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Women’s film awards suggest that Korean cinema is changing

Women are beginning to take key roles in all film genres

Dec 25,2006
The Korean film industry was once a sport for boys only. There was no need to talk about creating a level playing field for women, because they were not even in the game.
Things are slowly changing, and the Festival of Women in Film, an annual event organized by Korean Women in Film, has helped lead the way.

a scene from “We Are not Defeated.” Provided by Women in Film Korea


A network of female film professionals, Korean Women in Film gives awards each year to films and female film professionals who take a feminist perspective.
The most recent festival, which took place on Dec. 14, introduced figures from within the industry that the mainstream award shows had failed to acknowledge.
The actor’s award this year went to Na Mun-hee, a veteran in the field who produced an outstanding performance in this year’s “Cruel Winter Blues,” an intense film about an old mother who is tormented by her hoodlum son. The story, which was mis-marketed as a gangster action movie, has now been repackaged and relaunched as an intense family drama about motherhood.
For documentaries, the award went to Lee Hye-ran and the female film collective “Wom,” who directed “We Are Not Defeated.”
The film, which was the critical favorite during this year’s Women’s Festival in Seoul, is a moving story about female factory workers during the ‘70s and the role of women in the Korean labor movement.
The film is about teenage girls who were branded as pro-North Koreans after trying to form a labor union to protect themselves against labor abuses, such as working a 15-hour day for just $1.
Other sections of the award ceremony revealed how female talent is becoming increasingly important in mainstream cinema, even in movies where men would normally have been the dominant force.

Lee Gyeong-hee, a veteran actor who received an honorary award.



The editing award, for example, went to Sin Min-gyeong, an editing technician for “War of Flower,” who displayed unusually crisp, fast-paced cuts in a crime blockbuster about gamblers that was riddled with blood.
Jeong Seung-hye, a producer of “Radio Star,” who won this year’s Women in Film Award, was another example of a female talent who gained mainstream success, in this case by producing a drama about a has-been rock and roll star.
Yeon Mi-jeong received a screenplay and production award for “Ice Bar,” a story of a little boy searching for his father; Jo Ok-gyeong, the director of “Sup,” was honored for “Barefoot Ki-bong,” a story about a mentally-disabled son living a happy life with his old mother; Park Yeon-ja, a producer, won for “Birth of a Family,” a film with an edgy atmosphere about a family made up of women who are abandoned by men.
As a highlight of this year’s event, the honorary award went to Lee Gyeong-hee, 74, a veteran actress in Korean melodrama often dubbed “the queen of tears.” She had a prolific career during her 50 years in the movie industry with credits that include “Too Young to Die, Too Difficult to Live a Life” (1964), “Jusa Lee” (1963) and “I Will Devote my Heart” (1962).


by Park Soo-mee


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