombie carnage with social satire while in The Hunt (2016, European Premiere) trouble occurs outside of the capital when the lure of gold entices a dangerous gang to the woods and a lone hunter is forced to act.

Asian cinema expert, film critic and commentator Tony Rayns aims to introduce the UK to Korea's Indie Firepower through a selection of films from the country's most intriguing up-and-coming directors. Director Park Hong-min, who will be present during the festival, blurs the line between dream and reality in his films: Alone (2015), features a documentary filmmaker who repeatedly awakens in the same alley after witnessing a violent crime, and metaphysical mystery A Fish (2011) sees a professor journey to an island in order to locate his shaman wife. Family is the chief concern for many of the strand's filmmakers: Jesus Hospital (2011) sees an elderly woman descend into madness while her family conspire to pick over her spoils; money problems lead to despair for a man who poisons his family yet survives himself in a bodged attempt at group suicide in A Mere Life (2013); and a dysfunctional relationship between mother and daughter is explored in Soju and Ice cream (2015). Lastly, new discovery Miss Ex (2016) evokes Hong Sang-soo in its hazy depiction of a young couple's relationship.

Cambridge University Fellow Dr. Mark Morris returns this year with another finely curated selection of Classics Revisited. This year his expert focus falls on veteran director, Lee Jang-ho with three of the director's finest works set to enlighten UK audiences. Making his directing debut in 1970, Lee went on to make many award- winning features throughout the 70s and 80s, crafting a body of work that expertly walked the line between experimental and commercial. One of the most important South Korean directors from this period, we proudly present three exemplary works: A Windy, but Pleasant Day (1980) follows the lives and loves of three working class male friends; period piece Eoh Wu-dong (1985) is an erotically charged drama that explores the strict ideals women are expected to adhere to during the time of Korea's Joseon Dynasty; The Man with Three Coffins (1987) sees a man confront the past as he journeys to scatter the remains of his dead wife. Lee Jang-ho will attend the festival to present his films in person.

Returning for a second year the Documentaries strand once again sees the LKFF collaborate with Essay Film Festival programmers Ricardo Matos Cabo and Matthew Barrington in order to bring the most important documentaries of the past year to the festival. Works include; Jang Sun-woo's visual essay on Korean film, The Cinema on the Road (1995); Kim Hong-joon's own long-running recollection of Korean film history, episodes 1-8 of My Korean Cinema (2002~2005); a mother attempting to connect with her deaf and blind daughter in Wind on the Moon (2016); a look into the plight of marginalized female labourers in the Venice Silver Lion winning Factory Complex (2014); and Breathing under Water (2016) is a six-year record of the lives of the diving women of Jeju.

As always, fantastic adventures await the littlest of moviegoers in our Animation strand. Younger audiences will delight in the colourful world of talking automobiles, The Tayo Movie Mission:Ace (2016) while something more epic awaits a young warrior determined to defeat a villainous snow queen and rescue his sister in Kai (2016). Kai is produced by Yeon Sang-ho whose adult animations Seoul Station (playing here in Hits) and The King of Pigs have earned acclaim.

Introduced for the first time, Artist Video is a collaboration with LUX | Artists' Moving Image which sees the LKFF focus on a significant artist's work from Korea. For the inaugural edition we will showcase three decades of work by acclaimed New York based video artist Cho Seoungho. Cho has displayed his art in solo exhibitions at such revered institutions as MoMA and, famously, across Times Square billboards throughout a body of work that explores the representation of nature through technology. Eight of the artist's video works will be shown at the Close-up Cinema. Additionally, two further, contrasting artist videos will play: Soa Sung-a Yoon returns to her country of origin in Full of Missing Links while Im Goeun examines her country of residence in Episode 4: Because the Outside World Has Changed. Also, the LKFF is proud to present the best in new Korean shorts via Mise-en-scene Short Film Festival, the most prestigious shorts festival in Korea. Seven films will play highlighting the burgeoning talents of the country's next generation of filmmakers.

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