London Korean Film Festival 2021 preview: How time flies ! It’s time again, for the highly anticipated London Korean Film Festival, and unbelievably the 16the year it’s okay. Around this time, it went from word-of-mouth, a secret joy for moviegoers, to a powerful program that reaches parties that other festivals only dream of – and is now the biggest Korean showcase outside. from Korea itself. Korea couldn’t be hotter right now, with the success of Parasite, Minari, and even Squid Game, so this is your chance to further explore its scale and quality in terms of vision, directorial creativity, and acting prowess. In other “personal” news, I realized that it was also the 11e LKFF I attended (and yes, I have all the tote bags to prove it!)
Obviously, like most festivals last year, LKFF 2020 took place almost entirely online – so it’s a bold move to do it entirely in person for 2021. But even if you can’t come to the capital , we’ll mark your card on the best to watch in this preview and in our full review at the end of the entire festival. If you can come, it’s a treat to savor, starting with the opening gala – Ryoo Seung-wan’s political drama, the hugely successful, Escape from Mogadishu, the 4e November and ending two weeks later with the closing gala – Im Sang-soo’s Heaven: in the land of happiness the 19e November. Cleanly enough, Im’s latest not only features Oldboy star Choi Min-sik, as well as Park Hae-il from The Host, but also the remarkable Youn Yuh-jung (above) in his fourth collaboration with the director. And the Special Focus section this year is all about Youn (who recently won an Oscar for Minari). So you can not only see her on-screen debut in Kim Ki-young’s remake of her own classic, The cleaning lady, here called woman of fire (1970), but trace his progress to Im’s version of, yes, The cleaning lady (2010). There is also one of my favorite Youn tricks Lady Bacchus (2016) where she plays an aging prostitute in the past, more Canola (also 2016) and another collaboration Im, The wife of a good lawyer (2003)… and I can’t wait for the documentary on his brilliant career, Youn Yuh-Jung and the Ladies of the Forest.
The most popular section – outside of the bookends and the special strand – is still Cinema Now, which features the all-new box office hits, many of which are getting their UK premieres. So apart lonely, who is the first director of Hong Sung-eun, we get another one from festival favorite and hugely influential Hong Sangsoo, in the form of In front of Your face. Those who enjoy the epic scale and exceptional headgear of Korean historical dramas can warm their hands at the prospect of Lee Joon-ik The book of fish. Add in another smash, crime capers Collectors (above), plus two by Kim Jong-kwan, Josee and Shades of the heart, and Seo You-min’s Recalled and you have rich choices.
Those who enjoy independent films can spot the new neighborhood kids here. There is inevitably a pandemic drama, Rolling, (top photo) plus an in-depth look at how people with disabilities are treated in Awake, alongside a teenage hip-hop in the autobiography The criminality, and gay romance in Made on The roof. The film with the directors has now (luckily) extended to the entire festival, but watch out for Lee Woo-jung’s film Snowball and the After me too documentary. Two other documentaries seem unavoidable – Sewing sisters bring together young exploited factory workers and Sister J about a middle-aged worker, scrapped after three decades, and trying to fight back. Lots of innovative short films are shown (again a great place to spot emerging talent) and finally, something really ‘off the beaten track’ to discover can be found in the animation feature. Escalation (above), by director Kim Hye-mi. It’s in 3D and deals with the fear of failure when climbing ace Choi finds out she is pregnant before the world championship… but then jumps into another genre when Choi receives messages from… yes , another version of herself!
Whore. Can not wait.
More info and booking here: koreanfilm.co.uk (November 4-19, 2021)
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